Busaras – Sources
The primary visual source for this thesis is Busáras itself. Although many minor changes have taken place in the building since its completion, the basic fabric and plan of the building is still intact.
The Scott Tallon Walker Collection at the Irish Architectural Archive includes some drawings produced during the design process. The collection is mainly concerned with earlier works by Michael Scott, including the Portlaoise Hospital, the New York World Fair Pavilion of 1939, Donnybrook Bus Garage and some minor projects. Plans of the upper storeys are held by the Office of Public Works who are reluctant to allow access to them for security reasons, even though they were published in various architectural magazines in 1953, such as the Architects Journal of April 1954.
The archives of Scott Tallon Walker contain all of the correspondence between the client, the subcontractors and suppliers, and the architects, as well as original drawings and sketches and internal memorandums from the project. These sketches include drawings for furniture, as well as elevations and perspectives of the shops and kiosks. They contain the original plans as they existed in 1948, before the enforced changes caused by the change in client to the Department of Social Welfare. These plans were the preferred design of Scott’s team and must be compared to the building as built. Also included are sketches for furniture and fittings never completed; all these drawings are unsigned. Many of these uncompleted fixtures would have been installed, were it not for the change in client from CIE to the Government. Minutes of meetings include reports on design decisions and choice of materials as well as stating those present and information on the battle with the Government. They also contain full plans and elevations for the completed building.
However, the most important source of information on the ongoing design process of Busáras, are interviews with various members of Scott’s staff from the period. Surviving members of staff from the period include Wilfrid Cantwell, Patrick Hamilton, Uinseann MacEoin, Sean Rothery, and Patrick Scott. Other influential members of staff are Kevin Fox, who is also alive but very ill and unable to be interviewed, and Kevin Roche, who works in the United States.
Wilfrid Cantwell was the project manager of the building from 1945 until he left the firm in 1947. He is therefore a useful source of information as he was present at almost all the meetings with the planning authorities, and the clients – CIE. As the architect responsible for the exterior appearance of the building, he was able to relate the influences on the design. As the principal architect in the firm he was involved in the selection process of the engineers which included Ove Arup and Jorgen Varming.
Patrick Scott was one of the assistant architects on the project and was responsible for the use of colour and the decorative details on the building. Therefore his reminiscences and thoughts on the design of the building are significant. As one of the few people involved with the project from its early stages through to its completion, Scott was ideally placed to comment on the team’s feelings on the delays and on the completion of the building. He was later chief assistant architect of Scott’s practice, and left to pursue a career as a painter and textile designer.
Uinseann MacEoin, although not working on the Busáras project, was working in the firm’s offices at this time. Apart from background on the early part of the project, he provided valuable information on the areas of responsibility of the various architects involved in the project as well as background information on Scott.
The engineer Sean Mulcahy worked with Jorgen Varming on the services of Busáras and who shared offices with Scott’s firm. He cast light on how difficult it was to work for Scott. The design process of Scott’s team involved many redesigns and this made life difficult for the consultant engineers.
Other Interviews were conducted with Ciaran MacGonigal and Dr James White for background and information on Scott and the artistic circles that he mixed in. Ciaran MacGonigal is the son of Maurice MacGonigal, who was a student at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art with Scott, and later Professor of Painting at the NCA. Scott remained friendly with him until his death. Dr James White came into contact with Scott through the Arts Council of which both were members through the 1950s and 1960s.
For contemporary reports of the building controversy it was necessary to consult the many newspaper articles devoted to the building published between 1945 and 1953, held in the National Library of Ireland. The newspapers bear testament to the ongoing struggle between architect, client and the Government to have the building completed. Editions of The Irish Times and The Irish Press followed each development carefully and their editorial pages published letters both from objectors to the building, and supporters of the design and efforts of the architects. An example of the passion aroused by this debate is exemplified by a letter to The Irish Times from the artist Louis le Brocquy:
Sir, I know nothing of the economic reasons advanced to justify the proposed appropriation and vivisection of the Store Street Bus Station by a Government Department. I gather from your leading article, the London Architects Journal and elsewhere that the economic wisdom of such a decision is widely doubted, and that it would incur a further expense in the comfort and convenience of the people of Dublin. But Dubliners are not merely to be denied all the thoughtfully planned amenities of this centre. They must also witness the mutilation of a building worthy to stand in dignity and harmony beside our Georgian Custom House, a unique building planned and made by our own citizens in the context of our time, which can, as Collinstown already does, earn us the world’s admiration.(le Brocquy, 8 May 1950, p. 5)
Pivotal articles include “City Council Agrees To Alterations In Bus Station Plans” (Anon, 8 October 1946, p. 7). This article in The Irish Times details Professor Patrick Abercrombie’s thoughts on the design proposal, the reactions of the RIAI and the RHA to the proposed design, as well as details of Scott’s court case against the newspaper. This article demonstrates the support that Scott received from the artistic world and from politicians.
All the major Irish daily newspapers printed large spreads on the official opening of the building on 19 October 1953, lauding its appearance, quoting statistics about the square footage and quantities of materials in the building, and highlighting features and facilities available to the passenger. The Irish Independent headlined it as “Dublin’s Wonder Building” (Anon, 20 October 1953, p. 2), while The Irish Press described it as “çras Mhic Dhiarmada: it all adds up to a million pounds” (Healy, 1953, p. 7). This paper also recapped the controversy and events leading up to the completion, “Seven years’ battle was worth while” (Anon, 20 October 1953, p. 10). The Irish Times described it as “The bus station that cost £1,000,000” (Anon, 20 October 1953, p. 7). As an exciting event in the history of the state marking Ireland’s new optimism and modernisation, none of the newspapers was anything but complimentary about the design and the personalities involved.
Other important published sources are the articles published in the various architectural journals at the time of the building’s opening. These journals reveal the interest there was in Busáras outside Ireland. Some journals had followed the project closely, reporting on its progress. Architectural Design published sketches of how the building would appear when completed (Anon, July 1947, p. 199). These images were important in view of the evolution of the design and in pinpointing the exact completion date of the design concept. The internal plan was to change but the elevations remained very similar to what was published. Articles in journals such as Architectural Design (Anon, April 1954, pp 240-257) and Architects Journal (Anon, 15 April 1954, pp 453-464) give descriptions and illustrations of the building as it appeared forty years ago after its opening, while also describing features that have since been removed.
The Irish Builder and Engineer followed the controversy from 1944 onwards and indeed was the endorser of the Store Street site for a Central Bus Station as early as 1937. It was not afraid of offering its own opinion through its pseudonymous correspondents Oculus, Nomad and Oriel, some of whom were quite opposed to the building. This practice of not using personal names for articles or for letters to the editor of newspapers or journals was widespread in Ireland at this time among architects, even though the real authors may have been well known. Oculus was the architect Harry Allberry and Nomad was Ernest A. Aston, who also wrote for The Irish Times on civic planning issues. Correspondents were reluctant to be identified by professional colleagues when commenting on their work, and so quite a few of the letters and articles related to Busáras are pseudonymous. The work of Wisbech or John O’Gorman is a case in point. Many architects would have known O’Gorman as Wisbech. However, in his article on the Kildare Street Competition, he maintains the pretence by commenting on and praising his own entry (Wisbech, 1936, p. 102). This practice means that letters in journals and newspapers have to be regarded with some suspicion as the authors may not be as uninvolved as they otherwise may seem. The Irish Builder and Engineer also produced a Special Issue “Dublin’s Newest Building: The Store Street CIE Bus Station and Government Offices” (Anon, 7 November 1953, pp 1151-1160) commemorating the opening of the building and celebrating its design. This article gives a complete literary and photographic description of the building as completed.
Other articles include “Michael Scott: Doyen of Modern Architecture” published in Plan magazine after Scott’s death (Carroll, February 1989, pp 27-29) which was a useful starting point for piecing together Scott’s life and career. This article was based on his thesis “Michael Scott: man and architect” (Carroll, 1987). “The Store Street Mystery” published in Hibernia (Anon, September 1950, pp 12-18), was a summation of the controversy up to that point in time. This article was invaluable for its interviews with overseas designers and architects and their reactions to the building and the controversy about it. Hibernia was published by Basil Clancy who was to produce a booklet Aras Mhic Dhiarmada (1953) after the building’s opening. An essential document from the city planning point of view is the Sketch Development Plan for County Borough of Dublin and Neighbourhood by Professor Patrick Abercrombie of Liverpool University, first published in 1922 and subsequently revised in 1939. This report laid the guidelines for city planning in Dublin until into the 1960s and was responsible for much of the criticism laid against Busáras. Abercrombie himself, largely approved of the building’s design but was also responsible for recommending some of the stylistic changes that were forced on the building. In conjunction with this report, Michael Bannon’s The Emergence of Irish Planning (1985) introduced the personalities of city planning in Dublin while chronicling the history of planning in the early twentieth century in Ireland.
While Busáras has largely been ignored in the literature on architecture and the history of architecture, specific texts on Irish architectural history have been very useful. Gandon Editions’ booklet Michael Scott (1994) written by Patrick Hamilton, an assistant architect on the project, briefly describes his major works while a useful bibliography is published in the rear. Another important publication is çras Mhic Dhiarmada (1953) by Basil Clancy, published by Government Publications at the time of the building’s completion which was invaluable for the quality and quantity of the illustrations of details now gone and for its description of materials used.
Ireland and the New Architecture (1991) by Dr Sean Rothery was useful for its information on the personalities of Irish architecture before the Second World War as it deals with the period 1900-1940 only. Many of the people from this period were major architects in the post-war years and supporters of Scott through his ongoing struggle with the Government. It describes many of Scott’s buildings which were completed during this period. It also relates the external influences on Irish architecture at that time, chronicling contacts that Irish architects had with movements and developments in Great Britain and in mainland Europe.
Michael Scott Architect in (casual) conversation with Dorothy Walker (1995) deals with Busáras in a series of interviews with Michael Scott recorded in the early 1980s. In these interviews Scott reiterates the controversy and major design decisions as outlined in the newspapers of the period. This book was important because it gave Scott’s views on the building controversy and his opinion on the major personalities involved. These views could however on occasions be highly biased in favour of his own buildings and firm. Dates given in this book are suspect as many do not correspond with dates proven from other sources including national newspapers and The Irish Builder and Engineer. Scott gives a very biased description of events, people and buildings in order to show himself and his firm in the best possible light. Some people are never mentioned: Norman Good, who was in partnership with Scott for eight years, never seems to have existed; Wilfrid Cantwell, the main architect of Busáras is dismissed as never amounting to anything as an architect, and the impression is given that without Scott’s guidan