Awash in Culture–and Wishing I’d Hit Record!

I actually had a voice recording device on me today, but I hadn’t set it up.

I was in Linenhall for a quick, half hour coffee meeting. So, I didn’t think to ask to record until the conversation was too good to stop for something as odd and pragmatic as setting up the iPhone.

I was meeting Máirtin D’Alton (the architect who lead a tour I attended during Open House Dublin, I’ve included a photo to spark your memory).

Following the Tour, I suggested/recommended/fairly much insisted on him for a position at DIT. Sima took my advice, and he’s been working for an hour a week in the 4th year architectural technology studio ever since.

Of course, he’s giving more time than an hour a week to the cause.

He’s being very conscientious in the role–he showed me the prep work he’d done for today.  (I always like to know it’s working out well after I recommend someone!) His prep work must have taken hours.

And, he was also part of a studio crit yesterday that lasted from 9am-7pm. Whew! How exhausting!

He still made time to meet me for coffee before studio today. And, our conversation today was fascinating!  I made a few notes on my phone at the end. They’re below, in rough form but interesting nonetheless.

Typical Irish bungalow. This one located near Killaney. (Photo © Brian Shaw.)


Bungalows have been the norm for single family detached housing in Ireland–past and present. You’ve been able to buy plan books. There are lots of versions of bungalows out there but they all have basic rectangle with simple hip or gabled roof. They’re getting more complex roofs now. They used to be situated with the gable end toward the SW to capture breeze and solar energy, but by now many town councils have regulated they should face street. Hedgerows have been removed to allow roads to be widened. This has changed the composition of Irish towns greatly. They don’t reflect nature or the social fabric the same way as in the past.

The Irish fascination with the TV show “Dallas” lead to over abundance if houses mimicking that style, especially in the north.


New-fangled bungalow in Tralee, used as a B&B. Downloaded from property listing website.

We discussed WalMart’s development strategy and how this plays out with IKEA around the globe and with Carrefour and the like in France. In France, the big box stores on outskirts have strangled small businesses, much like in the USA.  (IKEA has been getting big press for plans to go green lately, but they really must address the longevity and up-cycling of their products. Their solar lights are very poor quality and they break with little use.)

Irish traditional music was almost dead in the 1960s. A Guggenheim sister came and did recordings (i.e., qualitative research).  She brought a group to NYC (she had a close relationship with one of the group). The group was set to play for two minutes on a TV show, but due to a cancellation they ended up with 20 minutes to play. They resorted to playing tunes their mom had taught them. This show brought out American enthusiasm; it was wildly popular in the US. This sparked a revival of traditional music on Ireland. (Interestingly, Fulbright Ireland has a big role in preserving Irish language today.)

Image by John Moore / Getty Images / AAP, from the article Totally green: IKEA pledges to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2020.

Regarding names: it was popular in the north to use the mother’s last name (surname or family name) as the child’s first name. That’s how names like Kelly and Shannon would have started bring used as first names.

Jimmy Stewart biography.

In our discussion, I posited that architectural pedagogy is becoming more relevant to society while the architecture profession is becoming less and less relevant (the irony is that education has a big role to play in instilling the types of values that are causing this demise, as well as instilling a sense of curiosity and engagement that makes architecture grads so valuable to other fields).


Mairtin told me that Jimmy Stewart studied architecture at Princeton. He then bagged it, and went into acting. He played in a film set in the Shenandoah Valley, that Máirtin watched last weekend.
…Máirtin has offered to show Esther Serchi and me some important sights on the outskirts of Dublin, while she’s visiting in a week.

Jettisoned into Architecture

View eastward on the Liffey, looking toward the Ha’penny Bridge. Taken walking to my 10 am meeting….

Everything started peacefully enough.  I arrived to my research meeting with a few minutes to spare and stopped in to see the church ruins located beside my office in the electrical engineering department.  Up until now, I’ve been working almost exclusively with engineers here at the DIT.  During this morning’s meeting with an engineer and a physicist, Sima called and asked me to lunch….

And then, quite suddenly, everything sprang forward into warped speed. The day melted into a slew of events and activity — lunch with Sima at the Hungarian place, rapid discussion of construction and philosophy with newfound colleagues, a new place to work (a second office, located in the architecture building).  I got slurped into the excitement of it all.
I wound up, midday, at the opening meeting of the whole School of Architecture at the Dublin Institute of Technology.  I was formally introduced at the very first all-school meeting they have ever held!  I asked them to wave “hi” to you, which caught them completely off guard.

This School is part of the College of Engineering and the Built Environment. It offers degrees in architecture, architecture technology, and construction.  It has, in Architecture alone, 457 students.  That’s huge.  And there are another 200+ architecture students at the nearby University College Dublin.

View towards Four Courts (the round dome to the right), which is Ireland’s version of the US Supreme Court.

This School just got its own newly renovated building (mostly complete), called Linenhall. They are using all of this as an opportunity to redefine themselves.

My office in the electrical engineering department is just north of the church. The building is referred to as “Church Street” and now I know why! The desk man at Ireland’s Higher Education Administration (HEA) office, where the Fulbright staff work, told me to look for the church in the park….

As such, they are discussing issues of social relevance, identity of the building professions, and the purpose of education. So, I ended up attending a lecture tonight that was part of their “Schools of Thought” lecture series on “critical practices.”
The speaker, from the arts program at DIT, shared a global perspective on trends in education and knowledge-making world-wide. It’s so interesting to look at the events of the world from a perspective where Ireland is at the center, and we’re looking over at the US, observing what is going on there, and comparing that to other places in the world.  I’m so used to looking “out” at the world from a point of view centered in the USA.  It was fascinating and I’ll definitely be back for next week’s lecture.
I came home, finally spun up the juicer, and reflected on the day’s events.
It feels great to be alive!  And, my mom arrives in the morning!

The DIT School of Architecture says “Hi!”