Finished listening to Vincent Browne's panel discussion. Thanks.
I must have a look on Burlington Road for what Frank McDonald describes as his favourite Sam Stephenson building. Tony Reddy referred to Gibney and Stephenson as 'children', when at age 30 and 29 they won the competition to build the ESB headquarters. Peter Eisenman would say, Architecture is an older man's game. So I guess, in architectural terms, SS and AG, were children. At least in the radio panel discussion, Frank McDonald managed to illuminate the 'cultural context' in 1960s Ireland. Which guys of my tender age of 30 years could not appreciate.
The attitude to Georgian squares and streets at the time of the 60s was different to now. There is a general point contained in there about cities all over the world. Much discussion continues today about the Lower Manhattan area, and how architects there might rejuvenate the area. Following 9/11 there was reaction from architects, that the same 'real estate hack' formula was being employed on the ground zero site. If you search 'Peter Eisenmann Architect' at google video, you will come across two interesting panel discussions on the Manhattan Area project.
I guess the Hume Street events as described in the radio programme, reminds me too of the French Concorde debacle. It wasn't until the Concorde was finally being scrapped, the French public suddenly became teary-eyed, nationalistic and nostalgic for the achievements of French aviation technology! It was not until much of Georgian Dublin had been destroyed, that Dubliners came to its defense. The name of Walter Gropius came up in the interview, in the context of the ESB headquarters. For those of you interested in who Walter Gropius was, there is a good google video here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7388709094938953180&q=popefucker+%2B+architect
In the radio programme, they described Sam Stephenson as having an 'emerging young practice' in 1960s Ireland. Only the more mature professionals like Tony Reddy can recall this now. I can only remember Sam in his older years, as described through the eyes of others. Sam was used as a scapegoat for the destruction of the Georgian city. I had forgotten about the 1970s plans for the Temple Bar area too. As Frank McDonald points out, the Central Bank would have fitted well into those original plans for Temple Bar. It was only later that more sensitive urban plans for Temple Bar came about in the 80s and early 90s. There was a movement called post modernism and it created much debate about cities and what cities are. Another debate I am too young to remember!
Bucholtz's comments about the Central Bank being too short are quite interesting I think. When you consider the way that new building, with its double skin glass facade, in front of Dublin Castle entrance, opposite the Olympia Theatre looks too short. It is almost a joke or a disgrace, I don't know which. Any one got any pics? The Central bank was not strictly economical at the height it was built, relative to the size of its base and the innovative technique of construction used. But that new glass building beside Dublin Castle is a far worse equation I think. If you wish to talk in terms of floor area, site value and economic return. Lets not forget the battle that raged over De Blacam and Meagher's timber apartment building in Temple Bar. The height issue in Temple Bar or Dublin in general has not been successfully resolved. That is an issue for my generation to seriously look into.
Which brings me to my final point on the radio panel discussion. On Frank McDonald's comment: "Wood Quay planning office is a joy to use today". There is something I wish to highlight as a minor problem facing young architects today. I wanted to see the urban area plan for the Drumcondra area in Wood Quay last Saturday. I had even organised to meet with a young Italian architect I know, whose opinion on urban design I greatly respect. While we were inside the door of the offices on Saturday morning, looking at the drawings on display and having a conversation. We were approached by security and asked to leave.
I am well used to this treatment all my life here in Ireland. It has never bothered much me before now. I simply grew accustomed to it as a way of life. However, it is increasingly becoming a pain in the ass. When you consider Irish society is trying to move towards integration of people and ideas in 2006. I did feel quite embarassed by this treatment in front of a free thinking and freedom loving Italian young architect. As if I knew, deep inside of me that our little country can manage better. I know that five young architectural students in Bolton Street are doing Central Libraries as their design thesis. Perhaps in the future, a central library could be used to display urban area plans?
It seems a great shame given the expense that goes into them, they never get a proper audience. I understand the points being raised in the radio programme. About Dublin City Council wanting to 'protect' itself from its citizens in the past. But has that attitude really changed today? I don't really care if I am denied access to a public display in Wood Quay on a Saturday morning. Even if the urban plan was prepared using tax payers money, and will never be viewed or examined by the public. But millions of euro of tax payers money are spent building and maintaining these facilities. All over Dublin city and the rest of the country. And yet, after all that, there is not one place accessible on a Saturday morning to a couple of 'children-aged', 30 year old, would be architectural enthuasiasts to meet up. Even if they possessed the enthuasiasm to do so.
Things haven't really changed that much. Maybe they are getting far worse. Before we start congratulating ourselves, we should think about that.
Brian O' Hanlon.