Thursday, 9 October 2014

The pebbledash homes of Dublin 7

"Beyond Pebbledash"  is a sort of architectural installation in Collins Barracks, which is part of the National Museum of Ireland.

I've just been checking it out for research on my next novel.

It's a full-scale reconstruction of  the facade of one of those "typical" pebbledash-fronted houses built by Dublin Corporation in areas on the southside such as  Crumlin and Ballyfermot from the 1940s to the 1960s. And Cabra on the northside, just up the road from Stoneybatter and Grangegorman.

The facade is on a steel skeletal frame that indicates "where its walls, stairs, doors, rear fenestration, ceilings and roof would be".

The project is the brainchild of Dublin City Council planner Paul Kearns and Tel Aviv-based architect Motti Ruimy. It's not just a celebration; one of its aims is to stimulate debate about the future of city living.

Dublin City Council's website says:

"Beyond Pebbledash is both a celebration of an overlooked icon of Dublin (Irish) domestic architecture and a design driven discussion on the future of Dublin urbanism."
Its timing is impeccable. Dublin is currently in the middle of a housing crisis. Property prices are beginning to spiral again, there's a shortage of affordable and appropriate accommodation, while there is a growing number of homeless families and individuals - something touched upon in the second 'Moss Reid' book Black Marigolds.

As the Irish Times recently reported,
"In the north inner city, one of the most deprived parts of the State, with 20,000 residents, 46 per cent of all homes have one bedroom or are studios. More than half of these homes were built in the past 20 years."

What's the installation like?

To be honest - and I'll probably be killed for saying it - I found the exhibition in itself a little underwhelming.

First of all, the 1:1 scale means the facade looks tiny next to the barracks buildings.

Secondly, it's literally just a facade.

Thirdly, it's roped off. So you can't touch the pebbledash. I know there must be health and safety and insurance considerations, but they didn't even leave a square-foot sample of the stuff outside that rope perimeter.

The symbolism of those blue ropes isn't great: stay out, keep your distance, look, don't touch.

Fourthly, it just sits there with a small sign in front of it, little more than a soggy A4 sheet. Other info may be available, but not there and then as it were.

Apparently there's stuff on Facebook and Twitter somewhere, and "a public engagement programme, targeting young people and Transition Year students". Am I the only one getting a bit fed up of all these museum and gallery shows that keep "targeting young people and TY students", as if the rest of us people, members of the public who are old enough to vote and who might actually remember living in such houses, have nothing to learn or celebrate in these programmes?

Finding out more

The "Beyond Pebbledash"  exhibition is on display  in Clarke Square in the barracks until 30 November 2014.