Re: Re: Dublin Quays …latest addition.
Glad to hear you appreciate the qualities of brick, Rourke!
My argument is that there is no rational reason why architects must defer to surrounding buildings or use a certain material because the surrounding buildings incorporate them.
I do find this quite an extraordinary statement. While noting your last comments about unified streetscapes etc, there is every reason to make reference to the surrounding landscape of building materials (and again I’d argue that ‘defer’ has a negative, subordinate connotation). This promotes a satisfying sense of harmony and coherence, while on an ‘intellectual’ level stimulates the eye in noting the varying stylistic approaches to the expression of a similar ideal. 1930s modernist infill and Amsterdam school buildings were particularly adept at this practice (and built at the time when the greed of pile-em-high additional storeys and annexes did not compromise their composition). These buildings were often beautifully crafted from local brick, expertly detailed and thoroughly complementary to their settings. They also age extremely well. Of course every building must not ‘conform’ – that would be daft – but as a baseline for most buildings it is a desirable goal.
There are a couple of problems.
Either somebody is hiding the secret of modern red brick from the rest of us, or red brick does not suit modern buildings. One of the reasons traditional brick buildings seem beautiful to us is their old-fashioned aesthetic principles and their attention to detail. In modern contexts, especially where brick is employed in a minimalist fashion, you end up with awkward, ugly boxes. THE AGE OF BRICK IS OVER. Unless somebody can formulate an entirely new paradigm for red brick in Ireland, then we must stop littering our cities with badly designed, aesthetically repulsive brick buildings.
Is the present architectural profession so starved of talent and imagination that a distinctively Irish modern style cannot be contemplated?
Fully agreed that aesthetic takes precedent over abstract or intellectual notions, which is perhaps why the Ormond Building is more a matter of taste than stepping into the realm of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. However, this development was the result of an architectural competition – a formula which aspires to tailor a building to every facet of its context. The fact that this was a modest infill site in the wider ensemble of the quays, rather than an isolated stand-alone site which demanded a more confident, individual approach, practically hones down the function of the competition exclusively to that of interpreting context. In my opinion, 50 per cent of this was achieved, through the matching of parapet height and the distinguished use of staggered fenestration modules. The other 50 per cent failed unacceptably – namely the arbitrary and ill-conceived roofscape, and the choice of facing material.
I could not disagree more about the age of brick being over. If anything, it’s quite the opposite, with O’Donnell & Tuomey and DeBlacam & Meagher in particular championing the material to beautiful effect. The former’s new Timberyard social housing scheme on Cork Street is easily amongst the top three buildings erected in Dublin last year, and one of the finest of the past decade. It is precisely this model of structure which would have been more appropriate for Ormond Quay, which makes it particularly galling that this is precisely what they submitted into the competition.
Â© O’Donnell & Tuomey (rear elevation)
Okay, the two-part quayfront approach and roof gardens probably didn’t win over the judges, but the material and arguably the finer grain of detail would have been infinitely more appropriate for the site (and the elevation to Ormond Square much more satisfying).
Brick is not a clinical, harsh material, and most ceertainly does suit modern buildings when used appropriately. It does not have to be all-engulfing – indeed one of the best applications of brick is its use in conjunction with other materials such as sharp expanses of glass and softening timber. Again, these options could have been employed at Ormond Quay. Instead we have a building that in terms of material expression appears to have landed from outer space. An incidentally, I am convinced that had the site in question been the corner site of the Georgian terrace, we would have ended up with precisely the same building.