Rathfarnham Castle and Other Delights

Dublin is full of architectural gems and Máirtín D’Alton of Gerry Cahill Architects seems to know something about every one of them!  He and his delightful six-year-old son, Thomas, gave Esther and me a tour of several places last Sunday.  I’ve included photos of our attempted walk along Dublin’s historic South Wall and our subsequent visits to Rathfarnham Castle and the Irish National War Memorial Gardens.

Máirtín provided extensive, astute commentary.  I wish you could have been here to hear all the details!

Incidentally, Thomas’ mom was at school this day, studying leadership and administration.  Go mom!!!!!

Esther and I have each earned degrees in this area over the past six years.  We’ve actually become more and more alike in the past decade.  Until this past week, however, Esther and I had no idea the other was studying leadership and educational administration!

South Wall and lighthouse from the air, one of the world’s longest sea walls.  (Image downloaded from groundspeak.com)

We were headed out to see the lighthouse when some nasty weather rolled in.

Máirtín and Thomas astutely determined it was best to turn back rather than hike out the the lighthouse in the rain.

We found a cosy place at Rathfarnham Castle where we could wait out the rain. This picture shows typical Irish weather: sunny with rain.

I really had fun with Thomas. He’s a delightfully precious six-year old!

What a cutie!

The toy and costume exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle was fascinating.

What women will do for “glamor!”

Hat? Or, umbrella?

We ended the day at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens.

Irish National War Memorial Gardens is dedicated, one inscription says, “to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914–1918.”  With a farewell wave from Thomas!

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.