Wednesday 29 October 2014

Rectified streetscape (North Frederick Street) by author

The Decline of the North Georgian City

Figure i: James Walton, View of the Law Courts looking up the Liffey, c.1799 NLI

It may be hard to believe today but the most fashionable part of Dublin city was the enviable title held by the north-east quarter. With its well thought out spacious streets, residential squares and large houses it was one of the finest examples of Georgian town planning and architecture[1]. This area was home to some of Dublin's most prestigious residents and public figures making it awash with money and social events [2]. However this was all to change in a seemingly dramatic fashion but it was in fact the culmination of domestic and foreign political and social inevitable along with twists of fate over a long period of time. It will also demonstrate how the absence of a landowner impacts on the success and longevity of an estate. For the purposes of this evaluation into the decline the years 1798 and 1858 will be examined as two pivotal years in the development of this estate. Not only are they important dates in the context of the history of the country but also in the social character of the north Georgian city which in turn had an impact on the physical fabric of the area. This essay will examine the key events of those years which lead to its degeneration be it administration change, acts of parliament, wars or the personal decisions of individuals. 


Town Planning nowadays is the process of the co-operation amongst many groups of people with differing agendas but the northside of Georgian Dublin can be accredited to the vision of two men, two generations apart but sharing the same name. Luke Gardiner (d. 1755), a name synonymous with the evolution of eighteenth century Dublin made a name for himself by developing property in the rapidly expanding city purchasing a sizeable portion of the north-east sector [3]. This began with the shrewd purchase of the Earl of Drogheda estate comprising of part of the grounds of St Mary's Abbey and the Grange of Clonliffe. All this was achievable through the apparent political stability in the form of 'Grattan's Parliament' in Dublin giving the citizens of Ireland the sense of quasi-independence. The Dublin which James Malton depicted in his watercolours at this times was undoubtedly a capital city. A reminder of the economic optimism of the age was the great canals linking Dublin with the Shannon. 

Gardiner sequentially planned out Bolton Street, George's Quay, Henrietta Street and Sackville Mall (also known as 'Gardiner's Mall', now O'Connell Street). Due to interspersed pockets of other landholding within the Gardiner estate the streets are not wholly axially symmetrical but nevertheless aesthetically the buildings' Palladian style could rival anything in London. Luke's son Charles did not continue this enterprise but it was enthusiastically taken up by his grandson. The second Luke Gardiner was born in 1745 and inherited his paternal titles as Vice Treasurer of Ireland and Surveyor General of Customs, made a Privy Councillor in 1780 as well as becoming MP for Co. Dublin [4] and Keeper of Phoenix Park [5] where he also owned property. Luke too expanded and developed the Gardiner estate in the north of the city using his place on the board of the Wide Street Commission to full advantage. As a developer he contributed enormously to the shaping of Dublin with Gardiner's Row (1769), Eccles Street (1772), Temple Street (1773), North Great George's Street (1776), Gardiner Place (1790), Mountjoy Square (1790) and Rutland Square (1791). 

The pattern of development on the Gardiner estate closely paralleled that of London with the principles of the physical presence of the landowner on the site, the complete unit of development comprising square, secondary streets, market and church (St George's) and thirdly the principle of the speculative builder operating as a middleman and building the houses [6]. 

As with the Gardiner Estate, speculative builders were usually those who risked their money in building them: master-builder, businessmen or bankers [7]. It would be this final element, the lack of cohesiveness, which would contribute amongst other factors to the fall of the Gardiner Estate. Luke envisaged the main streets on the estate to lead to an elliptical development on the top of Eccles Street called the Royal Circus similar to Nash's Oxford Circus but on a grander scale. It never came to fruition but these plans were shown on several official maps of the city and advertisements in newspapers for the sale of plots on the Circus appeared right up until 1812 [8] such as Wilson's Dublin Directory Maps below (fig iii, iv). 


In addition to his planning and political endeavours, the career of Luke Gardiner cannot be discussed without mentioning hos acts of charity and compassion towards the ordinary Catholic members of hos constituency. He was a member of the Hibernian society set up for maintaining, education and apprenticing the Orphans and Children of Soldiers in Ireland' and was on the board of the governors and guardians of St Nicholas's Hospitals [9]. In the Catholic Relief Act (also known as the 'Luke Gardiner Act') Catholics were enabled to inherit in the same way as Protestants and to take up leases for up to 999 years. In addition he tired to encourage and help the local linen manufacturers in Dublin. These attempts to help those not of the Protestant Ascendancy class did not go unnoticed Mr Gardiner has, however, marked his political career by a decided opposition to the sentiments of his electors, and a contemptuous disregard of their inclinations...He exerted himself strenuously in procuring an abolition of the Property laws, and has taken some pains, whether sincerely or not, he best knows, to serve the manufactures of Ireland [10]. 
This was duly acknowledged by the Catholic Church and expressed in a letter to Gardiner printed on the front page of the Freemans Journal, May 18th 1782 [11].


Many would cite the Act of Union as the turning point in the evolution of the Gardiner Estate [12] but in fact it was the untimely death of Luke Gardiner two years earlier. As Colonel of the County Dublin Militia he was sent to Wexford to fight the Irish rebels during the Wolftone and Untied Irishmen rebellion. He was killed at the battle of New Ross on the 5th of June 1798 but it took a further two days for this news to be dispatched to Dublin Castle [13]. Out of Luke Gardiner's eight children only two survived, a girl called Louisa (b. 1775) and his heir Charles John (b. 1782) [14].Since Charles was only sixteen years of age the estate was managed in his interest by his guardian, being Rt Hon John Beresford, the Rt Hon William Trench and his uncle Robert Gardiner, as stipulated in Luke Gardiner will. The Gardiner Estate Papers contain documents pertaining to the monetary transactions made by Charles guardians on his behalf leasing land in counties Antrim and Kilkenny [15] in 1801 and 1802 respectively. Inheriting his father's titles and wealth but not the ambition to build on the urban development his father initiated, the adult Charles rarely visited Ireland spending most of his time either touring Europe or in Parish which was a huge burden on his Irish estates and as a result these became heavily encumbered. His daughter Harriet's dowry of £40,000 for her brief marriage also exacted a hefty claim on Gardiner's finances. On the death of Charles all the family titles became extinct and the direct bloodline stopped with Harriet died in 1849. 

Figure v: S.F. Brocas, View of Dublin from the Phoenix Park, looking from Wellington Monument across to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham with Sarah Bridge in the foreground. NLI  Ref. No. 1999 (TX) 15
The death knolls for the prestige of the Gardiner estate can be traced as far as 1748 when The Earl of Kildare, later the Duke of Leinster, James Fitzgerald was the first to move south of the river Liffey [16].In the years after the Act of Union the gentry slowly switched back south to the Fitzwilliam estate [17] (later known as the Pembroke estate), spilling out beyond the canals [18].
Grattan's Parliament had been installed in 1782 with the impression that the idea of Union had been dropped permanently but this climate of security changed with the French Revolution (1789) and the Insurrection of the United Irishmen (1798)[19]. With the Act of Union enacted in January 1801 there was no change to the number of Irish boroughs [20] but anybody with an interest in politics now had to have their place of primary residence in London. There was now no reason to spend money on high land rates in Dublin where tensions between the landed gentry and the common cottiers were increasing. The subsequent Gardiner generation demonstrates precisely what befalls an estate when its owner is of the absentees who lived more or less permanently out of the country[21]. The main reason for the passing of the Act of Union was the perceived security risks of Napoleonic fleets landing in Ireland and attacking mainland Britain from the west. The United Irishmen rebels were viewed as possible comrades for this invading force which explains the intensity of their suppression. In the same letter issued from Dublin castle, reprinted in the Dublin Gazette, the Lieutenant General Lake placed a curfew on all inhabitants of Dublin between 9pm and five the following morning "under pain of punishment.[22]" Part of this security measure ordered that a list of inhabitants be affixed to the door of every house in the city [23]. This stipulation coincidentally facilitated Rev. William Whitelaw in his task of compiling a census of every person in Dublin city centre regardless of class [24]. At the turn of the century Whitelaw calculated that there was an average of 87 persons per acre in St Thomas' parish compared to 439 per person in St Michael's. 

However the effects of the peers and members of Parliament relocating to London soon had a knock on effect on the economy of Dublin. One such example is that of John Claudius Beresford, son of Commissioner Beresford who as previously mentioned was on of the trio of Charles Gardiner's guardians. While John Senior on behalf of the young Viscount was leasing out large amounts of land to raise funds, his son only a decade later was declared bankrupt after his Dublin based bank failed [25]. 

Figure vi S.F Brocas 'Phoenix Park' c.1820, NLI Ref. No. PD 4194 TX1. NLI. Military manoeuvres taking place in the background. In the distance is the Vice regal Lodge.


As the MPs moved out of the Gardiner estate their properties were bought up by property developers and not the 'genteel family' that some advertisements advised [26]. These speculative buyers soon realised that the only way to meet exorbitant land rents was inside of one family per terraced building, they could have one family per room one each floor from the basement to the roof space. From 1817 onwards there appeared weekly advertisements for the sale of a lease of property in the Gardiner estate. It is interesting to note that the named occupations changed from barristers and aldermen to carpenters, bakers and peruke (wig) makers. As the century went on these landlords had no problem renting their one-roomed dwellings to the ever increasing population of the lower working class of the city. The small industries such as the manufacturers of linen which Gardiner tried to sustain and encourage were now disappearing with the end of the Napoleonic wars and the contracts for army supplies such as uniforms. These former manufacturers and craftspeople were now flocking in droves to the capital in search of employment in non-productive sectors such as transport, dealing, domestic service and general labouring [27]. This problem was also made worse by the free trade agreement in the Act of Union which combined with the emergence of the steamship (1816) served to open the Irish economy to a substantial measure of competition. Ireland could not compete with the cheaper and better made products being imported from Britain with her resources at her disposal from the Colonies. As these families moved in, the middle classes moved out to the suburbs of Dublin with 50% choosing the southern suburbs of Rathmines and Pembroke and only 12.4% opting for the northern suburbs like Clontarf and Dromcondra [28]. This demographic shift was facilitated in part by the introduction of the Kingston railway line in 1834 which helped to move the city's professionals out from the confines of the city's physical boundaries. 


Rapid economic decline post Famine reduced much of the housing to overcrowded tenements [29]. The capital's population surged after the Repeal of the Corn Laws which allowed landowners to turn properties into pasture and get rid of their tenants. This move was largely responsible for the very slow recovery of the country after the Famine years [30]. With the agrarian unrest the number of military installations was increased in Dublin, especially in the northside of the city which brought in its wake prostitution, hospitals and similar facilities. Having been one of the few newspapers to report on the starving and destitute of the common Irish during the Famine, the Illustrated London News, whether knowingly or unknowingly, never addressed the issue of agrarian unrest in Ireland in the 1840s. In 1848 it was still depicting the Irish as drinking and dancing under an image of a leprechaun-like man named 'Patrick O'Tater with the inscription: 

'For the things we're famous- though Saxons may hate us
For the point of our sayings- the meal of our 'tatoes;
And so we can manage, without ere a joint,
To live and grow fat on potatoes and point.' 

The newspaper did not report specifically on nationalist outbreaks but gave little glimpses of the required visible military presence in the north of the city with such sketches as 'Encampment in the Phoenix Park, Dublin' by James Mahony [31]. Immediately above this sketch is another depicting Kilmainham Jail. These were the images being shown to the rest of the world with connotations of civil unrest and disobedience. It is no surprise that landlords would rather spend most of their time in civilised London than in disruptive Dublin. The vast majority of the coverage was for the spread of revolution throughout mainland Europe such as Germany, Austria, Italy and particularly France giving extensive accounts and sketches of the 'June Days uprising.' The national army used heavy force to suppress these outbreaks which were described in the Illustrated London News and similar periodicals which must have made an impression on the British government. It is no coincidence then that in 1847 at the peak of the Young Irelanders outbreaks that construction on Mountjoy prison in the north of the city began which conveniently have an army barracks and hospital in close proximity. In the same newspaper nearly fifty years to the day of Luke Gardiner's death the debating of the Irish Poor Law in the House of Lords was reported with a small minority winning the vote [32]. The Marquis of Lansdowne was stated as opposing the motion [33] which is surprising as he famously set up the 'Famine Road' scheme of relief works in 1846-8 on his property to enable the poverty stricken and starving people earn sufficient money to feed themselves but it however failed. Like Lansdowne members of the British government viewed the Irish as a financial burden. 


The Gardiner estate was declared bankrupt in 1846. Thanks to the financial mismanagement and absence of Gardiner's son and granddaughter the estate was in danger of breaking up in the most buoyant of economic climates but the retreat of the professional classes to the suburbs, the Act of Union and the Famine compounded the situation. In 1849 the Gardiner estate was acquisitioned through the Encumbered Estates Court. This was a fate that befell many estates in Ireland during these years with approximately 8000 estates changing hands between 1850 and 1858 [34].


Although he died before his time, Luke Gardiner at least only knew the Gardiner estate was the epitome of elegant Georgian town mansions and squares of the classical Palladian style. During his political career he tried to serve the people of the north of the city whether they were wealthy Catholic or ordinary linen manufacturers. He undoubtedly would have been saddened by the loss of an Irish Parliament which removed its members away from their constituents and estates. With the loss of funding resulting from the dissolution of the parliament many of the ambitious plans of the Wide Street Commissioners had to be shelved including Gardiner's Royal Circus. The Act of Union was a crucial turning point in Irish history but the main reason for the collapse of the Gardiner estate was the absence of effective estate management which resulted from the death of Luke Gardiner [35]. The northside of the city is a credit to the vision and single-mindedness of Luke Gardiner I and his grandson. One of their greatest achievements was the creation of Gardiner's Mall which set the scale for central Dublin as it stands today [36].If Luke Gardiner had survived Dublin would not be as we know it now. The northside could very likely still be the most fashionable part of Dublin. 


1     F.A. Ashe Mountjoy Square in Dublin Historical Record, Vol.3 No.4 (Jun-Aug 1941), p.98.
2     This can be seen in almanacs such as Thom's Directory with an extensive list of shopkeepers and the advertisement columns of the                press for a wide range of luxury and semi-luxury products available in Dublin. 
3     John Coleman, Luke Gardiner (1745-98); An Irish Dilettante' Irish Arts Review Yearbook, Vol.15, (1999), p.161.
4     Gardiner Estate Papers, Collection List No.67 [MSS 36501-626] National Library of Ireland, p.6. 
5     Robert Beatson, A political index to the histories of Great Britain and Ireland; or a complete register of the hereditary honours, public              offices and persons' (Edinburgh, 1786), p.715. 
6     F.O.C Meenan, The Georgian Squares of Dublin and the Professions, in An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 58, No.232 (winter, 1969),                  p.405.
7     Maurice Craig, 'Dublin 1660-1880,' (Dublin, 1980), p.175. 
8     Freemans Journal Wed July 22, 1812 front page; Freemans Journal sale or let of plots, July 12, 1812. 
9     Samuel Watson, The Gentleman's and Citizen's almanac, (Dublin, 1783), p.82; 86. 
10   Robert John Scott, A Review of the principal characters of the Irish House of Commons (Dublin, 1789), p.221.
11   To the Right Honorable Luke Gardiner and John Dillon Esquire. 
12   Douglas Bennett, The Encyclopedia of Dublin, (Dublin, 2005), p.109. 
13   Dublin Gazette 7th of June 'The General (Johnston) severely regret the loss of that brave officer, Lord Mountjoy, who fell early in the                contest.'
14   The Annual Register, or a view of the history, politics and literature for the year 1798, (London, 1800). 
15   Gardiner Estate Papers, Ref MS 36,509/9
16   Séamus Ó Maitiú, Dublin's Suburban Towns 1834-1930, (Dublin, 2003), p.20.
17   Jacqueline Hill, From patriots to unionists,' Oxford, 1997), p.197.
18   L.M. Cullen, The growth of Dublin 1600-1900: character and heritage, in F.H.A. Aalen & Kevin Whelan (eds) Dublin from pre-history to            present, (Dublin, 1992), p. 255.
19   D.J Hickey & J.E. Doherty, A new Dictionary of Irish History from 1800', (Dublin, 2003), p.3.
20   F.W.S Craig, British Parliamentary election results 1832-1885,' (London, 1977), p.622.
21   K.H. Connell, The Land legislation and Irish social life' in Economic History Review, xi, (1958), p.2.
22   Dublin Gazette, June 9th 1798. 
23   Mary Daly, 'Dublin, the deposed capital; a social and economic history 1860-1914, (Cork, 1984), p.278. 
24   Whitelaw, An essay on the population of Dublin (1805). 
25   Announcement in Freemans Journal in 1811 'John Claudius Beresford- bankrupt.'
26   Freemans Journal 8th August 1817. 
27   Mary Daly, The deposed Capital, p.5. 
28   Ibid, p.255. 
29   Christine Casey, The Building of Ireland- Dublin, (Dublin, 2005), p.120. 
30   G.B. O'Brien , The economic History of Ireland from the Union to the Famine, (Dublin, 1921), p.136. 
31   Illustrated London News, p.176 16th September 1848 National Library of Ireland, microfilm. 
32   Illustrated London News, 3rd of June 1848, p.361. 
33   Ibid. 
34   Casey, Dublin, p.119. 
35   Kevin Brennan, Mountjoy: Cradle of the Irish Ordnance Survey, in Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 36, No.3 (Jun, 1983), 83.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Open House + Andy Devane

This weekend sees the architectural festival Open House Dublin. Founded in 2005 it is part of the Open House worldwide community which began with London back in 1992. Open House is a simple concept: showcasing outstanding architecture for all to experience free of charge. Galway joined the Open House Ireland family in 2009 (the city took this year off from running their festival) followed by Open House Limerick (OHL) in 2012. I was lucky enough to be the Assistant Project Co-ordinator under the management of Project Manager Gillian McCarthy and the Open House Limerick committee. Limerick, the new kid on the block, was aspiring to emulate the success of her older sister Dublin. OHL came out with a bang celebrating Limerick-born architect Andy Devane of Robinson, Keefe & Devane (refer to previous post for Devane's biography).

A selection of his buildings were part of the programme including Mary Immaculate College Dormitory Block, St Mary's Girls' School on King's Island, St Lelia's Church and St Munchin's Girls' School in Ballynanty. Spotting my interest in Devane's career the Open House Committee kindly allowed me to put up a small exhibition inside CB1, Central Buildings 51A O'Connell Street which acted as our temporary HQ for the festival thanks to Christ Church Presbyterian & Methodist Church. It ran from Monday 14th until the end of the festival on Sunday 20th of October. To save money the text and photographs collected during my research for my MUBC thesis was printed on a continuous sheet of A0 paper roll. The use of a plotter seemed apt for an architectural exhibition. 
Photograph courtesy of Gillian McCarthy
Photograph courtesy of Gillian McCarthy
I charted his Limerick career starting with his first major commission in Limerick on returning from Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, St Mary's National School on Bishop Street, King's Island. 
I decided to include his design for the Irish Pavilion for the New York World's Fair in 1964/65 to explain the lull in his prolific career. During my research I had made contact with Devane's daughter-in-law Susan Devane who was extremely helpful and put me in contact with Roddy McCaffrey, a retired partner of RKD who assisted Devane with the plans for the Irish Pavilion. More info on the Pavilion and the history of the practice RKD

Image taken from
The highlight of the inaugural Open House Limerick festival undoubtedly was the keynote lecture on Andy Devane by architectural critic Shane O'Toole who is the Devane expert. Architects, volunteers and the public gathered on the unoccupied 10th floor of Riverpoint with its panoramic view of the city. We all had an amazing view of our city from the fourth-tallest storeyed building in Ireland as the sun was setting. 

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O'Toole giving his Devane talk
With its honest bare concrete walls and floor, a table, a projector and light provided by simple strings of coloured bulbs O'Toole gave  a wonderfully moving talk. We were like children hushed by O'Toole's story, hanging onto his every word of a man from our hometown. A man who did not allow anything to limit his mind's eye. It was the perfect setting for the man who had dedicated his life to improving the lives of others through the built environment and later aid in Calcutta. Having met and interviewed him O'Toole was our intermediate to this deeply spiritual artist. This talk will always be on my list of top ten moments of my life: there was a presence, energy with us in that room. 

Photographs taken by Gillian McCarthy. 
Open House Limerick 2013 commissioned filmmaker Paddy Cahill to make a short film celebrating that year's theme of 'Places + Spaces.' It is a marvelously vibrant collage of movement; people interacting with their city, the boats chasing each other in the docks and the shadows of the passage of time across these familiar facades viewed in a new way. To me this is the definitive advertisement for anybody interested in Irish architectural heritage to visit Limerick city Places + Spaces Film. Look out for the colourful dormitory block of Mary Immaculate College. 

Brochure for Open House Limerick 2014
I was delighted to be asked to do an Andy Devane bus tour as part of Open House Limerick 2014 which took place on the morning of Saturday 4th of October. Open House hired an open-top, double-decker bus for my tour to hop on and off at each site. To keep my route simple I chose St Mary's National School, St Lelia's Church, St Munchin's Girls' & Infants School, St Munchin's CBS Shelbourne Road, Scoil Mháthair Dé on the South Circular Road and finishing with Mary Immaculate College. I omitted St John's Girls' School at Cathedral Place for logistical reasons as well as the fact that it was refurbishment in recent years beyond recognition. If I was giving a tour to a friend I would include the now sadly closed Shannon Shamrock Hotel in Bunratty just up the road from the city. 

I was fortunate to cut my teeth as an historic guide with a group albeit modest in number was wide-ranging in age, background and profession. I was honoured to have Devane's grandson Ed as part of my tour whom I befriended through his partner Dáinne. His mother Susan gave a tour of Devane's church St Fintan's in Sutton, Dublin in 2012 with architect Peter Carroll (A2 Architects and course director in SAUL). I hope to see Andy Devane as part of the programme for Open House Limerick in the coming years and other festivals in the city celebrating this aspect of our heritage. 

Inside the auditorium for St Munchin's Girls' & Infants School in Ballynanty

Gorgeous terrazzo stair case of St Munchin's Boys School CBS inside the foyer.
Standing in front of the original 19th century national school within the ground of St Mary's Girls' School on King's Island.

For more information on Open House Limerick please visit their website here or Open House Worldwide here

Saturday 11 October 2014



Thank you for visiting my blog. This is my first experience of publicly posting my thoughts and musings. Even if nobody reads this I feel that the exercise of writing out these articles will be beneficial in itself for me. I grew up in Corbally in the suburbs of Limerick. My third level education has been a series of tangents having initially studied BA in English and History in the U.L followed by MA in the History of Art & Architecture. I finally decided on building conservation completing my M.Sc in Urban & Building Conservation in UCD in 2011. My thesis was titled 'The building types that defined modern Limerick city and the issues arising from the valuation and conservation of mid-twentieth century architecture.' In Ireland I find that a building has to be a certain age before it is generally given value and it is usually no later than the Victorian or Edwardian era. In my thesis I tried to argue my case that it is the architecture that appeared after the birth of the Free State that should not be in the spotlight. I tried to highlight the trailblazers in Ireland in the early decades of the twentieth century who brought in designs from their travels, speakers and publications. A lot has been written on this subject but I find that it is very Dublin-centric.

Here you will find all things twentieth century Limerick (with other cities making the odd appearance from time to time) which I hope in some ways illustrates trends that were happening in the rest of the country. My opening chapters of my thesis looked at how the print media disseminated the latest technology and styles to architectural schools and the different approaches to architectural education. I used three Limerick examples to illustrate this; Patrick J. Sheahan who designed the Mid-Western Regional Hospital (now University Hospital Limerick), Mid-Western Regional Maternity Hospital, St Camillus' Hospital Rehabilitation Centre and St Anne's Vocational School (now LSAD, George's Quay). Sheahan was a Mathematics and Art teacher who became an architect after completing an apprenticeship; Liam McCormick who had designed buildings in Limerick namely the Holy Rosary Church in partnership with Frank Corr on the Ennis Road and the national school next door the John F. Kennedy Memorial School (recently demolished and rebuilt). McCormick studied architecture in Liverpool which combined architecture and town planning; and finally Andy Devane who in a way was a combination of the old system and the new with a B.Arch from UCD and an apprenticeship under the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright in the States.

My first post will be on Devane who improved the lives of so many people in his hometown through his skill and playful imagination. I already know that a large proportion of my posts will be on Devane. He fascinates me. Devane was a genius with concrete. An equally fascinating character who again I wish I met was my uncle Noel who began working for RKD (Robinson Keefe & Devane) when they opened their second practice in Shannon, Co. Clare. On the walls of my parents' house are lovely watercolour painting by Noel and in researching Devane I know my uncle better. Following his older brother my father too made the move from Dublin to Shannon where he settled and eventually began his own architectural practice. I feel that RKD had a small part to play in that and, in a way, me sitting at my laptop in Limerick today.

If you'd like to get in touch please email me ( or you can find me lurking on Twitter @Gilleeece

Thank you



       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.