Re: Re: Welcome to Ireland’s ugly urban sprawl
Large industrial centres like Birmingham, Manchester , Liverpool, Bradford, etc, etc?
I would not live there if you paid me!
No maybe, by our early 21 century aesthetic standards, and cultural biases. But any of the cities mentioned above, have played a huge part in the formation of the world we now live in. Just as Florence, Venice and Rome played in the 1500s. All of the technological gadgetry, computers, internets, practically as much as you can think of had origins in the heartland of the industrial revolution. Maybe architectural enthuasiasts aren’t so turned on by that, but many engineers and scientists, historians, thinkers and philosophers would be. If you are looking for short sighted, I think you can look at Ireland. I heard the architect responsible for O’ Connell St. re-development express his excitment in a talk a while back, that Dublin had just surpassed London city’s attempts to re-develop Tranfalgar Square. It is like, I am listened to his moment of pathetic little triumphalism, while in my mind thinking, the British built O’Connell St., and hundreds like it all over the world. All we did really, was to put down a pleasant looking patio… and after the abuse O’Connell Street received over the past few decades, the least it really deserved was a decent make over.
But in relation to blaming politians about lack of spatial planning abilities – it just isn’t good enough. I often sat in a design studio in Architectural School, wondering where I would begin to design my Olympic Swimming Pool project, or how I was going to design my Docklands master plan project, or whatever. How did I feel having spent years of all kinds of artistic and spatial/drawing training under my belt? To be honest with you – I was stone cold – I was frozen by even the contemplation of making anything of that size. So how is the average politian, who understands opinion polls, surveys and publicity campaigns suddenly expected to ‘have all the goods’ required to understand complex spatial problems like building roads? I mean, when you listen and watch politians on TV, trying to grapple with spatial tasks like the Red Cow roundabout and such,… and bearing in mind, these guys could not draw a box on paper, nevermind visualise anything more complex than that…. it really makes you wonder what they are doing involved in these projects at all – but still they are, and in much too close a way I believe.
As Architects, the ones with the real heavy duty minds and capabilities to deal with these spatial problems, are doing bar interiors, house extensions and the like – harmless stuff. It reminds me of Navy Germany, when the politians would decide how many bombers would be made, and actually approve the designs. Despite having no idea about aeronautics. Or how politians would be given the latest Panzer Tiger blueprints to look over, and design what would become the latest grade, military hardware for the front line offensives – despite never having fought in a battle some of them. I just want to highlight the shere ridiculous practice of trying to blame some guy in a pin-stripe suit, who goes to Dail Eireann each day and talks all day – for having lack of perception when it comes to problems which demand all kinds of talents – a million and one miles away from those of any polititian. We shouldn’t blame politians – what are our design professionals doing? While being very content to monopolise all of the brownie points that come from being a design professional – they still don’t want to be a part of the overall attempt to modernise and build the country.
Our design vocations have been restricted far too much, to doing polite, harmless and financially safe small stuff – while people who have no clue what they are doing whatsoever – are flying around in helicopters, and deciding the future of the country in 3 and 4 dimensions. You have to understand Britain and the cities mentioned above, in the whole context of the British Empire and it’s history. The industrial and port cities mentioned about, were converted into large scale industrial power houses, to feed the expansion of the British Empire all over the world. Nowadays the British are in the mood for re-developing those same cities as living environments anew – and they present a massive opportunity for designers in the future. As do similar urban centres throughout industrial Europe. But, we hear in Ireland have to get over our current petty triumphalism phase, and realise that we are entirely fresh and new to this whole building and urban planning racket – and just start right from the basics.
And if you really wish to get back to the very basics of the problems – just look at the kinds of people trying to build the country nowadays. Then compare this, to our design colleges and their lack of ability to even pay staff to tutor and guide the coming generations of young designers, who someday might work us out of this fiasco. Maybe if the country spared itself the odd road project here and there, and spent less money on helicopter rides for guff-faws to ride around in the sky – then there might be just a little money to throw at educating a young army of spatially minded technicians and designers. But there is just too much denial going on – in the design professions – if you aren’t an award winning young architect for doing cool house extensions – then you are nothing, period. This often happens, when you have a crisis situation – rather than facing up squarely to the task and attacking it – you often try to pretend, it isn’t even there.
Brian O’ Hanlon.