Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category


Friday, October 6th, 2006

Picked up a couple of gongs at the Louth Design & Conservation Awards last night. There was some stiff competition (including O’Donnell & Toumey’s RIAI award winning house at Chapel Pass) in the category of Best New House in a Town or Village – given the location of those that made the shortlist it could have been retitled Best New House in Blackrock – but we managed to scoop both the winner and the highly commended in this category for, respectively, John McGahon’s house at Hamilton Drive and Oona Kenny’s house at the Ferns.


Depenguinising Modernism

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

Turns out Lubetkin‘s Penguin Pool:


is bereft of actual penguins


Unless ineptly executed outlines on perspex count:


Funny thing is that the pool’s “icy” modernism is probably closer in appearance to their natural antarctic habitat than the rather pedestrian foliage-fringed pond they currently occupy.


Monday, October 17th, 2005

Abiola Lapite offers an interesting twist on the widespread notion that with great power comes grating art-sensibility.

it isn’t that absolute power corrupts even one’s aesthetic sensibilities, but that it is those with crude sensibilities who tend to go all out for power in the first place, not sophisticated aesthetes

This does a better job of explaining the disparity between the respective artistic legacies of Nazi Germany* and Fascist Italy. Of course, Il Duce was a brutish oaf and no arbiter of taste himself, but, many fine buildings were erected under and by his Fascist regime.

Terragni’s Casa del Fascio

Terragni’s Asilo infantile Sant’Elia, Como


De Renzi & Libera’s Ufficio Postale, Aventino, Roma

The notion that refined artistic sensibilities are associated with political liberalism is a kind of comfort blanket – it would be nice if it were true. Alas, good art can be produced or patronised by zealots, brutes or misanthropes as well as nice people and a cursory glance at bestseller lists, pop charts or movie takings ought to disabuse anyone of the notion that political liberalism, niceness or democracy is any guarantor of artistic excellence.

* I’m not buying any of the recent attempts to rescue that megalomaniac Speer’s reputation.

Critical Regionalism

Sunday, May 15th, 2005

Hugh Pearman has a profile of Jacques Herzog, (of Herzog & de Meuron) in today’s Sunday Times. I thought this comment of Herzog’s was interesting:

Herzog is a firm believer in internationalism. “I don’t believe in genius loci (spirit of place),” he says. “The exchange of information is so rapid today. You cannot not be influenced by what’s happening elsewhere.”

This is, of course, utterly sensible and yet it contradicts one of the cherished memes of architectural thought: Critical Regionalism which might be described as a form of architecture informed by modernism, yet rooted in and inspired by the specific context of the relevant region. Now, I am an admirer of Kenneth Frampton who originally popularised CR and indeed of many architects who self-identify as Critical Regionalists. Further, in a rather trivial manner, it makes sense – there’s no point erecting glass pavilions in the desert – the context for a building includes the particular character of the local climate. Yet there is a slightly sinister undercurrent to the idea of Critical Regionalism.

What I have in mind is the type of mystical attachment to the pure “essence” of a region and the implication that one might usefully distinguish between “proper” regionalist architecture and, presumably, “improper” alien/internationalist architecture (as opposed to merely distinguishing between, say, elegant and clumsy). I’m sure that many who unthinkingly accept this line of thinking don’t follow it to its conclusion but this is precisely the same rationale used by ethno-nationalists about people.

Almost finished

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Our house is finally nearing completion so I thought I’d post a few pics. Plans already posted here.


It looks a bit more complete inside…


Keep Reachin’ for that Rainbow..

Monday, December 6th, 2004 the steelworkers’ motto goes. Good to see Tony Allwright back blogging and boosting skyscrapers for Dublin, celebrating the grant of planning permission last week for Ireland’s tallest building (designed, incidentally, by my old boss Paul Keogh). While I am in broad agreement with Tony about the merits of tall buildings, I think he begs the question about the cost of housing in his characterisation of the “root” of Dublin’s traffic “problem”:

The root of the problem is the high price of urban land which, with Ireland’s boom of the last ten years, has led to a house-price explosion. Unless you can raise half-a-million €uro-or-so, you are forced to buy further and further out of town. Of course, the Irish love affair with purchasing homes rather than renting them is another issue, which further inflates prices while depressing rents to uneconomic levels.  Indeed, no sane person would dream of buying when rents are so cheap (disclosure – I am one of the insane majority.). I have therefore long argued that what is needed is to despoil the skyline with high rise apartment blocks. There are plenty of existing apartment blocks, but due to planning restrictions they rarely exceed about six storeys, which means the exorbitant land price is shared by only six flat-owners.  To keep costs down, they are often small and cheaply-made in order to offset the high land price.

[By the way, the notion that houses are “cheaply-made” is a bit of a nonsense. They are patently “expensively-made” enough otherwise there wouldn’t be punters for them. If there were sufficient demand for more luxurious materials and better quality construction developers would cater for this] The “high” price for development land and housing is a reflection of the same phenomenon – fixed or increasing demand and restricted supply. The root problem is the whole idea of a zoning and planning permission system in the first place. Such government oversight has a generally lamentable record in predicting population growth and actual demand.

The procedure involved in zoning goes as follows: Some bureaucrat decides, based on some ancient surveys and nonsensical projections, that “what Dublin needs” in the next five years is X hA of land for residential development, YhA of land for industrial development, Z hA of “greenbelt” etc. There follows plenty of horsetrading as to precisely which land gets rezoned – such rezoning amounts to a financial windfall for landowners and has in the past incentivised corruption – and a whole series of restrictions on the type of development are written into the development plan. This plan is rubberstamped by the elected councillors. Any development seeking planning permission must conform to those restrictions.

This “central planning” may track mediocre social-democratic style growth but has proved utterly incapable of responding to Ireland’s economically-liberal boom. Given a liberalised system, without the whole development plan apparatus and without the second-guessing planning application process, there would be no financial windfall on “zoned” land as there would no longer be any zoned land. Land which proved suitable for housing would get developed and, given Ireland’s extremely low population density, could drastically increase supply without leading to a massive despoilation of the countryside.


Thursday, December 2nd, 2004

Abiola points to Michael Totten’s great photo-diary of his trip to Libya. I have a few observations:

1) Mussolini’s occupation managed to gift Tripoli one well designed twentieth century extension to the old city which contrasts notably with the socialist-realist, agoraphobic/megalomaniac urban planning which followed. Architecture’s dirty little secret is that (unlike Hitler’s Germany), Fascist Italy produced many fine examples of architecture.

2) Ghadames, the “jewel of the Sahara”, is beautiful and indeed beautifully preserved. This was achieved at the point of Ghaddafi’s goon’s guns. Totten (rightly) bemoans the absence of people and the bustle of city life and the assault on Berber culture. But: it is a (widespread) fiction that such pristine preservation is consistent with “messy” urban life. Ghadames represents the ne plus ultra of conservation. Those who seek to preserve and conserve traditional buildings and cities ought to realise that such conservation must compromise with the inhabitants and, if it is to be consistent with quotidian life, can never be pristrine but must have some rough edges.

Work in progress II

Monday, November 29th, 2004

It’s quite a nice day today so I thought I’d take the opportunity to reassure 1) Chris that I’m still an architect and 2) Dick that my house ought to be complete before Dublin’s greedy maw devours North Leinster, by taking a few pics:



Work in progress

Friday, October 15th, 2004

My new house, to which I referred previously (plans here) has (finally!) reached roof terrace level. Not that there’s that much to see just yet but I thought I’d put a pic up:


Heidegger’s Utility

Monday, August 30th, 2004

Tyler Cowen asks the question:

Can you tell me, standing on one foot, what exactly is both important and valid in the writings of Martin Heidegger?

I would just note that while I remain ignorant of most of the old Nazi Philosopher’s ouevre, Heidegger’s essay Building Dwelling Thinking has been very influential among architects.