Monday 27 July 2015

The development of health services both locally and nationally, can best be traced by looking at the modern development of hospitals in Limerick.  The modern Irish hospital building is perhaps the most representative of the contemporary styles of architecture in the twentieth century, along with the associated philosophical and psychological issues that dictate how this building should be designed and used. The modern hospital, as a building, can be described as a gesmtkunstwerk, all the aspects of which- the function, the technology and the aesthetics- aim to promote the well-being and recuperation of the patients.
Rapidly changing innovations in acute medical care, out-patient care and hospital machinery instruct the design considerations. Emerging theories demanded that the modern hospital not only had to be a high performance, functioning institution treating the human body  but it had to be an environment conducive to rest and holistic treatment. 
Irish Hospital Sweepstake ticket (1940) from National
Archives, Irish Sweepstakes file.
 From the late nineteenth and until 1947, the cost of the public health services was borne almost entirely by local authorities who derived their funding from local ratepayers.[1]  The government was not prepared to come to the aid of the hospitals by increasing the level of parliamentary grants last fixed in the 1850s.[2] This most notable field of architectural activity during the early years of Irish Independence was stimulated by the establishing of the Hospital Sweepstakes in 1930, originally intended to raise funds for some voluntary hospitals in Dublin, but soon expanding to become the prime source of finance for a comprehensive hospital-building campaign throughout the state. Announcing the commencement of this campaign, the then Minister for Local Government and Public Health, Seán T. O’Kelly praised the work of Alvar Aalto stating that he hoped similar talent would emerge in Ireland. Even the Hospital Sweepstakes building (Robinson Keefe, 1937) could itself be seen as an analogy for this drive as it too was a work of modernism with a long low front elevation with a glazed tower at one end.  
Irish Sweepstakes Building, Ballsbridge
Image from
Prior to the advent of the Sweepstakes no public hospital building of any significance had been undertaken since 1904.[3] Throughout the thirties Ireland became internationally known for its sweepstakes and received world press coverage, both good and bad.[4]  It was illegal in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom though the majority if tickets continued to be sold there.[5]  Vincent Kelly, as architect member of the Committee of Reference set up by the Free State government in 1933 to advise on the allocation of the Hospital Sweepstakes funds undertook an extensive tour to make a detailed study of modern developments in the design, equipment and administration of hospitals in various countries all over Europe including France, Switzerland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium and Holland. He inspected over sixty hospitals during a period of almost three months. On his return, Kelly not only contributed his findings to official published reports, and some lectures and articles (AAI lecture ‘A tour of Continental Hospitals’ 20 February 1934[6]), but also given responsibility for several hospitals commissions himself.  These included Nenagh General Hospital, Co. Tipperary (1933-36), Naas Fever Hospital, Co. Kildare (1933-39), the County Hospital at Cashel, Co. Tipperary (1933-37), all exhibiting the flat-roofed and white-walled  cubic forms of modern architecture, finished with sun balconies and projecting concrete canopies.[7] 
Other hospitals embodying the spirit of progress were Michael Scott and Norman Good’s Port Laoise Hospital (1933-40), and T.J. Cullen’s Galway Central Hospital (1949-55). They were symbols of Ireland’s puritanical vision for society imbued with an anti-materialistic philosophy. If Ireland had to make do without, Fianna Fáil wanted the Irish people to know that this was not only a current necessity but an investment for ‘making the people sober, moderate, and masculine and thereby paving the way for industrial advancement and economic reform.’[8]
 The Tuberculosis (Establishment of Sanatoria) Act 1945[9] enabled the building of hospitals like the Limerick Regional (now University Hospital Limerick) for the care of patients with tuberculosis, together with the Health Act of 1947 which modernised the original Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878. It was not until 1947 that a Department of Education was created and a Minister was appointed. [10] The Health Act of 1953 was a significant landmark which allowed for the broader services, and this, together with the post-war building programme of new hospitals and the sanctioning of additional consultant appointments, greatly improved access to hospital services. [11]

[1] Pádraig O’Morain, The health of the nation; the Irish healthcare system 1957-2007 (Dublin, 2007), p.134.
[2] Ruth Barrington, Health medicine & politics in Ireland 1900-1970, (Dublin, 1987), p.109.
[3] Thomas Murphy, ‘Ireland’s Hospitals’, Medical Care, 2:2 (1964), p.126.
[4] New York Journal ‘American’ on 25 March 1956 reported ‘the Irish Sweepstake is not as clean a sweep as they would have you believe. They manipulate the tickets so as to throw the prizes in any direction they wish.’
[5] Ibid, p.138.
[6] 21 Feb 1934, Irish Times
[7] Frederick O’Dwyer, Irish Hospital Architecture; a pictorial history (Dublin, 1997), p.18.
[8] D.P. Moron, The Philosophy of Irish Ireland, reprint 2006 (Dublin, 1905), p.45.
[9] No.4/1945 Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General.
[10] Joseph Robbins (ed.), Reflections on Health; commemorating fifty years of the Department of Health 1947-1997 (Dublin, 1997), p.5
[11] Ibid, p.21

Further reading
Dr Marie Coleman, The Irish Sweep, a History of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake 1930-87, (UCD Press, 2009)

For more photos of the Irish Sweeps you can find them at Irish Photo Archive

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Irish Builder and Engineer (Nov, 1953). Taken from

Documenting Building:journals & lectures

This week's post was possible thanks to information provided by Dr Daniel O'Neill @ONeillDanielP 

Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner noted that evolution in architecture cannot be entirely due to changes in materials, purposes or social conditions but by the fact that a new spirit of the age required it. The primary document is of course the building itself but as my co-author Dan O'Neill says 'the journal should be treated as a treasure to be preserved.' Additionally papers read at public seminars at the time are also invaluable records capturing the zeitgeist of the new Republic. 

Print and media, dissemination of information
Journals such as the Irish Builder (during its lifetime it as known as The Dublin Builder; Illustrated Irish Architectural, Engineering, Mechanics & Sanitary Journal; Irish Builder and Engineering Record and Irish and Technical Journal) are great sources of information often with accompanying plans and photographs. This building journal periodical was in publication from 1859-1979 and kept a close eye on its British counterpart to keep abreast of the latest events on the International architectural stage, which was an excellent resource for architectural students. The journal cut across all social classes appealing to the labourer, brick manufacturer, and the architect. The articles ranged from topics on planning, to segments on new products,new projects, labour, cost of materials and changes in urban environment. 

Other important sources of contemporary design and discourse for Irish architects in the first half of the twentieth century were the AAI Green Book and the journal of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI). Vincent Kelly reviewed Pevsner’s Pioneers of Modern Design (1936) in the magazine Ireland Today. As well as our own periodicals Irish architects followed British publications such as The Builder, Architect and Building News and the Architects’ Journal. Even though in many cases Ireland was more aware of what was going on in the rest of Europe than Britain such as contemporary church designs. Ireland may have been on the edge of Europe but Irish Builder wanted to stay on the forefront of contemporary design with articles appearing as early as 1938 entitled ‘Modern ecclesiastical architecture in Germany[1]’ tracking the careers of the likes of Rudolf Schwarz and his highly influential book ‘The Church Incarnate’ published that same year[2]

Public Lectures
In a lecture to the Architectural Association of Ireland in 1933 Sean T. O’Kelly appeared to have foreseen the future of public architecture of the New State when he said: 'We too in this country have room for men who will give to our peculiar problem the intense study they require, and help us build in a manner that will reflect credit on our country and generation.' A group of young architects, including John O’Gorman and T.P. Kennedy, arranged to have the RIBA photographs exhibition from London in 1934 sent on loan to Dublin and organised a display of it in the National College of Art in January 1937. 
This photo of Chicago's Century of Progress International Exposition
taken in 1933 which could of been part of the RIBA exhibition.
The AAI also got guest speakers from further afield with the Walter Gropius lecture[3] in 1936 seeing a turnout of 300 people[4] which was exceptionally large for an AAI event as noted by a young John O’Gorman.[5] The AAI would continue to invite internationally renowned architects to give lectures such as Erich Mendelssohn, Alvar Aalto in 1957 and Mies van der Rohe in 1959[6] There was a keen interest in architecture from the Government ministers of the new state and they were often present at meetings of the AAI. The AAI today continues on this valuable service of public lectures on current issues in architectural theory and history in conjunction with their architectural competitions.
Irish architects were not afraid of being outspoken with regards to authenticity regardless of the typology. For example in 1931 the landmark of modern architecture in Ireland took place at Turner’s Cross in Cork.[7] Barry Byrne and J.R Boyd Barrett’s Christ the King Church was revolutionary for its time and its use of reinforced concrete was an inexpensive alternative to the traditional church. Nevertheless Christ the King church did not immediately influence Irish church design which continued in imitation of earlier styles of architecture well into the 1960s. Most of these buildings were adorned with artificial veneers that simply presented earlier architectural styles such as Greek, Gothic and Romanesque but used new engineering and structural techniques. This point was best summed up by P.M Delaney in a paper read before the Architectural Association of Ireland[8] in 1961 in which he observed:
‘Most of our churches have become confused collections of unrelated inaccurate and clumsy fragments taken without understanding from widely different sources and usually copied, not from the original, but at fifth or sixth hand, from reproductions in turn based on other reproductions. There can be no reasonable or logical basis for this illiteracy, which merely created an impression that the church has no connection with the conditions of the present day, since its visible expression in its buildings is so deliberately archaic and out of contact with the daily life of its members.’[10]

I found the Irish Builder as an invaluable source of information for my postgraduate research which spanned 1930s-70s Limerick. There are holdings in the library of MIC in Limerick but they had gaps for the years I required. I was fortunate to have the holdings in  Dublin but not everybody has the time or money to travel up in down to the capital from other parts of the country like myself in Limerick. If these journals were digitised and made publicly accessible it would make the lives of architectural researchers so much easier. I am lucky to be around for the age of Twitter, having fantastic advice and knowledge on tap like @ONeillDanielP and others. To think it might very well be a rich resource for researchers in the future. What would the architects of the 1930s have made of Twitter I wonder! 

Holdings Locations
Microfiche: Architecture Library 1859-1979 (Ref: Journals)
Hardcopy: James Joyce Library 1859-1866; 1877-1882; 1886-1888; 1894-1897; 1909;
1937-1939. (Ref: Special Collections 30.PPB.1 - 30.PPC.2)
National Library of Ireland
Microfiche: 1859-1979 (Ref: Ir 6905 i 42)
Dublin City Archives
Microfiche: 1959-1979 (Ref: 690.05, MF)
Hardcopy: 1904-1915
Irish Architectural Archive
Hardcopy: 1867-1874; 1876-1880; 1882; 1886-1898; 1903-Sept 1904; 1906-1913; 1915-
1923; 1926-1927; 1932-1933; 1947-1981 (incomplete).
Referenced publications
Collins, Niamh : The Irish builder and engineer catalogue. In: Research and resources in a digital age : UCD Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive. UCD Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive, 2010.
Elizabeth Tilley, « Trading in Knowledge: The Irish Builder and Nineteenth-Century Journalism  », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. III - n°1 | 2005, 110-120. 

[1] Written by J.V Downes.
[2] Richard Hurley & Paul Larmour, Sacred places; the story of Christian Architecture in Ireland (Dublin, 2000), p.14.
[3] Lecture entitled ‘The International Trend of Modern Architecture.’
[4] John O’Gorman, ‘Dr Walter Gropius, the International trend of modern architecture’, Ireland Today, 1:2 (1936), p.57.
[5] Seán Rothery, Ireland and the new architecture, (Dublin, 1991), p.89.
[6] Ellen Rowley ‘Researching a history of the architectural association of Ireland Part II’, in Building Material, 8(2009), 96.
[7] R. Kevin Seasoltz, A sense of the sacred; theological foundations of Christian architecture and art, (London, 2005), p.265.
[8] Becker et al., (1997) 20th Century Architecture Ireland, p.20.
[9] Published in Liturgical Arts, no.4, 1961.
[10] Richard Hurley, ‘Irish Church architecture ,1839-1989’, in 150 years of architecture Ireland (Dublin, 1989), p.80.

Sunday 5 July 2015

25 Mary Street, Limerick
On the 30th of June when many national schools finished up for the year @OldeEire (curated by Mark Jenkins) tweeted this wonderful National Geographic magazine colour photograph taken by Harrison Howell Walker from the summer of 1940 which he tagged myself in. It was taken near the junction of Mary Street and Athlunkard Street, King's Island, Limerick (in "the Parish") with St Mary's Cathedral at the corner. In it are school boys from CBS St Mary's Primary School in Creagh Lane enjoying the bun and milk scheme introduced in Ireland in 1930. The free bun, which consisted of a bread and butter sandwich, and milk was given out each afternoon and managed by Turners shop which you can see in the background. It was given to children whose father were out of work (Mothers didn't enter the equation in those days). Some of the boys are bare foot in the photograph while others have shoes with no socks. The son of the shop owners Austin Turner, now Brother Mary Albri, a Cistercian monk in his eighties. This scheme of free daily sandwiches or buns and milks is still going in schools today under the Urban Schools Meals programme.

Having grown up down the road over the Abbey River in Corbally I am very fond of this area. I can still recall the smell of the Post Office on Bridge Street. Back in the days before wipe down surfaces- very dusty! It's the oldest parish in Limerick and as you can see it had real character in those days.
Google Maps. View of Mary Street junction today. 

Thank you to Jack Bourke and to Mark Jenkins for tweeting this photograph.