Monday 18 May 2015

Monuments of Power

Ages of Churches, Banking and Software

Welcome news as signs of life back in No. 63 O’Connell Street known as ‘The Bank Bar’ denoting its previous incarnation as a public house. The former pub which has been vacant for almost five years and was placed on An Taisce’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ list will now be converted to facilitate software development offices.  Also the former Bank of Ireland diagonally across the road has also been bought for re-use as a call centre. 
Colles' Map of Newtown Pery 17969
On the 19 April of this year permission was granted for the proposed works to this Protected Structure (RPS 240). The company behind it is Kestrel Stone Ltd (directors are brothers Gary and Nigel Hughes) who hired architect Noel Kerley to oversee the architectural work. The change of use is sympathetic to the history of the building from bar/restaurant to offices for a software development company. The former Munster and Leinster Bank was converted to a bar in 1998 with much of its interior features retained. The ground floor will retain the existing bar to be used as a staff canteen keeping both O'Connell Street and Mallow Street entrances. No alteration works proposed to the first floor with previous interventions 'retained as existing with no additional work except for decorative works.' The commercial kitchen on the first floor is to be stripped of kitchen equipment and used as a media room. 
St George's Church, Dublin
This site began life as a house of worship. The private chapel of St George first began in 1767 when the foundation were laid at the junction of Bedford Row and Thomas Street. The octagonal church can be seen in Christopher Colles' map of Newtown Pery in 1769. It was to have a pivotal centre lot and formed the centre of a polygonal piazza and would have been visible from the river. This might have given the street the same vista that is created by another St George's Church in Hardwicke Place, Dublin. The Crescent (formerly Richmond Place) and Pery Square are not included in the original 1769 plan. The siting of the chapel in the centre of the main thoroughfare George's Street (now O'Connell Street) reflected the importance of the Protestant Church within the society. A private chapel it would have served the original residents of Newtown Pery. This was back in the day of the Church of Ireland having a civil function with its vestry tax. For whatever reason the location of the church was changed to a site further southwards outside the city surrounded by green fields
Sauthier's Map of 1786
(as can be seen by 1786 on Sauthier's Map of Limerick). The chapel was finally built at the junction of O'Connell Street and Mallow Street in 1789 at a cost of £507. It was built by the Pery family as a chapel of ease to St Mary's Cathedral and was the predecessor to St Michael's Church on Pery Square which opened in 1840. The chapel contained a 13th century window from St Francis Abbey and could seat 300 people. At present St Michael's church stills hold the parish records for St George's. In these records Joseph Lindsey in 1897 described being married "[...] at a church called the Round Church. It was in the middle of a green field." The urban area soon grew around the church. 
Church on map of "Part of
South Priors Land", 1823
The building that stands today began c. 1829. On the 9th September 1831 the Limerick Evening Post and Clare Sentinel reported that 'St George's Church Limerick is to be forthwith taken down and on its site will be erected an edifice for transacting the business of the Provincial Bank.' The Provincial Bank of Ireland constructed a corner-sited, end-of-terrace, five bay, three-storey over basement limestone bank to the designs of James Pain on the site of the church. [1]  The money made from the sale of the chapel to the bank provided the bulk of the sum required to build St Michael's Church. 
St George's Church is indicated by '33'. McKerns Map, 1827
Between 1831 and the completion of St Michael's Church in Pery Square, there was no church in the Parish of St Michael's except Trinity Church in Catherine Place, and some of the parishioners met in the Primitive Methodist Preaching House until 1843. This meant that the rector of the parish had the spiritual care of the parishioners but was without a church. From the money received from the sales of St George's the walls of St Michael's Church were built. However, in 1843 the Methodists gave notice that they would withdraw the privilege granted to St Michael's parishioners and so application was made to the church commissioners and a sum of money was granted to complete the church. In 1843 £1,000 was advanced by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to complete the church and the Rev. Pryce Peacock became chaplain appointed by Lord Limerick.

This landmark building is a very fine limestone facade adding some pleasant variety to upper O'Connell Street. This building to me will always represent the bar, my first college job. The significance that this building was once a financial institution was lost on me. I took it for granted that I could do laps of this wonderful building, gaining access to rooms off limits to the public. I remember my smirk when first spotting that the women's toilets were called 'Ladies' Deposits' in a kind of Augustan low-subject matter wit. It's sad that this building will no longer be open to the public but I am glad to see it come alive again. The big money-makers now demanding our collective reverence seem to be software computing. Talk of cloud computing is just too abstract a concept for my feeble brain to comprehend so I am grateful for the tactility of bricks and iron. 
The story of the moving of St George's is a great 'what if'; the octagonal square which could have possibly given Limerick a city centre. 

Here's the promo video made by of their new Limerick home 
The church would have been visible from Honan's Quay and the river. 

O'Connell Street entrance. Pair of scrolled console brackets supporting pediment above door

Door: double-leaf, flat panelled timber door with original handles. 

Limestone threshold step

Moulded limestone architrave

Arrow head cast-iron railing with bottom rail and corner posts set on a limestone plinth. 

A mock door by the looks of it to mirror the other breakfront for the purposes of symmetry. 

Red brick walls to side elevation laid in Flemish bond and smooth limestone quoins

Original rainwater goods

Delightful cast-iron bootscrapers on either side of Mallow Street entrance.

Elliptical-arched door opening to Mallow St flanked by a pair of half-fluted Doric columns on plinth blocks supporting a plain entablature. 

[1] David Lee & Debbie Jacobs, James Pain, architect (Limerick, 2005), p.237. 

Friday 8 May 2015

Image taken by Emma Gilleece

  1. 1.
    a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.
All my posts when it boils down to it are for me. I write what I would like to read. I like to think that my writing falls into that gap between architectural editorials comprising primarily of photographs and historical texts too reliant on the written word. I am not an architect/architectural technician/QS/structural engineer so I am not capable of the technical when it comes to buildings but I attempt to describe to the best of my ability how they look and the socioeconomic context that brought about the building's existence. I am naturally very curious. I like to ask the "why" questions. 
For anybody who has found this blog first of all thank you and secondly I'd list to point your way to other Irish bloggers curious about the wonders of man-made design from postboxes, lamp posts, gates, furniture, interior design, planning, cottages, villas, water towers, barns, dams, bridges, chapels, stadiums, handball alleys, etc. This is by no means the definitive list so please let me know of others that should be included. These are just some of the people I have so far discovered. I also include their Twitter handles for you Tweeters. All of us on Twitter are micro-bloggers. I think Twitter is amazing and it has lead me virtually to people I would never normally get a chance to meet for real. I love throwing out a query like bait on a hook and soon reeling in a salmon of knowledge!
My bloggers list so far, thirteen in all (my lucky number);
  1. Come Here to Me  Twitter @chtmdublin
  2. getoutofthatgarden Mark Jenkins, Twitter @markjinks
  3. The Irish Aesthete , Robert O'Byrne, Twitter @IrishAesthete
  4. The Irish Architectural Archive blog Twitter
  5. building19thcenturyIreland Dr Caroline Magennis, Twitter @DrMagennis
  6. Dublin Decoded Arran Q Henderson, Twitter @arranqh
  7. Cuffe Street, Ciarán Cuffe Twitter @CiaranCuffe
  8. National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) Building of the Month Twitter:
  9. Irish Architectural Foundation's My Architecture Design Journal, blog project for TY students Twitter @IAFarchitecture
  10. Archiseek, Paul Clerkin Twitter @archiseek (this might be more site than blog but it's a definite go-to place for info). 
  11. Architexture, Paul Sheeran Twitter @_architexture
  12. Brian Leddin Twitter @BrianLeddin
  13. I Like Local Aideen McCole Twitter @aideenmccole (Aideen is my exception as she has moved to London but still blogs frequently about Irish design)
  14. Irish Planning Institute Blog @IrishPlanInst

I recommend these Tweeters who are a delight to follow & should start their own blogs;
Frank McDonald @frankmcdonald60
Randel Hodkinson @JHOD1852
Dr Daniel O'Neill @ONeillDanielP
Ciárán Ferrie @ccferrie + Fumbally Exchange @FumballyExch
Limerick Museum and Archives @LimerickLMA
Praxis Architecture, Michael O'Connor @praxisarc
Maria Donoghue @maria_donoghue
Will Derham @w_derham
Emmett Scanlon @Emmett_Scanlon
2ha Magazine @2ha_magazine
An Taisce (Limerick) @AnTaisce_Lim
Dr Lorcan Sirr @lorcansirr

Friday 1 May 2015


and dare-devil walking

Courtesy of Patrick Edmund Lynch
I am taking a short detour from writing about buildings while still remaining on the path of the public realm. It’s a joyful jaunt into the world of public art; the visceral rather than the historical. As Oscar Wilde said ‘consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.’ This short detour is in fact about a short detour I took Wednesday afternoon.
I was eight years old when Cruises Hotel was demolished to make way for Limerick’s first pedestrianised street. I sadly have no memory of the hotel Nevertheless I do remember the excitement of getting our version of a British High Street replete with McDonalds, HMV, Athena, Bewleys, Pastimes, etc.  The street seemed so much longer to me then as I hopped from shop to shop, gazing an endless windows. As an adult it became a thoroughfare to escape the four-wheeled petrol monsters on my way to Denmark or William Streets. It is these days a tired looking, red brick toy town.Yesterday I strolled up this same street and for a few moments I experienced the same sense of wonderment I had twenty-three years ago when the street was new.
It was actually local photographer/graphic designer Patrick Lynch who had alerted me to “look up.” He has the advantage of his hawk-like ‘artist’s eye’ (in addition to being 6ft 2” no doubt!) I thank him for allowing me to use his photograph which perfectly captures the simplicity of these joyous ribbons of colour suspended in the sky. The colours so far are yellow, red, orange, pink, light and dark blue. This is a temporary piece made from light-weight nylon held taut by wires and  wooden frames again akin to a kite. The playfulness of this installation is apparent in this early stage. It’s like looking at a loom in flight weaving a new fabric of life into the streetscape.
I was contacted yesterday after I tweeted these ribbons to be furnished with details about this scheme. It is a project by Limerick City & County Council with in house expertise from Rory McDermott (Senior Engineer in Traffic Management Department) and architectural firms Healy & Partners and EML brought in as consultants. I was thrilled to hear that FabLab Limerick (part of UL’s School of Architecture ) was also behind the design. I spotted Fablab Coordinator Mike McLaughlin up high in the crane on Cruises Street overseeing proceedings like a conductor to this tangible rainbow. The name of this project was also revealed to me ‘Kites in Flight.’
I cannot remember the beautiful historic jewel in the crown of O’Connell Street that was Cruises Hotel but my funny brain can remember the term ‘kite-flying’ from a secondary school history lesson on 19th century Irish politics. Dear readers who took Leaving Cert History- do you remember Gladstone’s Kite-flying? This political term describes a tactic whereby a politician, usually through the media, raises an idea to gauge the general and public reaction to it. Depending on the reaction, the idea that is positively received may be implemented or disowned if unfavourable. In a Victorian version of media spin 130 years ago Gladstone wrote a letter to ‘The Times’ stating support for Irish Home Rule (dubbed the Hawarden Kite). The reaction was sufficiently sympathetic for Gladstone to publicly commit himself and his party to a policy of Irish Home Rule.So reader I implore you to contribute to the dialogue. Let this Cruises Kite be a success.
Original courtesy of
Another element of this project is the 'Community Garden' which will be created in front of Penneys facing the O'Connell Street entrance to Cruises Street. Yesterday the taxi rank was moved away which in itself is a fantastic move. The Council are in a sense creating the city centre that Limerick always needed. A gathering/meeting space. There aren't too many places to sit in the city that isn't by the river or the parks (well places that don't require the purchase of food or beverage anyway). Here is the snag- from the traffic island to the entrance to Penneys will be this 'park.' From the island to the entrance of Cruises Street will still be same traffic. Until this section of O'Connell Street is pedestrianised people will still walk like moths to a flame directly across the road. I have to admit I am bad myself for jaywalking. It is only human nature that we won't want to walk up to the traffic lights at the O'Connell Street/William Street junction when we want to run directly from Penneys to Costa with our bags for our coffee and cake. Often I have been a car passenger warning the driver to watch out for the speed-bombing mother shoving her buggy out in front of the car. I have done a crude sketch of designated crossings (in red) and where the crossings actual take place (green arrows) for those not initiated with this practice. 
A Kite in Flight- do we like? Yes, no, maybe? And remember criticism is not to be feared as long as it is constructive with a serving suggestion of practical solutions. We were never asked for our ideas but now is the chance to get your imagination going. Brightening up our streets can be more exciting than flower-basking. Let’s get the students of LSAD and SAUL involved. What should the next installation be? Whatever the spin enjoy this splash of colour on Cruises Street while you can.I am delighted that this initiative is being promoted in the city and it is creating a focal point/centre for our city. Not only is Kites in Flight a work of art emphasising the fact that our city is indeed a museum without walls but also that for once we are not promoting the consumer side of Limerick. Yes there is more to Limerick than shopping and coffee shops. Remember to "look up."