Printworks, Dublin — Part 2
They proposed a new street eating through the blocks to help guide the pedestrian in a leisurely fashion parallel to the principal thoroughfares. The entire walk from east to west was calculated at 10 minutes; from the bustle of Dame Street to the quays of the Liffey (Temple Bar had also once been a marsh) only two or three.
Much of that master plan, including the Temple Bar and Meeting House Squares, has now been realized. There are centers for photography, cinema, furniture and jewelry design, experimental music, computer technology; a Viking "experience"; and a cultural facility, The Ark, specially dedicated for children.
There are not however 3000 inhabitants, nor much likelihood of Temple Bar soon becoming a model urban village. It is primarily an entertainment and tourist attraction. There are a few lofts and smart, pristine apartments (such as those by Grafton Architects) but little has been done to explore, en masse, new types of inner-city housing.
Towards Christ Church Cathedral, the West End, originally intended to have a market square and a local swimming pool, will see comparatively normative residential projects, some for Corporation tenants.
But as yet the spirit of the quarter seems to have less to suggest to other parts of Dublin — where developers are erecting monofunctional walls of tiny flats — than first hoped. It may even have distracted attention, and investment, from other concerns.
The Printworks is unusual in this disputatious scene of glamorous cultural projects and bijou entertainment as it — almost alone of the Group 91 and other Temple Bar buildings — suggests a model for integrated urban living.
Plan, Section, Home
The Printworks takes its name from the premises of a legal printers called Curtis on Temple. Tynan's site expands from this 1930s concrete shell northwards onto Essex Street East, the busiest in Temple Bar.
Where the lane and street meet is a corner lot outside the project, whose plan therefore acquires the shape of a fat "L." The eastern flank of this "L," the original printworks, has been refurbished for John Rocha, Ireland's leading fashion designer, and built over with three studio units.
The northern edge along Essex Street East sees the retention of one row house and the insertion of a new brick facade into a wide unsightly gap. Tynan's belief is that the corner building and its now rejuvenated neighbor were part of an initiative of the Wide Street Commissioners in the early nineteenth century and that the double lot, which he has filled with a brick facade to an identical parapet height and with appropriately proportioned openings, was of similar pattern.
"I think what's very beautiful is how it's really like a little puzzle," said Willem Jan Neutelings on a recent awards jury. And it maybe helpful to think of the Printworks as a kind of Rubik's Cube, as a assemblage of cubic forms with specific programs and interpenetrations which have been judiciously inserted into its urban setting.
From the street outside, a passer-by can visually follow the complex from the 1930s industrial premises, now spruced up with white paint and translucent glazing round the corner to Essex Street East with its "found" row house (a maison trouvée?), now renovated, and the brick infill, a taut incised mask.
A tall cut between the old and new portions harbors a staircase which leads from a metal gate up onto an interior court shared by all the inhabitants. This is the podium, Tynan's key sectional device. To the left are the three studios with individual stairs in rhythmic sequence. To the right, a return added to the principal brick-faced infill as a kind of "style paquebot" pavilion.
An Elaborate Puzzle
The street level has a double-height studio — a compacted loft — for Rocha off Temple Lane plus a coffee shop and a delicatessen in retail units to either side of the residential entrance in Essex Street.
All these pieces of the architect's elaborate puzzle move deep into the plan to draw light in from tiny windows, rooflights, and bands of glass block about the upper court. (To the west of the Printworks, Tynan may yet refurbish a house on Eustace Street for the housing charity Focus Point.)
Above this dense lower layer (there being no basement so close to the river), there are three apartments in the pre-existing house (perpendicular to the street), three more in the new structure (running parallel to the street) which together with the studios and the single garden pavilion make for 10 residential units.
All these units are accessed from the raised court up exposed stairways or past specific windows so that one can consider Tynan's project as a humanistic endeavor which allows the inhabitants to withdraw from the at times very noisy life of the street. From the completely public world, they ascend to their communal court and from that almost collegiate realm, in sporadic visual connection, to their private zones for living and sleeping.
Tynan refers to his buildings as "little context machines." From the outside, the small white duplexes with their perky rooflights and almost toy-like projecting balconies sit upon the fashion studio as a kind of linear apparatus, a truncated liner perhaps.
Inside, with their double-height volumes and mezzanines and great west-facing walls of clear and translucent glass, there is a memory, unique in Dublin, of artist studios in Paris of the 1920s, in particular, of course, that by Le Corbusier for Amédée Ozenfant. The north-facing brick facade is undercut with glazing to illuminate and advertise the stores.
Behind it, apartments are laid out with their internal openings directly against the street so that, conceptually, bedroom doors can be thrown back to leave the facade as an isolated plane of brick. In the double-height cut of the shared entrance, the first floor apartment loses a strip of space but gains a high corner window as a residual sentinel from which to engage the outside.
Making a Modern Street
The Printworks is in part a relic of a joint proposal, earlier in 1991, called "Making a Modern Street." That was the debut of Group 91, an exhibition by these young Liberties district, a project which has gone through many changes and is only now, in a different form, finally being realized.
Collaborating with Michael McGarry and Síobhán Ní Éanaigh, Tynan had developed a tight parti for that comer site with two shops at street level and tight open stairs leading to one block of three horizontal apartments and another vertical "house" about a thin court.
The Printworks "is in many ways the building that came out of this," says Tynan, thinking of its commercial base, upper yard or open hall, and the assortment of housing types arranged figuratively about that protected space.
If the slot of entry at the Printworks engenders a sense of removal from the outside and ascension to a new datum from which the scheme is comprehended, there is another hypothetical datum at the rooftops of the apartments.
All upper units either have sun-seeking rooflights or intimate private terraces so that one can easily imagine a drawing of Temple Bar taken at parapet level which would reveal a new layer of activity and amenity in the city. However the full promise of the original Group 91 vision has not been achieved.
The 1991 plans show a continuous space in the chasm between Temple Lane and Eustace Street, of which Tynan's private patio is a somewhat frozen memory, so that one might have progressed from Essex Street East through to the new Curved Street (where the upper volume of Shay Cleary's Arthouse seems to await this vector) and out via an elongated court serving student housing, to the traffic of Dame Street.
This extension of the connections generated by the Printworks and the Group 91 master plan was not apparently feasible (there would surely have been a problem with public accessibility) and has now been blocked by an escape stairs from McCullough Mulvin's Music Centre next door.
This article began with Part 1 in early August and will continue in future issues of ArchitectureWeek.
Raymund Ryan is an architect teaching at University College Dublin. He edited the Round Table Discussion of The Havana Project (Prestel, Munich, 1996) and acted as design consultant for the refurbishment of Berlaymont, the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels.
This article originally appeared in arq (Architectural Research Quarterly), Vol. 3, No. 1, 1999, published by Cambridge University Press and is reproduced here with the consent of the Editors. For arq subscription information, contact Cambridge University Press, 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211, 914-937-9600, 914-937-4712.