A rare surviving element of 1960s shop front heritage in Dublin is in danger of being lost from the capitalâ€™s main street.
The sensitively designed shop front of the former West jewellers, installed c. 1965, gives a contextual nod to the blind-arcaded shop fronts of the Wide Streets Commissioners of the 18th and early 19th centuries, thoroughly reinterpreted using modern materials.
The famously reticent jewellers closed on Grafton Street in mid-February of this year after nearly three centuries in business. First established on Capel Street in 1720, the firm later moved to College Green in 1845 and subsequently to the present-day River Island premises on Grafton Street, before coming to rest at its current location at Number 33 in 1965.
It is rare in Dublin that reproduction design works to such elegant effect, and less still when dating to the 1960s, a time when historic shop fronts were being replaced across the city to make way for more contemporary models of retail expression â€“ not an updated version of the same as in the case of Westâ€™s.
Contrived of champagne-coloured aluminium pilasters framing landscape-shaped display windows, the shop front utilises a contemporary material in an ambitious way, employing further strips of purple-toned aluminium as window aprons and either side of the splayed inset entrance bay, as well as above the marching array of fanlights.
The purple elements have become extremely tired but can probably be re-coloured.
The fanlights are of course the principal delight of the frontage: beautifully proportioned and delicately detailed.
The quirkily designed Ionic capitals appear to be of carved and painted timber.
The current metal fanlights, although venerable in appearance, seem to be a later addition. This snapshot of a Dublin film reel from the late 1960s, shortly after the shopfront was installed, shows what appear to be painted semi-circular panels in their place. Quite visibly this was an unsatisfactory arrangement that no doubt led to their hasty replacement with the current, more substantial ensemble.
A shame those beautiful cylindrical copper lamps have vanished!