GrahamH wrote:One difference that is very evident between the two jurisdictions is in retail architecture, from the 1970s through to the present day. Northern Ireland went through a big heritage phase in its town centres just like the rest of the UK, in a way that didn't quite happen down south. Particularly the use of red brick facades, fashioned into piers and arches and all the rest of it - typical British 'high street' architecture.
Funnily enough I'd been mulling over the brick vs. render thing in my mind but being a layman and no architectural expert I thought I'd leave such specific comments to the better informed. But it does seem to be very true - particularly in the East of the province. When you combine the extensive use of brickwork and the Victorian architectural heritage, a town like Bangor for example, really contrasts with the appearance of most townscapes in the Republic. Even Derry in the Northwest has seen a considerable use of brick - both past and present - as a building material. Having said that some of the modern brick developments - the bus station and some council housing projects - have been beyond egregious in comparison to the Guild Hall or the late brutal but some how majestic Tilley and Henderson factory.
It's interesting that you're from Dundalk as I've always felt it's one of the towns in the Republic that has a distinctly 'Northern' air with the existence of so much red brick Victoriana. That’s open to correction of course as I've only been through the place a few times - I just remember the very ordered red brick finish in certain parts gave the place a feeling of being like somewhere in Belfast.
So the south's answer to NI's redbrick heritage architecture would appear to be render and stone finishes. I find the former often evokes images of industrial revolution, factories and crowded Victorian urbanity. On the other hand, the latter conjures up images of white washed cottages and dry stone walls in western Ireland: a relaxed, unchanging rural scene. Maybe this difference is also symptomatic of the gulf in attitudes towards urban settlements that exists between Britain and Ireland. One seeing the growth of cities through industrial upheaval at the heart of forging its modern identity: the other romanticising an agrarian utopia of thatched cottages and the rugged west. Is this why Irish people are so much more drawn towards dispersed living in rural one-offs and seemingly more hostile to urbanity than the British?
This contrast in attitudes to urban living is often most stark when comparing settlements in the west of Ireland to those in NI. Never mind urban living, suburban living seems to be increasingly dead in places like Donegal and Sligo. Towns there lie largely dormant or low key as the development that really reflects the growth of the Celtic Tiger is found spewing out into non-existent green belts in the form of nebulas of one-off houses and isolated estates. Development up here has been much more compact with a comparatively slow release of land at the urban fringes.
The result has been a much better reflection within urban areas of the moderate economic growth in NI over the past decade whereas the often patchy and limited redevelopment of town centres in the Republic’s west betrays the phenomenal pace of economic change that has actually taken place. Indeed, many western villages and small towns are so derelict and empty at their centre that without encountering the McMansions in the surrounding fields you’d be forgiven for thinking the country had suffered a severe economic reverse. For an era of such riches urban centres in the West have so little to show for it.
Anyway, I’ll stop now as I’m wandering into the sphere of planning and settlement contrasts as opposed to those solely concerning architecture. Or are the two mutually inclusive?