Hung, drawn and ordered
Drawings from the Irish Architectural Archive By David J Griffin and Simon Lincoln. IAA, 1993. 79pp. £12.95 Leinster House 1744-2000: An Architectural History By David J Griffin and Caroline Pegum. IAA, 2000. 134pp. £17.95
While the RIBA Drawings Collection still awaits its new home at the V&A - 2004 is now the rumoured date - the Irish Architectural Archive is also on the move, but with what looks like a clearer sense of purpose.
From early 2003 it will occupy the largest house (c 1785) in Dublin's Merrion Square, where anyone who is still nostalgic for the RIBA's intimate Heinz Gallery in Portman Square will have a pleasant surprise. Yes, the Heinz - its display cases and screens now in store - will be recreated on the ground floor of 44-45 Merrion Square under the supervision of Alan Irvine, its original designer.
So, for the first time since its foundation in 1976, the IAA will have its own space for regular exhibitions, and the breadth of its holdings can steadily be revealed. In the meantime, a book published back in 1993 gives a glimpse of its 80,000 drawings, by such architects as James Wyatt, RIAI founder Richard Morrison and Deane and Woodward - represented not by their Oxford Museum but a curious unbuilt scheme for Christ Church College.
As the introduction admits, restricted funds have prevented the IAA from acquiring all it would have liked - at least one splendid collection in private hands has got away. Like most archives, it has grown in piecemeal, pragmatic fashion: its parts as disparate as the McGrath Collection (Australian expatriate and Modernist Raymond McGrath was Dublin's principal architect of public works after the Second World War), and the mostly 18th-century Guinness Drawings Collection, among which are the original designs for Dublin's Leinster House by Richard Castle.
These are central to the IAA's latest book, Leinster House 1744-2000: An Architectural History - a richly illustrated account of the town house that eventually became the home of Ireland's parliament, the Dail, and one in a series of sporadic publications which the IAA initiated with Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland in 1988.
Complementing its drawings collection, the IAA holds more than 300,000 photographs. Some are the work of individual enthusiasts: for instance, the 'glass lantern slides' with which JVDownes, professor of architecture at University College, Dublin, gave both an Irish and an international flavour to his lectures in the 1930s. Others come from institutions or commercial companies, such as the 10,000 photographs taken by the Automobile Association while preparing a guidebook to Ireland in 1960.
You can study the lichen-spotted stonework of the (eighth century) Gallarus Oratory in Co Kerry, looking like a beached upturned boat; or the many handsome country houses that the Irish Georgian Society has recorded; or the Modernist white walls, terraces and curves of Michael Scott's Geragh (1938) beside the sea at Sandycove.
Further adding to the IAA's resources are project folders, account books, manuscripts and the like. There are curiosities, such as 100 files on early Irish Christian sites, which Dr Herbert Fuchs compiled in the early 1950s (fluent German required), while details of social as well as architectural history are preserved in the Dublin Artisans' Dwellings Company Collection, with minute books and annual reports from the late 19th to early 20th century.
With its imminent move to larger premises, and emphasis on easy public access, the IAA seems set to prosper.We wait to see if the alliance between the V&A and the RIBA, not quite a marriage made in heaven, will ever do the same.
The IAA's reading room, currently at 73 Merrion Sq, Dublin, is open Tues-Fri (10.00-13.00, 14.30-17.00). No appointment is necessary (details at www. iarc. ie). Until its move to the V&A, the RIBA Drawings Collection at 21 Portman Sq, London W1, is open by appointment on Monday afternoons (14.00-17.00) On a visit to Ireland 20 years ago, I well remember noticing the large number of bungalows and Spanish villas dotting the landscape. Set back from the road, often in a sea of gravel or crazy paving, they looked halfway between 'naff ' and cosy. Over the years, this type of housing has multiplied dramatically, provoking something of a backlash - in particular, among urban Irish commentators.
Bungalow building was provoked by two trends. One was the return of many Irish from abroad, sinking their wealth into family plots. The other, capitalising on this, was the best-selling 1970s' design manual, Bungalow Bliss, by Jack Fitzsimmons. Such handy-hints manuals provided a wide range of well thought-out bungalow plans, together with articles reminiscent of Practical Householder ('Installing a back boiler', etc).
Suited to the self-builder, these documents were the passport to their 'dream home'.
The 'Bungalow Blitz' exhibition sets out to examine three questions related to bungalow-mania, specifically with reference to south-west Donegal. First, it analyses the relationship between the development of the bungalow housing type and the Irish diaspora of the 19th and 20th centuries. Second, it questions what this housing form, and the debate around it, say about national identity.
Third, it examines the rising tide of concern at the bungalow aesthetic, among architects and the tourism and heritage industries.
While the exhibition is certainly entertaining and well worth a visit, I was disappointed that it did not really answer any of these questions directly. Instead, it allows the viewer to make up his or her own mind, by presenting a series of images, brochures and newspaper cuttings. I suspect that it panders to preconceived prejudices rather than challenging them.