Re: Re: New street idea sun only

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Anonymous
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Isn’t it just. Particularly in spring and autumn when there’s still a bit of warmth in the sun and the place isn’t swamped by Spanish students.

The garden in more reticent times, in the 1890s.

Note the bizarre chimneys have vanished, the tennis court laid out on the lawn, and what appears to be a member of ‘service’ attending to the children of the Viceregal household đŸ™‚

It’s fair to say the Coach House has lost its original setting and sense of presence since the redevelopment of the garden, but agreed jimg, it’s a cumbersome, ungainly affair. It was designed by Jacob Owen, Architect to the Board of Works in the late 1830s, to improve the vista from the State Bedrooms in anticipation of a future visit of the new Queen Victoria, as well as to afford greater privacy from overlooking of the gardens themselves, and of course to modernise stabling. Lets just say Owen was more accustomed to concocting frothy Victorian interiors than he was designing gothic follies.

I don’t find the intrusion of a modern building, nor indeed the scale of it, unsuited to the site on George’s Street. This was a always a dingy ‘leftover’ vista, one that would have been rectified in the 19th century if the money and political stability were there – so it’s perfectly acceptable to do it sensitively today. But the materials that were chosen in the built scheme are simply appalling. For the past thousand years this site has been sourcing materials locally; the pasting of hideous Spanish composite tiles or whatever the heck that muck is about the facade, is a harsh slap in the face to the historic complex it faces. Again a typical case of architect and planner showing utter disregard for context. The undulating nature of the facade also clashes and clutters the view of the Coach House from the garden.

I suppose we ought to be thankful for it in place of Raymond McGrath’s 1946 Development Plan, which never came to fruition – intended to be built over 20 years and house at least 4000 civil servants. Talk about centralisation!

I say ‘thankfully’ not so much in a derogatory way but because of the little known fact from documentation I’ve seen, as time progressed government officials were pushing for an economised scheme with all ‘unnecessary expenditure’ curtailed. One can only imagine the outcome.

There was a certain grace to McGrath’s scheme, if bombastic in parts. Minus the Stalinist centrepiece it had merit. Suffice to say conservation wasn’t exactly top priority at the time, and we have to remember that many of the charming service buildings to be affected weren’t even a century old and some in decay. Thankfully it didn’t go ahead though, as all of the small structures of this backland space today give an insight into the ancillary and administrative world of the 18th and 19th century Castle. This picture from 1922 shows the type of building present in the Lower Yard demolished to make way for the only phase of the scheme given the green light, the Stamping Branch, by Frank Du Berry, then Assistant Principal Architect to the OPW.

The arched building appears to be of Jacob Owen stock, like his modern-day Carriage Office that still stands nearby.

Incidentally the McGrath 1946 plan proposed many interventions relating to the Upper and Lower Yards themselves, too detailed to go into here. But do note above that he proposed opening up the Fortitude gate and demolishing everything behind some four decades before it was actually done as part of the Conference Centre development in the late 1980s. Thankfully his proposed elevation to the Bedford Tower is not evident here – that’s a shocker for another day đŸ˜‰

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