Re: Re: Westmoreland / D’Olier Streets
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. . the entire Westmoreland Street/D’Olier Street/College Green/Dame Street axis is continuously deteriorating; the very places that should be the beating heart of the city.
I’m inclined to believe that, in Dublin, streets have to hit rock bottom before they start to come back up. I think Parliament Street would be an example of this and arguably Parnell Street could be another example. The problem with Westmoreland Street /D’Olier Street/College Green/Dame Street is that they have been on the slide for two hundred years, so we can’t tell whether we’re three months, or eighty years, away from rock bottom.
On a slightly related topic, there’s a couple of interesting passages, as always, in the president’s column of the current (July/August) edition of the RIAI journal.
They’re hard to find because It does ramble all over the place stumbling from one name drop reference to the next, but the theme seems to be a discourse on whether we are essentially Euoropean in mind-set, or whether Ireland is a ‘state of mind between Nashville and Old Trafford’ [Tony Parsons, English critic and pundit], which, in fairness, is a great quote.
I don’t want to antagonize people, but those lawns behind the railings at the front of Trinity are a potent symbol that we’re not really ready to embrace European urbanism fully again. I say again, because we were full members of the European urban club once, but somewhere in the 18th century we lost it, we imported the anglo-saxon obsession with controlled nature.
English landscape gardening in the 18th century is rightly regarded as revolutionary, but it had a dark side. The campaign to perfect nature proved too successful to be left out in the sticks. The guys with the Palladian country houses, set in Capability Brown designed rolling estates couldn’t resist the temptation to deck out their town houses with tiny patches of controlled nature as well and so the Georgian square, as miniature country estate, was born.
This notion still pervades our thinking. It may be a stretch to say that the current state of Westmoreland Street, for example, has anything to do with the importation of the ideas behind English landscape gardening, but I think that our absorption of those ideas blunted our urban sensibilities to the extent that we don’t really notice when our urban realm has been damaged, in the same way that it would be noticed in a comparable mainland European city.
Do we really notice that there’s a grassy hill beside Christchurch Cathedral? This is at the very heart of our medieval core, between the cathedral and the first port, where the urban grain should be at it’s tightest, we have a grassy hill!
It’s bad enough that the Christchurch Place side of the cathedral was turned into a English style, lawned-up, ‘cathedral close’ in the 19th cuntury, where once there was a warren of lanes and taverns side by side with the old law courts, but to compound this by sticking in a north facing grassy hill (as the good part of the Civic Offices development) would have been laughed out of the planning office in any other (mainland) European city.
notjim will now find some obscure Romanian city with an identical feature.
BTW, the other interesting passage in the president’s column: ‘. . if . . WW2 was not the spark under the cauldron of Modernism, it was the catalyst for it’s diffusion – for good, bad and ugly’.
Assuming that he’s talking about architecture, which may be a rash assumption, it could be an interesting exercise to imagine what the course of ‘modernism’ might have been had it been allowed to develop in a even curve from WW1 to WWW without the intervention of WW2.
Would modernism have become discredited, if it hadn’t been forced into an obligation to provide quick and cheap post war housing, and had it not been pushed into an uncomfortable comparison with the urban qualities of the bombed out cities it had suddenly to replace?
We’re going to need johnglas for this one.