Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leaving their mark ...

Since I retired my vision has improved enormously. I don't mean my eyes are working better, quite the reverse. But I am now using them differently. When I was working in the centre of Dublin city I saw nothing as I flitted between meetings, totally preoccupied with the inside of my head. Now I stroll the streets and see everything. And there are some amazing things to see.

I have already drawn attention to the beautiful roundels, commemorating Gullivers Travels, on a new public housing complex in the vicinity of St. Patrick's cathedral.

Well, I was walking up Gardiner Street early yesterday morning when my eye caught a similar looking plaque at the top of the Custom Hall apartment development. However this one was not immortalising any fictional or literary character. The plaques atop this complex immortalise the developers (Cosgrave Bros.) and the architects (Ambrose Kelly).

My initial reaction was that these plaques now look like gravestones, highlighting the current plight of the property developers whose more recent acquisitions have turned to dust and who look like saddling the taxpayer with a huge debt via the banks and their bailout by Government.

However, when I got back home I checked out the development and it appears that it was this project which kicked off the regeneration of Gardiner Street. Dubliners will remember that this street had turned into an appalling slum prior to the regeneration.

McDonald and Sheridan describe this area in their recent book on The Builders:
Custom Hall, in Gardiner Street on the north side of Dublin, is a humdrum piece of neoclassical pastiche, with five-storey blocks of smallish flats standing on stilts above basement car parking; but it took a lot of courage to build in Gardiner Street in the early 1990s. The junction with Sean McDermott Street was known as "Handbag Corner" because of the dexterity of local thieves in snatching bags from cars while women drivers were stopped at the traffic lights. Custom Hall pioneered the regeneration of Gardiner Street, changing the image of the area.
The Cosgraves' next effort was just across the road. The building which was once my grand uncle's pawn shop was demolished and became part of Gandon Hall with further Custom House resonances. My personal connection with Gardiner Street goes back to my teaching innings in the Central Model School which backs onto this street.

So, while these early regeneration projects undoubtedly made some contribution to the centre city, the enduring function of these plaques may well be as gravestones given the parlous state to which the nation has been brought by the combination of politicians, bankers and developers.

1 comment:

tema said...

I'll never forget when my office and job moved to Gardiner Street in the early 70s. We'd been in a pleasant part of town, near Nassau St, and the Green, but were forced to move because the landlord quadrupled the rent for his own purposes, and we were existing on a Govm't grant and couldn't afford it.
On moving, morale was very low among the staff and in the first ~2 months of moving to Gardiner Street, every single member of staff had had their cars broken into. Going into work became very depressing at that time. The organisation has now moved elsewhere.