While in a pub last week, I was challenged [by way of proof that current buildings in Dublin are of poor design] to name my favorite building of recent years. I was stuck, I thought of many of the obvious choices and discarded them because I wasn't 100% keen on them, but after a few minutes thinking was completely stuck. Nothing leapt out at me, nothing I could put definitively on the table as my choice for best building of recent years. Even when thinking of buildings outside of Dublin, I drew a similar blank. Recent winners of the RIAI Gold Medal leave me cold, winners of the AAI awards tend to look hackneyed and worn after only a few years and as for the much vaunted Temple Bar buildings, sure don't they all look the same.
After thinking about this for a few days, it has really started to prey on my mind. Why are the buildings so throw-away, yet receive so much acclaim from the architectural press, the architects and the newspapers? It is now 2000, yet most of the buildings dating from the last ten years in Temple Bar are so similar and so average in concept. Where is the diversity? Where is the "Oh my gawd" factor? The only time in recent years the "Oh my gawd" factor has reared its head has been for the Archer's Garage demolition and the winning entry of the O'Connell Street Monument competition. Where is the confidence of Irish architects? They seek solace in the arms of a forgiving mistress, mediocrity! At a time when the Irish economy is booming and Irish business is taking on the world in other fields, why are our architects so lacklustre, so coy about flaunting their design ability?