- By Cooney Architects
The article below is taken from the book ‘One Hundred & One Hosannas for Architecture’
“The work of architecture is not complete until it is written about”, written by Shane O’Toole, curator of Tegrals Building of the Month articles.
Curated by well-known architect and critic, Shane O’Toole, Building of the Month – Classic Irish Architecture from the Tegral Archive, will feature the best of fibre cement architecture built in Ireland during recent decades.
|A housing crisis exploded in Dublin in the late 1960s and 1970s, highlighting the poor living conditions then widespread – the result of overcrowding, urban decay and the destructive impact of commuter traffic on inner city life. No longer willing to tolerate such conditions, local communities formed housing and tenants’ associations to engage in self-help and focus public and official attention on the problem through protests, including the blocking of streets.Perhaps the best known of these community groups was the Liberties Residents’ Association, not least because among its members were several prominent journalists, including Elgy Gillespie of The Irish Times. A report in that paper on April 30, 1976, quoted the group’s chairman, Larry Dillon: “[Put] houses before roads… A dual carriageway has (already) turned High Street into a racetrack during the day and a dead street at night.”The Liberties group concerned itself not only with the physical problems of the area but also with the social and cultural needs of the community. One of its key acts of urban resistance was to commission a study to challenge proposals in the 1967 Draft Development Plan. They were opposed to flats – the five-storey maisonette slab blocks that were the Corporation’s staple solution since the late 1950s, the latest versions of the type increasingly brutish and destructive of the urban fabric – and wanted public housing, like the traditional artisan squares in the locality.
Writing in Dublin: A City in Crisis, published by the RIAI in 1975, James Pike explained that the Liberties study began by examining Brabazon Square, a 19th-century housing development west of Meath Street. “The analysis showed that if we retain the best of the existing elements (their human scale and ideal environment for the creation of sub-communities within the Liberties) and make up the amenity shortcomings, we can construct two- and three-storey houses and four-storey maisonettes at high density, while still retaining adequate open space and provision for car parking.”
Ash Grove is an early example of architecture’s “return to the street”, as Gerry Cahill memorably put it at the time. James Pike again: “In respecting the pattern of existing streets, the precise relationship of the street to the dwelling becomes of major importance. Is the ground floor raised two or three steps above the pavement? Is there a small front garden? Is the porch recessed or projecting? Can raised pavements be used for added separation? Can houses be stepped vertically or horizontally? Considerable natural changes in level can be used to give access to upper storeys while maintaining contact with the ground, and this can be supplemented with further artificial cutting and filling of the ground, which is not uneconomical for shallow depths. The result will be to preserve the street line and its life, and to create residential spaces that contrast with the street, as other spaces in the immediate area do.”