Architecture - Modern Period


The early 19th century saw the emergence of a native architectural profession and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland was established in 1839. The first decades of the century witnessed a spate of building and much of the architecture of the period is characteristic of the international Neoclassicism then common in Europe and America. Good examples are Carlow Court House, by William Morrison, 1828, and the Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Dublin, by Patrick Byrne, 1850.

The revival of the Gothic style is usually associated with church-building and there are numerous churches of this type. They are distinguished by their tall, thin towers and pointed spires surrounded by smaller pinnacles, they are usually rectangular in plan with a square tower and they often have battlements. Among the finest examples of church architecture of the period are St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, by William Burgess, 1867 and St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, begun in 1868 by E.W. Pugin and G.C. Ashlin. The Gothic style was adopted for domestic architecture in the construction of Ashford Castle in Co. Mayo (c 1870), designed by J.F. Fuller.

In the late 19th century there was a brief Celtic revival in architecture associated with the Gaelic literary movement. A typical example is the Honan Chapel, Cork, by James F. McMullen, 1915. However, though the idea of a Celtic revival promised much, it had only a limited influence on Irish architecture.

The influence of the modern movement was first seen in domestic architecture and in small scale buildings generally. The first significant modern building was the terminal building, Dublin Airport, by Desmond FitzGerald, 1940. An important building of the post-war period was Busárus (the Store Street bus terminal), Dublin, by Michael Scott, 1953, who was one of the leading exponents of modern architecture in Ireland.

In the 1960’s and 70’s there was considerable expansion in architecture especially in the areas of factory building and educational buildings and churches. Factory buildings such as Carroll’s, Dundalk (Ronald Tallon, Scott, Tallon, Walker, Architects 1970) shows the ability of Irish architects to provide the country with attractive industrial landscapes. Schools such as Birr School by Peter and Mary Doyle, 1980 combined new educational theories, rigorous discipline and native technology. In the area of church building, Liam McCormick is regarded as a most significant architect; a fine example of his work is the Church of St Aonghas at Burt, Co. Donegal.In the 1980s, during a period of reduced building activity, there was considerable debate among architects on the development of a new Irish architecture with greater concern for context, the environment and urbanism. The conservation of the country’s built heritage became increasingly important with major projects such as the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham by John Costello of Costello Murray Beaumont, and subsequent conversion of the building into the Irish Museum of Modern Art; the restoration of the Custom House and Dublin Castle, by the Office of Public Works; and the Casino at Marino (see page 166), Dublin, by Austin Dunphy and John Redmill.

Local Authority housing showed a new concern for street pattern and context; the early 1980s saw the end of public deck/access apartment buildings. Schemes such as City Quay Housing, Dublin by Burke-Kennedy Doyle; Rutland Street by Dublin Corporation Architects Housing Department; and Share Housing, Cork by N. Hegarty, Cork City Architect, showed the influence of the street as a design determinant. Newhousing on a human scale, with clear definition of the public and private realms,was built.

Private housing also underwent radical change with innovative and elegant schemes for high density city housing being designed, such as Oak Apple Green by Denis Anderson. New standards in apartment design and imaginative interpretations of vernacular architecture were seen in such schemes as Mount Shannon Housing by Murray O’Laoire.

In the 1990s there was a new concentration on architecture and urbanism with the introduction of tax incentives for development in run-down areas in the major urban centres and towns. An example of an important urban initiative undertaken in the 1990s is Temple Bar, an area in Dublin which was the subject of a limited competition for an architectural framework plan. A wide range of new building types by a variety of architects is being built, providing a unique integration of new cultural uses, new urban spaces, housing and commercial development.

by Michael Green
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