Discovering Uzes, France

I’d never been to Uzes, France even though some of my Hampton University architecture students had.  Uzes is home of the famous urbanist, Leon Krier, though we didn’t get to meet him there this year.  We often use his book, The Architecture of Community, in my Urban Theory class.

Visiting Uzes made for a wonderful day of learning and exploring.  I even wrapped with two decent sketches of my own.

Pondering St. Stephen’s Green

Here’s a quick glimpse into St. Stephen’s Green.  The squares and greens in Dublin are separated from the street by dense vegetation and high wrought iron fences.  That technique doesn’t work it the States, where such separations tend to yield dangerous spaces.  But here they seem safe enough (at least for me to occasionally pass through by myself at mid-day).

Due to the separation, the squares and greens are peaceful, quiet, and serene.  They offer respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Like New York’s Central Park, St. Stephen’s walled off Green was designed to be seen, not heard.  The views were designed to be “scenic” in the tradition of English landscape design (i.e., they were carefully composed for the visitor’s viewing pleasure).  St. Stephen’s Green is not a park for playing football/soccer or dodge ball.  Frederick Law Olmsted would probably not be pleased with all the sport that’s been carved into Central Park (it runs counter to his original intentions for serenity, visual perfection, and individual contemplation).

St. Stephen’s Green is often quite still.  And far fewer people go in than if the edges were transparent, “perforated,” or “porous.”

The Green is fine (and at times quite delightful) but I do quite prefer bustling, noisy, stone-paved plazas myself.  Dubliners, too, want urban spaces like that and many hope for the addition of new piazze (Italianate plazas) in the center of town.  They have only three to my recollection: Meeting House Square, Temple Bar Square, and Smithfield Plaza. The first two are quite small and the third is very large. It is, I’ve been told, the largest cobbled plaza in all of Europe.  (Or perhaps, just the longest?)

What Dublin lacks in piazze though, it makes up for in bustling pedestrian-only shopping streets. Dublin clearly has the corner on the market with regard to streets, with some of the finest pedestrian shopping streets to be found in the world (Grafton Street and Henry Street, for instance).

Dramatic Smithfield

Mix-use complex built during the economic boom known as the Celtic Tiger.

An impressive canyon-like space within a mix-use complex that was built during the economic boom (known as the Celtic Tiger).

Smithfield is home to some dramatic public spaces.  Most notably, there’s Europe’s largest cobblestone-paved plaza. Bordering this are circular spaces that make Swiss cheese of the Jameson Distillery (where the courtyards are even painted yellow) and the dramatic canyon opposite the plaza from it (see photo).

A lot of development happened in Smithfield during the economic boom known as the Celtic Tiger.  Today the apartments of Smithfield appear t be filled with residents — but many of the cultural, retail, and office spaces of Smithfield are vacant or under used.

Nevertheless, there are enough restaurants, attractions, businesses, and services here to keep the place feeling alive enough.

I haven’t yet been to many of the highlights (such as the Lighthouse Cinema, the Smithfield Art Tunnel, the Generator Hostel, or the Maldron Hotel). But I have enjoyed my time at a number of the eateries as well as the Jameson Distillery, the Cobblestone, the Elbowroom (which is one of Smithfield’s many guys), and the Fresh Market.

Smithfield really doesn’t deserve the bad wrap it gets.  But as long as people have the perception that there might be something scary here, the rents will stay reasonable. And that part is fine by me!

The old smokestack of the Jameson Distillery.

The old smokestack of the Jameson Distillery.