Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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Summed up very well.

What is central to this debate was the potential for these buildings, and indeed typical Georgian structures across the city, to be made habitable rather than demolished. There is clear evidence from the 1930s that the initial flat schemes the Corporation were building were not only of a derisory standard, but were more expensive to build that the cost of refurbishing existing buildings. This became increasingly apparent in the early years of slum clearance yet the demolition squads ploughed on clearing for the creation of anonymous housing schemes in place of socially layered and immensely flexible accommodation in converted townhouses.

It also must be remembered that there were two fundamental types of ‘tenement’ (the term is used loosely): ranks of squalid cottages which were landlord purpose-built rubbish to cater for the masses who had no choice but to take what was on offer, and secondly converted townhouses in once-affluent areas. Naturally the later developments of the Guinness Trust/Iveagh Trust, Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company and others form a third but very different category. The loss of the former type is generally not to be mourned, however the eradication of so many streetscapes of townhouses from vernacular to Dutch Billy to Georgian, all of which exhibited an architectural character and distinctive urban form worth retaining, was as regrettable as it was insanely wasteful.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that wiping out of enormous masses of brick and masonry, often built in heavy barn-like formations in the case of Georgian terraces, and in the case of Dutch Billies with substantial chimney substructures, for the sake of a cleared site on which to build upon all over again was in many cases economics and social engineering from the School of Raving Lunacy. With many of these buildings there was clearly substantial scope for rehabilitation and adaptation, but simply the will, the imagination and probably a broad intellect simply wasn’t there to make this happen. There are good quotes of some officials from the time advocating this policy that are probably worth digging out.

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