Saturday 11 October 2014
THE MAN DEVANE
Andy Devane was born 3 November 1917 at 1 Upper Hartstonge Street, the eldest of four sons of John Francis Devane, medical doctor and his wife Vera (née Keogh). He was educated at Belevedere College, Dublin from which he transferred (1929) to Clongewes Wood College, Co. Kildare, joined a year later by his brother Cornelius. Both left in 1936 but Andrew Returned in the 1960s as the architect of Clongowes modern extensions including the science block. He studied architecture at UCD under Rudolph Maximillian Butler graduating in 1941. Devane was greatly inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, the leading American modernist from rural Wisconsin, whose buildings represented modernism on a human scale in calm, natural settings. Devane himself was a particularly spiritual person who appreciated Wright’s harmony of synthesis and creation rather than conquest, which modernism frequently imposed on its environment. His homage to Wright was established in 1946 when he wrote directly to him, challenging Wright to prove his greatness ended with the provocative statement: ‘I cannot make up my mind whether you are in truth a great architect or just another phoney.’ An equally challenging response suggested he come to Wisconsin and see for himself. When offered a partnership at Robinson and Keefe he deferred to take up the Taliesin Fellowship in 1946 at Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in Arizona. In his article ‘A letter from Taliesin’ Devane pays homage not only to the once in a lifetime training he was getting in Taliesan West but also to the grounding in traditional and contemporary design he received in UCD, ‘What I (and others like me at the time) learned in UCD Architecture Faculty was a fundamental, factual, vital knowledge of ‘old and new’ art, architecture, craft and structure’. He returned to Ireland and to Robinson and Keefe in 1948. In 1967 Robinson, Keefe and Devane expanded their practice beyond Dublin to a second office in Shannon town, Co. Clare, which demonstrates the hope and promise for the expansion of the Mid-West region at that time.
Devane received a varied array of commissions throughout his career from hospitals (Mount Carmel, Tallaght, the Meath and St Vincent’s Private Hospitals), large commercial buildings (Stephen’s Court, the Irish Life Centre (1977), AIB centre in Ballsbridge, Dublin, churches include Our Lady Queen of Heaven (1964) at Dublin airport and St Fintan’s in Sutton in 1973. His most high profile was undoubtedly the Irish Pavilion at the New York World Fair in 1964. His hidden hand ascertained a way of directing millions through Bunratty Folk Park, Co. Clare. He was a member of the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon in the late seventies. His last and most poignant building was a boys’ home in Calcutta (1999) a year before his death where he spent the last nineteen years of his life in the service of the destitute after the sudden death of his wife in 1977.