What style is that?

What style is that?

Postby john white » Thu May 27, 1999 6:08 pm

Can anybody tell me how the style of:

The Department of Commerce - the Post Office near Cafe Rouge - the old Adelphi cinema
[ now gloriously transformed into a British Car Park ] - the Carlton, Dublin, could be described stylistically or by genre?

At the risk of offending - they seem to me to slightly resemble Fascist Architecture in some respects. Perhaps it's due to a heavy handed attempt at Deco and the stripped-down neo-classical elements. I don't know.
Has anybody else ever made this visual connection?

Not being a fascist myself - far from it
the opposite I hope - I actually quite [dare I type the next word... likesome Fascist Architecture . [ not Speer though and some of the stuff in Washington ] I mean in a flashy, overblown, shallow, monstrous sort of way. I can't help but enjoy Stazione Centrale in Milano for example even though Mussolini built it [they strung his carcass outside it after dragging it around the city for a bit. How poetic..} It's a very impressive space and extremely beautifully decorated.

I suppose it's similar to the old " I can still enjoy Wagner even though... " Or the opposite whichever applies.

Am I imagining this visual similarity? Perhaps I'm being a little naive. I'm know these Dublin buildings aren't Fascistic in style intentionally so I genuinely would like to know how some of you would describe them; particularly as I have always enjoyed them so much.

I know it's silly to categorise but for the benefit of the un-educated perhaps it would help. Please pardon my ignorance!

Looking forward to your views,

John White
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Postby daniel » Fri May 28, 1999 6:00 pm

you know the buildings in these buildings remind me alot of Dudok's town hall in Hilversum. Maybe there is a connection with that. I know that that particular building was quite influential for Irish architects as an example in civic architecture - though Dudok's hall is more Frank Loyd Wright to Art Nouveau.
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Postby daniel » Fri May 28, 1999 6:02 pm

Sorry it should have read:
you know these buildings remind me alot of Dudok's town hall in Hilversum. Maybe there is a connection with that. I know that that particular building was quite influential for Irish architects as an example in civic architecture - though Dudok's hall is more Frank Loyd Wright to Art Nouveau.
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Postby Pat » Wed Jun 02, 1999 11:53 pm

The Dept of Industry building (built 1930s, designed by OPW arhcitects) and the Andrew St Post Office (built late 1940s, also by OPW architects) are beautiful buildings - modernist but with a classical sensibility. I don't know that there is a 'name' for this style, and I think the buildings are all the better for it, lively and dignified at the same time and built fo beautiful materials.
Other buildings from that time you may be familiar with are Rathmines Post Office/various Garda stations (eg Drumcondra with its neighbouring buildings in a similar style).
The other buildings you mention are not civic buildings - they are similar in style but with a more self-conscious 'stylishness' given their primary purpose of entertainment. As the style of the day was a watered down deco, that's what they have too. The full-blooded deco buildings to look at are teh Gas Company on D'Olier St and the former Winstons shop (until recently Rehab's offices) on the corner of Sth Gt. George's St and Dame St.

Similar buildings are to be found all over Britain and in other (non-fascist) European countries. The fascist regimes just built them bigger on another scale - try walking along the great 1930s Boulevards of Moscow...
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Postby Paul Clerkin » Thu Jun 03, 1999 7:49 am

I thought the building at the bottom of Sth Gt Georges St was a former Burtons.... look at ground level there are air vents with the Burtons logo cast into them....... and the old Burtons signage on the Dame St frontage up near the top.....


The Department of Industry isnt a OPW or Board of Works (as it then was) designed building..... it was designed by J.R Boyd Barrett after a competition

http://www.archeire.com/archdublin/20thc/deptcommerce.html

just my tuppence worth.....

[This message has been edited by Paul Clerkin (edited 03 June 1999).]
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Postby john white » Fri Jun 04, 1999 10:08 am

Thanks for the input chaps. I'll have a look at those other buildings. If I ever get a chance I'll put an Irish Art Deco site together.

John
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Postby john white » Fri Jun 04, 1999 7:30 pm

Yes, paul's correct - it is the Burton building. The outside is gorgeous - I've always loved it. The green ceramic material is so lovely. I wonder what it was is/like inside?

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Postby Paul Clerkin » Sat Jun 05, 1999 12:52 pm

Very bland.... the staircase throughout the building is very uninteresting - however it seems that most doorways off the staircase were surrounded by glass blocks of which a few remain. The top floor [of which i have most experience] rooms are all top lit - their windows are in the mansard roof with large ceiling lights.

There is little in the way of the interior decoration visible in the Gas Building.
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Postby snag » Sat Jun 05, 1999 9:12 pm

In architectural history terms, I suppose all those buildings would be called stripped classical or maybe classical moderne, but another useful term might be conservative modernity: I have come across it in relation to 1930's literature, but it is also sometimes used in design history. While not exactly descriptive in stylistic terms, I think it probably describes the sensibility/ social context fairly well. Another example could be the Imperial War Graves Commission's work, particularly that carried out by Reginald Blomfield (who redesigned Regent's street).
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Postby snag » Sat Jun 05, 1999 9:20 pm

In architectural history terms, I suppose all those buildings would be called stripped classical or maybe classical moderne, but another useful term might be conservative modernity: I have come across it in relation to 1930's literature, but it is also sometimes used in design history. While not exactly descriptive in stylistic terms, I think it probably describes the sensibility/ social context fairly well. Another example could be the Imperial War Graves Commission's work, particularly that carried out by Reginald Blomfield (who redesigned Regent's street).
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Postby James McQuillan » Mon Jun 21, 1999 6:49 pm

The discussion about 'styles' is interesting because of the issues it raises. Modernity is completely pluralistic, so any political outlook can and did, adopt any 'style' to express itself at any given time or place. The terms themselves are merely handy labels, and certainly one label merges into another, as the discussion has demonstrated. German Nazis could build Gothic castles for the SS and sleek 'modern' air-hangars; Mussolini tolerated modernism as an expression of Fascism. Stalin went about it in a diferent way, slowly imposing his heavy Classicism.

The important point not to miss here is the goal of utopianism, that architects can build a new world. Almost all 'new' movements in architecture must be judged against the pervading presence of utopianism, progress, etc. It turns out that far from satisifying social issues, what is deing served are notions of efficiency, and symbols of technology. The endearing comments of your Dubliners on various 'pieces of buildings', demonstrate an engagement far beyond that of the instrumentality of the drawing board, and geometrical 'order' that arose with the fall of the Baroque and the victory of Neoclassicism. Most architects today are completely torn between both points of thinking and feeling. 'The centre cannot hold . . '
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Postby john w » Tue Jun 22, 1999 6:07 pm

Well said MrQuillan. I enjoyed your mini-essay.

You know I was in London last week-end for the first time in 11 years. I didn't really have the facilities to appreciate it last time but this time - my God, it's just stunning. Paris is beautiful but quite uniform - as was the intention I believe. London has such variety. I didn't realise how many buildings in a similar style exist to the ones I mentioned at the origin of this discussion. I was aware of Broadcasting house & Battersea power station of course but there are so many more. London center particularly is an absolute joy but even the old docklands buildings such as Lyle's, and the odd one by the Thames with the huge clock (?) and on and on... Fabulous.

I took many photos during trips from one gallery to the next and hopefully will make those available here soon.

Oh, my girlfriend and I managed to seek out the Michelin Factory. It was illustrated in a book in the Tate. Nobody in London knew where it was.

It's on:

Fulham road, South Kensington - not far from Sth Kensington High Street Underground station.

We loved it! So exhuberant and colourful.

Back in Dublin now - the place is so... empty.

John
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Postby Siobhán » Wed Jul 14, 1999 6:02 pm

Why call the buildings mentioned in the original post fascist? They're far more Bolshevik - the Gas building windows, the Dept. of Enterprise and Employment frieze, the rosettas on the Post Office... there's communist art for ya!
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Postby John w » Thu Jul 15, 1999 9:43 am

The dept of ent & employment frieze is definitely Russian-constructivist/deco in style. Stalin was pretty much a fascist though wasn't he?

Your point is well made and was also made further up the list. Thanks Siobhan

John
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Postby RoryW » Thu Jul 15, 1999 10:00 am

Hi John,

I thing the big one with the clock on the banks of the Thames is the "Shell-Mex" building, which is currently up for sale by the Shell petroleum group. If anyone wants to buy......

Rory
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