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100 years of ugly buildings? A new book begs to differ

A new publication from Dublin City Council looks back at architecture in the city during the 20th century.

SOME PARTS OF Dublin are much admired by those with a keen eye for architecture.

The Georgian period is often spoken about as a high-point in the development of the city, with it still evident today in prominent buildings like the Four Courts and the Custom House.

There is also a strong Victorian influence around the city, with BBC historical drama Peaky Blinders using the streets of Dublin to recreate post-WW1 Birmingham.

A perhaps more overlooked period are the buildings that have gone up over the past 100 years.

Hoping to change that is a new book, ‘More than concrete blocks: Dublin city’s twentieth-century buildings and their stories’, a three part series that looks at how the buildings around the city tie into its political, social and economical development. 

The first volume is edited by Ellen Rowley has been published by Four Courts Press in conjunction with Dublin City Council and covers a period from 1900 up to 1939.

Twenty-six case studies are covered in the book, and here are just a few of them.

Iveagh Trust Housing Estate   

paul tierney Iveagh Buildings in the Patrick Street area Source: Paul Tierney

The Iveagh Trust Housing Estate in the Patrick Street area of Dublin was built after a slum clearance, with construction getting underway in 1901.

The building takes its distinctive height from a need at the time to house the former residents whose homes were lost in the clearance.

On the façade of the buildings a number of more decorative features can be spotted: it’s doorways have an ornate design and its roof holds some distinctive copper domes.

The Guinness Storehouse

One of the best known buildings included in the book, Guinness first established themselves on the site in 1759 and saw major expansion during the 20th century.

It is described as not only being a “hugely significant urban industrial site”, but also noteworthy because of how it provided housing for the people working there at the time.

paul tierney Market Street Storehouse (The Guinness Storehouse) Source: Paul Tierney

The building of the storehouse is believed to be the first steel-framed multi-storey building in Britain or Ireland and was built with the intended purpose of fermentation.

paul tierney The inside of the Market Street Storehouse Source: Paul Tierney

R + H Grain Silo

Far from the prettiest structure, the imposing bulk of the R + H Hall Grain Silo is graciously described in the book as having a “considerable visual impact on its surroundings”.

If perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, this building has certainly played its part in ensuring Ireland’s food security.

Ireland has long imported its wheats and other grains, and this building helped to store them during economically difficult years of the 1930s.

Amazingly, the building is still in use in its original purpose today.

paul tierney R + H Hall Grain Silo Source: Paul Tierney

Drumcondra Library

Constructed during a push to build more libraries in the 1930s, Drumcondra Library has an Art Deco style with a “modest and finely detained” exterior.

When building the library its designer had a a focus on the distribution of windows on three sides of the buiding to ensure the interior of the building is well-lit by sunlight.

paul tierney Drumcondra Library Source: Paul Tierney

Read: Planning approval given for Dublin’s tallest office building

Also: We’ve spent €1.7 billion more building houses this year than 2014

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