Iveagh Play Centre

Iveagh Play Centre, McDonnell and Reid, 1911 IAA 98/41


McDonnell and Reid won the 1911 architectural competition to design a new ‘Play Centre’ for the Iveagh Trust and . The building, the Irish Builder noted, would provide ‘class rooms, gymnasium, two assembly halls, refreshment and distribution department, lavatories etc.’ and would be ‘a novel one so far as Dublin is concerned’ (Irish Builder, 27 May 1911, p. 353). Very much a product of Victorian thinking on social responsibility and philanthropy, the creation of the Play Centre was informed by the philosophy of Walter Besant (1836-1901) in particular. The poor, Besant held, should have the same opportunities as the rich for exposure to education and enlightening entertainment, and if so exposed the tensions between rich and poor would be much reduced. The Play Centre would thus be a ‘people’s palace’, an ‘intellectual and social centre enriching the lives of the poor’ (The Iveagh Trust, F.H.A. Aalen, Dublin, 1990, p. 50). Built from 1912 by McLaughlin & Harvey at a cost of £35,000, the Play Centre is, according to the Buildings of Ireland, ‘the most ambitious school building in the city’ (Buildings of Ireland; Dublin, Christine Casey, 2000, p. 654). When it opened in 1915, 900 children were using the building daily.

Listing Ireland’s Court Houses

In 2017 the Irish Architectural Archive was asked by the Office of Public Works and the Courts Service to consider contributing to a proposed new book on Irish court houses. The standard work, The Courthouses of Ireland, a gazetteer compiled by Mildred Dunne and Brian Phillips (Heritage Council, 1999) was out of print and no longer available. The fact that a major nationwide court house construction project was coming to an end provided an added incentive to pause and reflect on the architectural legacy of this building type.


Cork Courts Building, Anglesea Street, Cork, 2015-18. A €34 million refurbishment to designs by the OPW of the 1864-65 new model national school, carried out as part of the Courts Bundle Public Private Partnership project. Photo: Neil Warner.


The Archive considered what it could contribute to such a project and proposed a new gazetteer of Irish court houses, as those which had appeared in the past were incomplete, either concentrating on particular classes of court house (county court houses for example) or on court houses in confined geographical areas (Ulster for example). The new gazetteer would include a listing for all buildings erected to be, or used for an extended period as, court houses across the island of Ireland.

Based on an initial analysis of previous lists, we had an expectation that such a complete listing might contain between 250 and 300 buildings. In the end, the gazetteer contained in Ireland’s Court Houses (Paul Burns, Ciaran O’Connor and Colum O’Riordan eds, IAA, 2019), has no less than 763 separate entries (a number of which refer to more than one building).

How did we find so many? The first thing to say is that we actually began by excluding some court houses, or rather buildings that had been used by courts. Courts in Ireland have a deep history but we decided that we could not try to identify every medieval structure (extant or otherwise) that might have housed court sittings, civil or ecclesiastical. In general, we limited ourselves to court houses of the 18C and after.

At the other end of the timeframe, we also excluded buildings used in the period 1919-21 by so-called Sinn Fein, Dáil or Republican Courts. These buildings were summarised by Cahir Davitt in his Bureau of Military History witness statement as ‘any place with four walls and a roof that could be made ready and reasonably usable for the purpose’ (Bureau of Military History WS 993 http://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0993.pdf). The only actual court house used for sittings of these courts would appear to have been the Four Courts, on the grounds, Davitt claimed, that it was the last place the authorities would expect to find such a court sitting.


Lorrha, Co. Tipperary. A fine example of the vernacular 19C petty sessions court house. Its original function can still be read in its four-bay façade, with two entrances (one reserved for the judge) flanking two small central windows. Photo: Denis Mortell


The most common court type in Ireland by the end of the 18C was the petty sessions, and it was the provision of accommodation for sittings of the petty sessions that laid the foundations for the court house network across the country. Above the petty sessions was a hierarchical court structure rising through quarter sessions and county assizes to the supreme courts of the land, each of which required accommodation befitting and reflective of its status. Generally, lower court sittings also took place in the buildings provided for higher courts. Petty sessions court houses were only used for petty sessions, but petty sessions were also held in court houses provided for quarter sessions, and both were held in county assizes court houses. Petty and quarter sessions court houses tended to be more elaborate than a court house intended just for petty sessions, while the county court houses were more elaborate still.


Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath, 1799-1802. A court house for petty and quarter sessions attributed to Francis Johnston, though the Buildings of Ireland comments: ‘It seems almost an insult for the Grand Jury to have asked Johnston for such a cheap piece of work’. Photo: Paul Tierney


The country was divided into petty sessions areas in each of which was a designated place for the holding of the sessions. The fact that a petty sessions court operated in an area can be established from a variety of sources including Samuel Lewis’s A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London, 1837), the 1842 Return from every Petty Sessions in Ireland… (https://archive.org/details/op1246027-1001/mode/2up), the 1882 Petty Sessions Districts of Ireland published as a supplement to the 1881 Census, the surviving records held in the National Archives of Ireland, especially the court order books, and the lists of petty sessions locations published in country-wide directories. At its height in the mid-19C there were over 560 petty sessions areas across Ireland.

Once we had identified the petty session areas, we turned to maps – notably the first-edition six-inch (1:10,560) OS map, 1831-42, and the 25-inch (1:2,500) OS map, 1890-1911. These helped us to identify which building within a particular location was the court house. Indeed, for many petty sessions court houses, the only evidence of their precise location is their inclusion on a map. The 25-inch maps in particular can also provide an indication of size and plan of individual buildings which are now lost. Some of these were simple cottages or houses, some adapted or dual-purpose market and court houses, but many more were purpose built.


Macroom, Co. Cork, c. 1826. One of seven nearly identical quarter sessions court houses across Cork built to a standard design by George Richard Pain. The others are in Bantry, Clonakilty, Kanturck, Mallow, Midleton and Skibbereen. Killarney court house, Co. Kerry, is also based on Pain’s scheme. Photo: Denis Mortell


Maps can only show where a court house was at the time the survey on which they are based was carried out. Over time court sittings could relocate from one building to another within a particular location. In the 1830s, for example, the petty sessions in Ballynacarrigy, Co. Westmeath, took place in a building just to the north of the village. By the late 19C they had moved to a building at the south end of the village’s main street. Where possible, these changes were traced in the gazetteer resulting in multiple entries for some locations.


Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, 1841. One of twenty-seven quarter sessions court houses built mainly in the late 1830s and early 1840s across Ireland to a standardised design. Often attributed to William Caldbeck, who in fact was responsible for only one, the late, a-typical and now-demolished example in Newtownards, Co. Down, they were usually the work of the local County Surveyor. Photo: Denis Mortell


Conversely, it was not always possible to identify any building in a petty sessions area which was used for court sittings. For instance, it is known that petty sessions were held in Crusheen, Co. Clare, once a fortnight in the 1830s, and in Feakle, Co. Clare, every second Friday in the 1890s, but no building has been identified as a court house in either place. For the fewer than fifty known petty sessions locations for which an individual court house has not yet been identified, such information as is known has been included in the gazetteer. It is hoped that users of the gazetteer might help identify these missing court houses over time.


Carlingford, Co. Louth, c. 1935. District court house was built in a contemporary stripped classical idiom to replace a petty sessions court house which had stood on the same site. The architect remains to be identified. Now in use as a library. Photo: Paul Tierney


Aside from the six counties of Northern Ireland, in 1923 petty sessions courts became District Courts and existing petty sessions buildings were pressed into District Court use. A similar pattern can be seen for the higher courts, as the Circuit Court occupied buildings previously used for quarter sessions or county assizes. By and large, no place became a District Court location that had not previously been a petty sessions location and so there was a substantial continuity of court house use into the mid 20C. However, many petty sessions locations ceased to exist under the new dispensation, and their court houses fell out of court use. In 1927 there were 338 District Court areas. This dropped to 227 in 1961 and from the mid-1990s, and in particular in the post-Celtic Tiger era, the number of District Court locations was reduced still further to under seventy by 2019.


Lisburn, Co. Antrim, 1975. Design in a Brutalist idiom by the Chief Architects Office, Department of Finance NI, to replace a neo-Palladian court house of 1884. Photo: Paul Tierney


In Northern Ireland, there was less immediate rationalisation after partition and by 1946 there were still 101 petty sessions locations in the six counties. The impact of the Troubles accelerated consolidation. In 1978 there were fifty-eight petty sessions areas across Northern Ireland, falling to twenty-six in 1979 and twenty-one in 1994. Rationalisation has continued into the 21C.

From a high of over 600 buildings in active regular use as court houses in the 1880s, there are now fewer than 120 across the island.

The completed gazetteer is included in Ireland’s Court Houses (IAA, 2019). For each entry, an effort has been made to establish some basic facts including the precise building used as a court house, the architect, the date of construction, a brief description, a record of any substantial additions or alterations, an indication of when court use came to an end, and the subsequent fate of the building. Where possible, an image of the court house had also been included.

Colum O’Riordan and Eve McAulay

No. 32 Dame St., Dublin


In 1932, R.J. Duggan, turf accountant, asked Patrick Munden to redevelop 32 Dame Street for him. Munden was born in Allahabad, India, in 1883, the son of a sergeant major in the Indian Army. After his father’s death from influenza on 11 April 1890, he was brought home to Dublin. Following stints in the offices of various architects and building contractors, Munden opened his own office in Exchequer Street, Dublin, in 1913. He was at the same time active in politics and was a keen supporter of the Irish Language Movement. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and marched to Howth in the gun-running episode of 1914. At the time of the Easter Rising, though not himself in action, he was arrested and held for a while in Dublin Castle. He stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate in the general elections of 1919 and 1923. Such diversions did not prevent the growth of his architectural practice though wiht few exceptions, most notably the hospital building scheme for the Co. Mayo Board of Health which he designed in the 1930s, all his work was in the city and neighbourhood of Dublin. This drawing was executed by Munden’s pupil and assistant Fergus Ryan, who established his own architectural and town planning practice in 1933. Duggan’s new betting shop opened for business in 1930, and, while the turf accountant had moved on by 1948, the front elevation of the building itself remains very much as Munden designed it.

Warehouse for Messrs Hugh Moore & Co, Capel Street, Dublin


William Fogerty

Hugh Moore & Co. were ‘wholesale druggists’ based at 56 Capel Street from the early 1840s, and 57 Capel Street from at least 1850. In 1866, they commissioned architect William Fogerty (1833-78) to design a new ‘warehouse’ (a shop and offices) for them on their Capel Street site, expanding the original two-bay premises to a substantial and imposing six-bay block. A lithograph version of this perspective appeared in the Irish Builder of 1 March 1868. The accompanying article recorded that the project had been abandoned ‘for some unknown reason’ and that the architect was now suing the client, as ‘Mr Moore [has], as we understand it, refused to settle Mr Fogerty’s demand for fees on the preparation of plans and for other services rendered’. The outcome of the case is not recorded, but Fogerty moved to London in 1870. He moved again, to New York in late 1872 or early 1873, before re-establishing himself in Dublin in 1875. In 1869 Moore & Co. moved from Capel Street to a section of the former Linenhall in Yarnhall Street. The Linenhall, most of which was in barracks use, was destroyed by fire during the 1916 Rising. The company, by then known as Hugh Moore and Alexanders Ltd, sought over £115,350 in compensation for damage to premises and stock but only received £59,700 from the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee. It remained on the site until c. 1950 when it closed.

Fogerty exhibited this drawing in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1869, and at a conversazione in the RIAI, then at 212 Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), in December of that year. Having been in private hands in the UK for several decades the drawing was acquired by the IAA in September 2019, thanks to support provided by the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland (FNCI).

Taoiseach’s Residence and State Guesthouse Competition

Arthur Gibney, Competition Entry, 1979 (2010/134)


In 1979 an international architectural competition was held to design an official residence for the holder of the office of Taoiseach and, in conjunction with it, a State guest house to accommodate visiting heads-of-state and other dignitaries. The proposed site was former the Under Secretary’s Lodge (later the Apostolic Nunciature) in the Phoenix Park.

Despite an eighteen week postal strike, almost 300 enquiries and 98 entries were received. There was considerable disappointment at the time that the competition had not been restricted to entries from Ireland but very many Irish architects did entry, either individually or in collaborative groups. The Irish Architectural Archive holds several of these entries including this one by Arthur Gibney, partner in Stephenson Gibney Architects. Among the non-Irish participants were such future architectural luminaries as David Chipperfield, Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas. The assessors, who included Richard Stokes, Deputy Assistant, Department of the Taoiseach, Martin Burke FRIAI, Principal Architect, OPW, and Aldo Van Eyck, University of Delft, awarded the first prize of £6,000 to the London firm of Evans and Shalev Architects, the practice of Welsh/Israeli couple Eldred Evans and David Shalev (d. 2018). Three designs were placed second, winning £2,000 each: de Blacam and Meagher, Dublin; Wickham and Lavery, London; and, Cleary, Farrell, Meagher and Moore, UCD School of Architecture.

In December 1979 Charles Haughey replaced Jack Lynch as Taoiseach and promptly cancelled the project, citing the dire economic position of the country. The fact that he lived in a Gandon designed villa himself, and hence had no need for State supplied housing, may have had some bearing. The old Under Secretary’s Lodge was demolished in 1985; only Ashtown Castle, its tower-house core, remains. The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre now occupies the proposed residence site.

To mark the fortieth anniversary of the competition, in November 2019 the Archive will mount an exhibition featuring some of the entries. We are anxious to hear from anyone who entered the competition or who might have copies of entry drawings. Please contact the Archive’s Exhibitions Officer, Simon Lincol, at slincoln@iarc.ie or 01 6633040.


Crumlin Church


The pre- and post- World War II Catholic churches of Dublin – Christ the King, Cabra, for example, or Our Lady Of Consolation, Donnycarney – are huge edifices built to provide for the spiritual needs of burgeoning suburban populations. The Church of Ireland also provided at least one new church for the growing suburbs – St Mary’s Parish Church, Crumlin. This 1941 hand-coloured dyeline print is from the McDonnell and Dixon Collection in the Irish Architectural Archive and shows the four elevations of the proposed church. A second copy of the same drawing is to be found in the architectural drawings collection of the Representative Church Body (RCB) Archives, and is included in the exhibition A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World: The Church of Ireland’s Architectural Drawings. Curated by Dr Michael O’Neill and running until the end of August 2019 in the Archive’s Architecture Gallery in 45 Merrion Square, the exhibition begins the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Disestablishment and also marks the completion of the RCB’s ambitious programme to digitise and make freely accessible its architectural drawings collection (see https://archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org). The drawing for Crumlin is the last item in the exhibition, an indication that, much as Catholic church building came to an almost complete stop in the decade after the visit of Pope John Paul II, Church of Ireland church building substantially ended with the War. Completed in 1942 and built of the last bricks manufactured in the Dolphin’s Barn brickworks, the finished church is, as O’Neill notes in his exhibition caption, ‘plainer and gaunter’ than the drawing. The apparent austerity of the exterior is belied by elegant Art Deco flourishes, notably in the treatment of the windows, and an interior of calm and peaceful simplicity.

A series of lunchtime lecture to accompany the exhibition runs in the Irish Architectural Archive during Heritage Week, 20-23 August 2019. See here for more.

Emo Court

Arthur and John Williamson (Arthur d.1846, John d.c.1838)Plan, elevations, and profile of proposed entrance front portico
12 December 1822
Ink and watercolour
IAA 91/101.41

In 1780, at the instance of John Dawson, 2nd Viscount Carlow (afterwards Earl of Portarlington), James Gandon prepared designs for the proposed new Custom House in Dublin, and the following year he came to Ireland to superintend its building. While work on the Custom House proceeded, Dawson commissioned Gandon to design new gates for his country seat at Emo, Co. Laois, and in 1790 he asked Gandon to design a new house. Emo Court was unfinished when Gandon’s patron died in 1798, and work continued for Portarlinton’s successors under various architects until the middle of the next century. A number of Gandon’s proposals for Emo Court survive and are held by the Irish Architectural Archive, along side other drawings for the building including this proposal for the entrance front portico by Arthur and John Williamson. These brothers had connections with Armagh and family ties with Francis Johnston. Between 1822 and 1831 they prepared designs for the north and south porticos at Emo, for the north front, for the drawing room ceiling and for various out-offices including an ice-house. The brothers were later active as developers in Dublin, first in Paradise Row and the Mountjoy Street area, and later in Rathmines where, in partnership with John Bulter, they built the present Leinster Square. Gandon had proposed a Doric portico at Emo; the Williamsons designed an Ionic version but otherwise followed Gandon’s intentions and this is the portico which was executed.

 A selection of the Archive’s Emo Court drawings is currently on display in the newly opened first floor of Emo Court itself – see http://emocourt.ie/ for more.

Ann Martha Rowan honoured

Ann Martha Rowan


At a Commencements ceremony held in the Public Theatre on Friday 22 June 2018, Ann Martha Rowan, creator and editor of the Dictionary of Irish Architects, received an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin. The citation read as follows;

‘Ann Martha Rowan served as Archivist in the Irish Architectural Archive for more than thirty years. During this time she single-handedly initiated and completed the Dictionary of Irish Architects, which was an enormous accomplishment and produced “one of the most valuable pieces of research  in Irish Archival history” to quote her nominators. The Dictionary, which is openly available online, contains 6,700 entries for the period 1720-1940, each containing a biography of the architect, a list of his/her buildings (covering 49,000 buildings on the island of Ireland) and a bibliography. It has been described as “transformative” to the history of Irish architecture and has been universally praised for comprehensiveness and impeccable academic standards. This pioneering project is a great success story for the Digital Humanities.’


Mary Robinson, Nicholas Robinson, Ann Martha Rowan, Edward McParland and Alistair Rowan


The Commencements was presided over by University Chancellor Mary Robinson in the presence of Provost Patrick Prendergast. Other honorary degree recipients included Tony Scott, James Simons, Senator Hillary Clinton and Paul Drechsler. The Archive staff attended, as did Chairman Michael Webb and his wife Melissa. Both the Archive’s Honorary Presidents – Edward McParland and Nicholas Robinson – were also there.


IAA Staff: (l to r) Simon Lincoln, Eve McAulay, Anne Henderson, Ann Martha Rowan, Aisling Dunne, Colum O’Riordan


Professor Roger Stalley, Alistair Rowan, Ann Martha Rowan


Ann Martha Rowan and Professor Christine Casey


College Public Orator, Professor Anna Chahoud, delivered an encomium in Latin, part of which read (in paraphrase): ‘If you search for a modern account of Irish architecture, you will find none worthier of reverence than the work of Ann Marta Rowan, faithful historian of the Irish built landscape. Of gentle, modest, retiring nature, she has erected an imposing monument, achieving for the country what Sir Howard Colvin did for British architecture… On coming to Ireland, she has worked for over thirty years (and still works) in the Irish Architectural Archive, the splendid temple to Irish architecture erected in Merrion Square forty-two years ago, with which the College has such close connections. It was in the Archive that she came upon the treasure left by the eminent architect Alfred Gresham Jones. She transformed , and enormously enlarged, that wealth of material into a detailed, accurate, comprehensive biographical index of architects, builders and craftsmen, covering nearly fifty thousand buildings in our island. The Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940 is not only immensely authoritative; it is a democratic masterpiece of Digital Humanities… In recognition of her faithful and generous service to the country, the University is proud to bestow on her the title of Master of Letters’.


College Public Orator Professor Anna Chahoud delivering the encomium


Fellow recipients Paul Drechsler and Senator Hillary Clinton listening to the encomium


Alistair Rowan, Ann Martha Rowan and Harriet Rowan


Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin – Revisited

An introduction by Alistair Rowan given at the opening of the Pugin Revisited exhibition at the Irish Architectural Archive on Tuesday 24 April 2018

The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture – frontispiece


 This exhibition consists of thirty-one drawings, shown either singly or in pairs within the one frame.  There are also copies of two of the books published by Pugin, firstly The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture of 1841, with a highly romanticised picture of a medieval architect at work within his study, where a Gothic house-altar stands behind him, and chunks of tracery and ecclesiastical bric-a-brac lie cluttered at his feet. The second book, of 1843, is open at the celebrated frontispiece of fifteen of the architect’s own most creative designs for churches.


An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture – frontispiece


Pugin was always a polemicist. Think of the absolute irony implicit in that second title, thought up by a young man of thirty-one: An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture. Why on earth should an architect in early Victorian Britain feel the need to apologise for encouraging the revival of Gothic architecture, particularly when the scales are weighted in its favour by singling Gothic out as the only logical style for people of any religious faith and by calling it Christian.

Pugin was also a brilliant self-publicist who never minced his words. The new Classical churches built throughout Ireland, after Catholic Emancipation and before the Famine, were castigated by him as pagan, and he described buildings like Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, Longford Cathedral, and St Mary’s Dominican Church, Cork, as simply ‘the vilest trash’. That did not make him popular with the clergy in Ireland but it gave grist to his architectural campaigns. ‘My writings much more than what I have been able to do have revolutionised the taste of England’ he wrote to his friend and business associate John Hardman in Birmingham in 1851, just one year before his death at the age of forty. In 1851 the Medieval Court at the Great Exhibition in London, bursting with examples of his designs, had been a runaway success and it was Pugin’s meticulous Late Gothic details that were even then clothing the entire fabric of the new Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

How did he achieve such dominance?  This exhibition of a small but choice selection of the architect’s sketches prompts at least two answers: firstly there is the indomitable energy at the root of Pugin’s character which led him to make drawing after drawing of medieval architecture wherever he went and secondly there is his capacity for looking analytically at whatever he chooses to study.


Stirling Castle


We may note these characteristics at least twice in the exhibition: first when Pugin visited the royal castle of Stirling in Scotland – a building which he records first in two neat topographical views, drawn in pencil, showing the bulk of the castle rising above the volcanic outcrop of rock on which it stands and, in a second view of the approach to the apartments of King James V. These drawings give a sense of the whole building but Pugin also took time to analyse a rectangular oak ceiling in detail, making a plan and sectional elevation of its design and expanding his understanding of the construction by very precise and accurate drawings of the carved decoration and lettering set into the ceiling.


Stirling Castle – oak ceiling


I have the feeling that he must have got someone to lend him a ladder since he notes precise measurements taken from the high cove of the ceiling at the top of the room and he could not have drawn the details of the carving without close access. Now this is the important point. The detailed knowledge that Pugin acquired of actual examples of Scottish medieval joinery in this way would immediately inform the decoration of two Gothic libraries at Duns Castle in Berwickshire and Taymouth Castle in Perthshire for both of which he supplied designs. The effect of these rooms was rich, new and stunningly authentic. No wonder Puginian Gothic met with approval and encouragement.



Heidenturm (Heathen Tower), Nuremberg Castle


Nuremberg is the second site widely recorded in drawings now held in the Irish Architectural Archive. Pugin visited the city in the summer of 1838. It is a wonderful medieval town, which must have delighted him. At that time the circuit of the defensive walls was marked by no less that eighty-eight interval towers of which, even after the Second World War, fifty-seven remain. There are handsome pictures in the exhibition of two of the interval towers one of which, up beside the castle, has a Romanesque chapel incorporated at its base.

Much the most famous of the late medieval buildings in the city is the Church of St Laurence to which a soaring late Gothic choir, with star-ribbed vaults, was added between 1439 and 1477. A ladder would have been no use to Pugin here yet he was instinctively drawn to record the astonishing pinnacled tabernacle, which abuts one of the eastern piers in the choir.


Tabernacle, St Laurence’s Church, Nuremberg – base


This is not a tabernacle, as we understand the word today, but an extensive Gothic balcony on which at least ten people might stand with a tiered canopy of filigree Gothic pinnacles containing scenes from the life of Christ and rising the full height of the vault.  Soaring to more than eighty feet, I can hardly imagine how Pugin drew it: looking up high to see what he had to draw and then shifting his focus to the sheet of paper – back and forwards again and again.


Tabernacle, St Laurence’s Church, Nuremberg – top


He had to split his drawing between two pages to fit the whole monument in. The tabernacle is the work of the master sculptor, Adam Kraft who took three years to complete it in 1496. Kraft is a leader among German Renaissance realistic sculptors, a man of brilliant imagination who, in a wonderful stroke of bravura, placed a life-sized figure of himself, with jutting black beard and a mason’s mallet and chisel in each hand, crouching beneath the centre platform of the balcony to give support to it. Pugin catches all these details as well as the filigree spire.


Tabernacle, St Laurence’s Church, Nuremberg – base, detail


Adam Kraft. Photo: A Rowan Collection


Like a lot of architects he was not very good at drawing people. The figure of Kraft is unconvincing in Pugin’s sketch, and his attempt at the ‘Schone Madonna’ of 1285, a beautiful figure of the Virgin and Christ Child on a bracket in the nave, has none of the grace of the original. The statue of the Archangel Michael in Pugin’s hands becomes an awkward jagged figure with angular wings and an unwieldy sword.


Statue of St Michael, St Laurence’s Church, Nuremberg


Even so, if he was better at drawing buildings than bodies, critics from his own time to the present day have always admired the fluency and facility of Pugin’s hand. Whether he is drawing with a finely sharpened pencil as at Stirling, or in sepia ink touched lightly with wash as at St Laurence’s church in Nuremberg, Pugin’s line is never dead. It has the quality of a life of its own, strong and firm in one place – even emphatic – so that at times the pencil almost bites into the paper or the ink is full and dense, only to fade to a fragile line which is allowed, at times, to die away completely the better to model the forms on the page. David Hockney in a different age is a master of this same sort of graphic economy. We can see it particularly well in Pugin’s drawing of a number of figurative corbel stones from Stirling Castle or in the curious studies of decorative portrait heads set within circular bands whose source is unknown. This is rapid, un-laboured draughtsmanship, employed with urgent immediacy by a man who never seemed to rest.



We should remember however that Pugin could never have expected that these slight drawings would be put on public display. For him, they were simply part of the office equipment, essential as source material to feed into – or perhaps at times to nudge – his creativity. Two hundred years earlier Rubens had used his own collection of drawings, thematically arranged, in exactly the same way. For both artists the drawings were a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

It was Pugin’s intention to revolutionise attitudes to architecture in Great Britain and Ireland and in large measure he succeeded in his objective. Outside the Architecture Gallery room and hanging in the stair hall of the Archive is a large gilt-framed perspective drawing of Cobh Cathedral designed by his son, Edward Welby Pugin then in partnership with Pugin’s son-in-law George Ashlin. Below it on a table in the hall is an architectural model of Rawson Carroll’s big Gothic church, with its splendid broach spire, built at Leeson Park, Dublin, for the Molyneux Institute. Each of these Irish churches is a confident, strong design of real authority. The fact that so many buildings of this character were to be built everywhere in Ireland in the second half of the nineteenth century signals, unequivocally, the triumphant conclusion of Pugin’s personal crusade.

Alistair Rowan,
Dublin, 2018




Memorialising the Sacred

The following essay is by Anthony Kelly, Seán McCrum, Paddy Sammon and David Stalling, the curators of the Memorialising the Sacred exhibition running in the IAA Architecture Gallery from January to April 2018. It is from the publication Memorialsing the Sacred: sound and landscape defining the architecture (Paddy Sammon ed., Farpoint Recordings, 2018) and is reproduced here by kind permission of the authors.

The publication is available for purchase in the IAA Reading Room (€10)



One evening, during sunset, we went for a walk along the road from Anópoli to Limniá. There is a junction after about 20 minutes, where a side-road turns right, and a wayside shrine at the corner. About 300 metres from the junction, we saw a car turn into the side road and stop for a minute, then drive on. We were curious and continued walking. The driver had lit the lamp in the shrine. Its lightmade the shrine a marker of the junction at night. The shrine was important for this individual, defining this junction not just for the driver, but for whoever came past. To an outsider these shrines and churches may seem to be situated in the countryside for no identifiable reason. However, no building exists for no reason. Why is a church or shrine here? Why not somewhere else?

Visiting Loutró and Anópoli, we went hill-walking and kept coming across small churches and wayside shrines. We began to ask why these structures are at particular places. Their number and positioning made Loutró and Anópoli particularly rich resources for answering our question. There are two types of church. One at the centre of a village. The other an “outside church”, placed at the edge of a village, in the countryside or on the seashore. The second type may define the boundaries of a village or the point where two villages’ lands meet. They may also act as visual pointers, related to pathways in use before roads were built. A church made clear that a village was nearby and also defined its presence. A church on the shoreline or hilltop can act as a marker. It could be built to repay a vow. Others are positioned close to late-Roman or Byzantine ruins. In some cases they incorporate a basilica, or may be close to a Roman tomb. They may not project precise knowledge about these buildings, but a sense of the importance carried by a ruin and its role as part of a Christian structure. Wayside shrines frequently incorporate some or all of these elements. They were also often built to repay a vow, to show a place where danger was avoided, or where something bad happened. The shrine defines how individuals and their community see their relationship to a particular place, such as the junctions of paths and roads, which are unlucky places.

Although we have visited Loutró and Anópoli several times, we are outside observers of country churches and shrines and their role in their locations. We agreed to make a creative project from our perspective, different from that of local people. It involved transmuting our experience in those places to a different place, the Gallery of the Irish Architectural Archive, with its own strong persona, which determined our thinking on presenting the experience of these villages. 

We needed the visual as well as sound, since both were parts of our experience of the places, and worked with black-and-white medium-format film, to state the visual presence of country churches and shrines. Such images make it clear that these are photographic, two-dimensional records of experience. Colour is now too close to replicating and, by implication, imitating a place. Recordings were made in and around where photographs were taken, then used to make a sound composition. Some small objects were also incorporated. The three dimensions and architectural presence of the gallery incorporate the two dimensions of photographs presenting objects; sounds add an additional dimension; the objects respond to the physical three dimensions of the gallery.

These churches and shrines have a complex role in defining where they have been placed. They are at the centre of how people define themselves and where they live. It is important not to perceive them as disparate objects, but as part of a network of how people relate their presence to their place. For us, they also provide a different point of definition in our experience of Loutró and Anópoli.


Anthony Kelly
Seán McCrum
Paddy Sammon
David Stalling