Printworks, Dublin — Part 3
In Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin, the professor acknowledges the merits of "rational equality, light, air, movement, aspect, prospect, hygiene, recreation, a general limpidity, no confusion."
But his heart is won by the traditional city such as Vigevano, near Milan, where "the continuous fabric of the buildings acts as a species of urban poché giving energy and legibility to its reciprocal conditions, the structure of specific spaces." It is paradoxically in the relatively unprogrammed residual mass of Vigevano that greater programmatic changes are feasible.
The Garden as a Model
More directly in "The Present Urban Predicament" than in the somewhat earlier Collage City (1978), Rowe situates the planning of cities and the formation of urban models with respect to the garden ("support and extension of the house"), to the reification of Hyde Park, a landscape view of Yale Campus, to Herrenhausen and Schwetzingen... at which point, he writes, "I would simply like to suggest that the garden may be regarded as both a model of the city and as a critique of the city."
Two years later, the Cornell Journal of Architecture #2 finished with a project entitled "Dublin: The Park and the City."
After a foreword from Leon Krier and another essay by Rowe ("Program vs. Paradigm"), this 1983 publication devoted two thirds of its pages to the urban design studio led by Rowe in the university at Ithaca in the previous two decades.
The Rowe/Cornell philosophy is described as evolving from "urban design... proposed as a time-honored and synthetic art... a criticism of Modern architecture and planning, which had... destroyed the variety, sense of closure, and sense of place provided by older cities."
The development of the Cornell studio is presented as leading from New York-area projects by Thomas Schumacher and Steven Peterson in the 1960s through "Roma Interrotta" schemes in the late 70s to the final proposal by Derek Tynan for the city of Dublin.
It is in part a matter of chronology. But Tynan's thesis draws cogently both from Rowe's evolving prognoses and his own immediate knowledge of one of Europe's smaller and less "modernized" capitals.
(At Cornell, "the site selected for the year-long thesis might be the "home town" or its emotional equivalent — a visual and experiential memory, at once familiar to the student and yet, after the previous year of study, different.")
If Rowe had brought forward the nature of gardens in the urban condition, Tynan was able to work with Phoenix Park, Europe's largest walled garden. If Rowe had been intrigued with Hyde Park's connection to London at Apsley House, Tynan could focus on a unique knuckle or vortex within Dublin.
Building up certain edges of the park and allowing others to be resolved by existing topography, he proposed, between them, to lay out a now ceremonial square, a deliberate void, to receive "in addition to the river, the central axis of Phoenix Park, the railway station, and the major western approach to the city."
An Assemblage of Objects
One of Rowe's favorite images — it fills the inside covers of Collage City — is of Wiesbaden circa 1900. This is his yin-yang talisman of figure-ground polarities: one half built with intermittent canyon streets, the other half open with intermittent object buildings.
As he describes it in his first Cornell Journal essay, Wiesbaden "presents the spectacle of an elegant hybrid, of two complementary fields, the one largely a solid equipped with local spaces, the other largely a void in which objects have been encouraged to proliferate, each of them giving value to its opposite condition."
For Dublin, Tynan was proposing to densify the urban blocks about the park which in turn became the site of new, free-standing facilities, "an assemblage of objects within the landscape — the counterpoint to the emphasis upon discrete voids within the city."
This ambition for reinforcement and reciprocity lies at the heart of Tynan's work. His new square at Heuston Station was considered both as the edge of Dublin as a built thing and as an instrument of civic reception, a three-dimensional threshold from the suburbs and the countryside: "its eastern side acts as an entrance facade to the city and the quay sequence."
With this project, the park and the city coexist as mutually identifying entities. From the ground of the Park, beautiful architectural objects can emerge. Behind the ordinance line of its figurative edge, urban necessities can be quietly accommodated. The particularity of the park and river and railway system coming together is harnessed for spectacular effect.
Downriver at Temple Bar, the Printworks now begins to realize those ideas first explored by Tynan at Cornell, in a context which is considerably more compacted and far removed from the pleasures of chlorophyll.
Lost and Found
Collage City was not necessarily about the inner workings of buildings but about the relationship between buildings and the larger urban fabric. For Rowe, Rome manifests a wonderful and adaptable interdependence, "a dialectic of ideal types with empirical context."
For the Irish designers, including Tynan, who have been categorized as figurative architects, the pursuit of ideal types may appear unnecessarily dogmatic and is perhaps antithetical — despite an early admiration of Aldo Rossi — to a post-Modern, at times quirky sensibility.
This work often starts with a recognizable type or types but then proceeds through design into a formalism specific to the site and personal predilection. For Tynan, this is where he eases his role as planner and becomes an inventive designer of intimate and domestic spaces. These detailing decisions are also arrived at through procedures akin to collage.
Collage, as an art form, was famously discovered or inaugurated by Picasso, Braque, and Gris immediately before the First World War. Christine Poggi, in In Defiance of Painting (1992), fixes on Picasso's "Still Life with Chair-Caning," (1912) — with its oilcloth and rope frame and the letters J, O, and U — as "the first work of fine art, that is, in which materials appropriated from daily life, relatively untransformed by the artist, intrude upon the traditionally privileged domain of painting."
As is well known, the Cubists developed from their analytic to their synthetic stage of exploration by gluing paper products together (the papiers collés) and by the introduction of such materials as newspaper, musical scores, sand, bottle labels, pins, and personal calling cards.
The Cubist strategy was one both of skin, of a discourse upon surface, and the integration of everyday artifacts. They played the ceremonial flatness of masks (at once Classical and primary) in a contemporary domain.
Archetypes, the Classic, and the Appropriated
In Collage City, Rowe also addresses "Still Life with Chair Caning." He wrote: "With Picasso's image one asks: what is false and what is true, what is antique and what is "of today"; and it is because of an inability to make a half way adequate reply to this pleasing difficulty that one, finally, is obliged to identify the problem of composite presence in terms of collage."
For Rowe, perhaps, the issue of the plane of canvas for the Cubists and the problematic of the figure-ground conundrum for architects are closely related. He is of course well aware that Picasso, iconoclast as he may at times appear, was also deeply enamoured with Classicism, with pure form, with narrative and human metaphor.
So collage for Rowe is much more than townscape — "a matter of felicitous happenings and anonymous architecture." It is the plastic integration of archetypes with the particular, the fusion of the Classic and the appropriated (whether as material or as objet trouvé) into composite or hybrid structures.
This article began with Part 1 in early August, continued with Part 2, and will conclude in a future issue 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.
Part One - Part Two
Dublin's new Curved Street; the Arthouse by Shay Cleary to the right, the Temple Bar Music Centre by Niall McCullough and Valerie Mulvin to the left.
Photo: ARC Survey Photographic
Model of a corner building, an earlier proposal of the Printworks on another site.
Photo: Derek Tynan Architects
View towards double-height space in one of the three east-facing duplexes on top of the Rocha design studio.
Photo: Derek Tynan Architects
Lower floor, Parisian hotel particulier: Hotel de Beauvais, Antoine le Pautre, 1652-55.
Image: courtesy arq
Upper floor, Parisian hotel particulier: Hotel de Beauvais, Antoine le Pautre, 1652-55.
Image: courtesy arq
Initial sketch for Heuston Station reurbanization plan.
Image: Derek Tynan and Colin Rowe
Urban design proposal for neighborhood of Heuston Railroad Station and the western approaches to Dublin. Student work at Cornell University, 1980.
Image: Derek Tynan
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