Re: Re: The Irish Town – Dying At The Crossroads?

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? ? ? Architecture and Show Bands ? ? ?

What do we hope to do I wonder? Provide a travelling workshop/lecture series about towns, to go around the country of Ireland? Where town dwellers and business people (including publicans, store merchants, etc) can go and view an exhibition, about other successful projects? Maybe there is a bottom-up kind of awareness building that should be done. I think if such an exhibition or road-show was to be organised, it is essential it is not a load of exhibition boards folded up, travelling around in a lorry with no human companionship. It is crucial that real professional architects, planners and possibly even developers are on the tour, and give people some human interaction with ideas of urbanism.

The exhibition or road show, should be small and neat enough to travel right into the smaller towns and villages, such as Caherciveen, Listowel, NewCastle West and so on. You might only target a few towns in one summer. But that would be an improvement on nothing. You could target some more towns the following year. The whole thing could be funded in a self-sustaining manner I am sure. By selling ‘tickets’ to the local hob-nobs for an opening night – an intellectuals night with featured speakers. It could incorporate a brainstorming session and possibly, the publication of feedback from the various towns in some central place such as a website. We have enough agencies and civic bodies to make something like this happen over the summer months. It would get the ‘design’ message out amongst ordinary punters in a way that TV programs couldn’t do.

It occurs to me that What Now? out at UCD Architecture School is a very fine idea. But it caters a bit too much for the artistic impulse to lock one’s self away with one’s buddies in some sheebeen, talking intellectual nonsense. When they really aught to balance that impulse for intellectual self-searching, with a much wider, interactive action . . . something like the simple road tour that I suggest. I mean, if we are going to provide funding for anything, wouldn’t this be a good place to put it? It would probably pay for itself in the long run, by architects getting some work, owing to increased public enthusiasm for design. A bunch of students and tutors locking themselves away in UCD, is not going to achieve the needed end result. Even what we are doing here on Archiseek, is a little bit too private and self-aware. The message has to be taken to the people.

I keep getting back to the point, that not many people in their life times will have oppotunity to even meet, never mind hire the services of an architect.* Most people are familiar with priests, solicitors, doctors, auctioneers and so forth. But architects are something out there, that the general populus doesn’t understand about. I mean, every other business manages to organise promotional stunts – why not architecture? Or is the stiff upper lip professional thing too much of a problem? A lot of the time too, these travelling exhitions are high-brow academic things, aimed at other academics and usually sponsored by the Arts Council. I think Paul Keogh in his essay mentioned the tidy towns scheme. The great thing about the tidy towns, is that it involved so many people. But it didn’t achieve the goal, of giving the general public access to so good workshops or lectures on the subject of design.

Brian O’ Hanlon

* Part of the gimmick could be to raffle off the services of an architect in every town visited. This might be self-sustaining in some way too, if one could sell enough tickets. Plus, that person who received the services of an architect, would be an excellent form of viral marketing at a local level. He or she would tell everybody at local level, how wonderful an experience it was to have an architect. I wish the RIAI would provide scholarships for architects to attend the Smurfit School of Business or do marketing studies . . . this is the kind of area of ‘business ideas’ that architecture needs to advance in. It is time to use that lateral thinking.

I guess what I am thinking about, is something similar to what Tim Robbins did for Archaeology, with the Time Team concept. Top Gear does it to a degree also for automobile travel.

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