In this photography slide show video I ask some important questions about modern architecture, with examples taken from Dublin, where I was a student and still visit regularly today.
I don’t use photography primarily to make attractive pictures, I take photos to document, draw attention to things and to stimulate debate. I love to give photo presentations and they generally turn into a discussion about the buildings and locations in the photos.
Raising issues is what I like to do, and so in my Dublin Modern Architecture slide show video, I’ve decided that I will ask a question for each of the 30 plus buildings which I’ve arranged roughly in my order of preference, from worst to best.
I start the video with the ESB buildings on Fitzwilliam Street, designed by Sam Stephenson. A whole row of magnificent Georgian terraced houses were razed to the ground to make way for this building, completed in 1976, the year I started to study at Trinity College Dublin. I’m glad I took this photo as it has now been demolished. Its 2018 replacement is an interpretation of the original buildings and my question is: Wouldn’t it have been better to rebuild exactly the façades as they were, with the new building behind?
There are many interesting modern buildings on my list and I’ll give a preview of a few of them here.
The American Embassy in Ballsbridge is one of the buildings that caught my eye as a child. I first saw it on a postcard and was very impressed. At that time Dublin seemed to me a very old, grey and run down city. The sight of the American Embassy reassured me that the city was not completely stuck in the past. It was designed by the American architect John M. Johansen (1916-2012), in consultation with Irish architect Michael Scott (1905-1989). I haven’t formulated the question for this building yet!
My next choice is another circular building. Since I first saw the Crimininal Courts of Justice on RTE news reports, I’ve been very interested in this building, which was designed by Peter McGovern, Director of Henry J Lyons & Partners, architects. I love the circular plan and the mixed use of glass, especially to cover the facade, which due to the unique use of the building, has no windows. The glass panels are apparently just for decoration. I hope that I won’t be spending any time in this building, except perhaps on an architectural visit. My question is:
Is the use of exterior glass panels justified if they serve no useful purpose?
One of the most intriguing examples of modern architecture in Dublin is the glass steeple that was added onto the former St James Church, now the Pearse Lyons distillery. It’s not exactly a building, it’s a modern addition to an old building but it is very eye-catching. I ask the question:
Is it okay to add a modern structure onto an old building?
I will answer this one by saying that in the case of the Pearse Lyons glass steeple, it definitely is. It looks visually captivating at night and can be clearly seen from the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse.
Since childhood I’ve regarded Liberty Hall on Dublin’s river Liffey as an icon of Dublin and modern Ireland, a symbol of the modernisation of the country which started around the 1960s. It’s superbly proportioned and though tiny in comparison to the skyscrapers of the US, it has a graceful, imposing presence in Dublin. Unfortunately it was damaged in a bomb incident and was not restored to its original form. The replacement windows were opaque and there were problems with the materials used on the exterior.
The condition of the building slowly deteriorated. Its owners Siptu intended to demolish it and replace it with a much bigger and taller building but the planning application was rejected. This was the right decision as the new building would have completely changed the character of this part of Dublin and the view along the Quays. It would have had an alienating effect on the city. In 2018 Liberty Hall has undergone some minor renovation work but in my opinion it should be fully restored to how it was when it first opened. My question is:
Were owners SIPTU right to propose the demolition of Liberty Hall?
As for my favourite modern building in Dublin, I will reveal that at the end of the video, but here’s a clue: It was one of the first modern buildings to be constructed in Dublin, it cost a very large amount of money and it’s been in daily use since it opened.
I hope to release this video on YouTube in late September 2018. When it’s online I will amend this article and add more photographs.
I’m fascinated by the history and development of Dublin, especially along the river Liffey. Watch my video of the bridges of the River Liffey below. There is also a Die Brücken des Flusses Liffey in Dublin.