Bungalow Blitz: Another History of Irish Architecture At the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Middlesex University, Cat Hill Campus, Cockfosters, London, until 13 January
The large-scale exterior photographs of a variety of rendered bungalows are presented impassively.Unfortunately, the interior photographs are a different matter, in that they distract from the discussion of the bungalow as architectural form and veer into an intrusive snapshot of people's decor. Voyeurism replaces debate (albeit with the willing participation of the proud homeowner).
However, the beauty of this exhibition is that it does provide a forum for genuine debate on a rare polarised issue. Bungalows, in the Irish context: do you love them or hate them? Are they despoiling the landscape or part of it? Should they be appreciated, tolerated or banned? The curator's true intent does manage to shine through, with the careful arrangement of campaign literature showing up the anti-bungalow campaigners as mean-spirited snobs (as does the snide video commentary at the end of the show).
The exhibition works best at making you think about priorities in the debate. In straightforward architectural terms, these houses obviously leave a lot to be desired - but you could say that about brick-blocktile mass housing in this country. On a less material level, the criticism of the Irish bungalow today seems to be a codified form of middle-class concern, about the less cultured remnants of Ireland letting the side down.
This exhibition flags up a curious dichotomy in 'modern Ireland', as contradictory as the phrase itself. From the point of view of the urban chattering classes, criticising bungalows in the modern rural landscape represents a paradox - simultaneously romanticising and rejecting Ireland's historical roots. From the perspective of the bungalow self-builder, this is simply the first rung in the ladder to socio-economic betterment. It is also home.