The Blog

Ffrench Mullen House

Demolition of ffrench-Mullen House

DoCoMoMo Ireland regrets the demolition, currently underway, of Michael Scott’s ffrench-Mullen House, built in 1941. DoCoMoMo had long advocated the protection of this pioneering modernist social housing block.

Twelve years ago, in November 2001, the former Irish DoCoMoMo Working Party was invited by the then Dublin Corporation’s Housing & Community Services Dept to inspect the Saint Ultan’s flats complex on Charlemont Street in the company of Dublin Corporation’s Conservation Officer. DoCoMoMo recommended that of all the buildings on the site, ffrench-Mullen House should be prioritized for retention and renovation. On 26th November 2001, Dublin Corporation confirmed in writing that “this report is very much appreciated.”

In March 2010, as part of the process surrounding the Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011-17, DoCoMoMo Ireland made a submission, among several others, to Dublin City Council urging that ffrench-Mullen House be included on the Record of Protected Structures in the new Development Plan.

The City Manager decided that submissions of this nature “merit detailed analysis and assessment and will be considered as part of a separate process. The strict statutory timeframe does not afford the opportunity to undertake the same in-depth analysis as part of the review of the submissions. These submissions will be evaluated under Section 54 and 55 of the Planning and Development Acts 2002 to 2006. Accordingly, these submissions are not being considered as representations on the Draft Plan and will be added to the requests for additions or deletions to the Record of Protected Structures.” (Manager’s Report, Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017, Volume 2, Part 3: Summary of Submissions and Manager’s Response and Recommendations, p4)

In October 2010, Alcove Properties, a development vehicle of McGarrell Reilly Group, was authorised by Dublin City Council’s Housing & Residential Services to apply for planning permission for a mixed-use regeneration project, including 260 residential units, on the site (DCC ref: 3742/20; Bord Pleanála ref: 238212). The application was successful, although An Bord Pleanála (at the request of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government) made it a condition of permission in May 2011 that a full measured and photographic survey of ffrench-Mullen House should be made and deposited in the Irish Architectural Archive. This ‘preservation by record’ took place in August-September 2013 and the report by Downes Associates, consulting civil and structural engineers, was deposited with the IAA.

For an extended overview of this building, see Ellen Rowley’s more
recent survey of ffrench-Mullen House for Dublin City Council Heritage
Office/Heritage Council, TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE OF DUBLIN, 2012. See also Ellen Rowley, Housing Dublin 1940-1980: an architectural account (forthcoming 2014, Four Courts Press). DoCoMoMo’s 2010 RPS submission was researched and drafted by Ellen Rowley.

Extracts from DoCoMoMo Ireland’s RPS Submission, March 2010

The Planning and Development Act, 2000 requires a protected structure to be of special interest under one or more of eight categories, including architectural interest. Paragraph 2.5.7 of the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities lists five qualities that permit the attribution of special architectural interest characteristics to a structure or part of a structure:

1. A generally agreed exemplar of good quality architectural design

ffrench-Mullen House was the first example of modernist slab block design for a working class (as this type was categorized) housing block in the urban context of Dublin, 1941. In terms of Scott’s early career, it represented his biggest public building commission and first public housing design, following the establishment of his own firm in 1938 (after breaking with Norman Good, with whom he had an architectural partnership, 1931-38).

ffrench-Mullen House is a free-standing reinforced concrete building which sits on the east side of Charlemont Street, forming the street line. It is a four-storey block surmounted by a flat roof, accentuated by an overhanging eaves cornice. The block comprises thirteen flats and, externally, it is a building of two halves in that the front (street) and rear elevations are markedly different.

The street façade is seven bays wide and was originally clad in precast concrete tiles which today are covered in layers of paint. This façade is punctuated by two entrances bearing concrete canopies on steel uprights, above which runs a strip of vertical glazing. The rear elevation is eight bays wide, rendered in painted cement plaster, and sports refuse chute piers and nine balconies.

The block was commissioned by Charlemont Street Public Utility Society (PUS) as part of a bigger scheme designed by Scott to re-house local tenement dwellers in the event of the construction of St Ultan’s Hospital and consequent demolition of tenement houses. This block constituted the second phase of the scheme: the earlier St Ultan’s ranges (1933) were demolished c. 2001 and the proposed later part of the scheme, which would have stretched from Charlemont to Richmond Streets, was not undertaken due to the outbreak of WWII. The PUS turned to Scott in search of a modern housing scheme because the young architect had designed a wing for the new St Ultan’s hospital on Charlemont Street in 1929. Contemporary with the Charlemont Street housing commission, Scott was engaged in designing the famed Irish Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair (1939), as well as a series of Ritz Cinema commissions in Carlow (1937), Athlone (1939) and Clonmel (1940). In all of these buildings and the ffrench-Mullen block, Michael Scott adopted key modernist tropes such as flat roofs, thin concrete canopies over buildings’ entrances and the combination of markedly horizontal fenestration with occasional strips of vertical glazing. The external treatment of each building is painted cement render which, in keeping with early modernist International Style architecture, gave the effect of white stuccoed buildings. At ffrench-Mullen House, Scott applied the rendered effect to the building’s rear elevation while unusually he clad the front street façade in brick-red precast vibrated concrete tiles. This lent the block a heavily textured presence and led to a deeply idiosyncratic building for 1940s Dublin.

Although of reinforced concrete technology, the block stops short in terms of modernist spatial experimentation. At ffrench-Mullen House, unlike the European exploration around the modernist dwelling or block of dwelling units, there are no purpose-designed public spaces.

2. The work of a known and distinguished architect, engineer, designer or craftsman

Michael Scott (1906-1989) is widely considered to be the father of architectural modernism in Ireland. In 1953-55 he won the RIAI Gold Medal for Busáras. He later established Scott Tallon Walker Architects. Internationally, he was the best-known Irish architect of the twentieth century and in 1972 he was elected an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He received honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Art, London in 1969, from Trinity College Dublin in 1971 and from Queens University Belfast in 1977. His greatest architectural accolade came in 1975 when he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects the only Irish architect ever so honoured.

There is little written or recorded about Scott’s work for the Charlemont Street PUS. It was not known that he was in fact the architect of the earlier St. Ultan’s scheme (1933) at the time of its demolition. While there is academic recognition of the importance of Michael Scott in Irish architectural history, this is not mirrored in the extant examples of his buildings. As such, the physical record of Scott’s oeuvre is by now (in 2010) scant and many of his projects have been demolished or redeveloped beyond recognition. ffrench-Mullen House is the last surviving example of his public housing projects in Dublin.

3. An exemplar of a building type, plan-form, style or styles of any period but also the harmonious interrelationship of differing styles within one structure

ffrench-Mullen House is unique in terms of Dublin’s social housing blocks. It was the first time that the modernist slab design was used for multi-unit and multi-storey working class housing in Dublin. As Scott brought this slab type for urban flat blocks to Dublin in 1941, Dublin Corporation (namely Herbert Simms as Housing Architect therein until 1948) was taking aspects of this form and applying it to those schemes finished after the war at Fatima Mansions (1946-50), Donore Avenue (1946-1951) and Ringsend (1950). All of these complexes were formed out of the basic unit of the slab block rather than the perimeter range, but in keeping with Corporation housing tendencies, each block continued to be accessed via decks or balconies rather than internalized tenement stairwells which Scott employed at ffrench-Mullen.

4. A structure which makes a positive contribution to its setting, such as a streetscape or a group of structures in an urban area, or the landscape in a rural area

By relating to the street line as a single block rather than forming two or more perimeter ranges which then enclosed an internal courtyard, ffrench-Mullen House presented an alternative to the contemporary Dublin Corporation urban block design (by Simms from the 1930s and early 1940s). Importantly, Scott positioned the block’s two entrances on the street and so ensured a livelier, more public and more direct, relationship between street and block inhabitant.

ffrench-Mullen House also broke away from its social housing contemporaries through its adoption of materials other than brick with render detailing (namely the pre-cast vibrated concrete titles on the street front and cement render on the rear elevation) for its external treatment. Clearly and unlike its Dublin contemporaries, ffrench-Mullen House was an early exercise in International Style housing. In overall disposition, it signals Scott’s attempt to provide Dublin, during the Emergency years, with a modernist rectilinear and flat roofed structure embellished with moments of vertical strip glazing. In scale it is not overbearing but relates well to the street width and is at once autonomous yet intimate with the street line and streetscape. Its uniqueness adds immeasurably to the architectural palimpsest that is Dublin’s city centre.

5. A structure with an interior that is well designed, rich in decoration, complex or spatially pleasing

There are four one-bedroom flats at ground level; two two-bedroom flats and one three-bedroom flat per floor from first to third levels. The flats are well-lit, ventilated and other than the insertion of bathrooms, their internal layouts are original. They are systematically organized around a central spine corridor from which the living, bedroom and kitchen spaces are served. As such, the interior space of each of the flats is compartmentalized and this may be perceived as a weakness of the scheme, in that there is no possibility for modernist open-plan living which the external aesthetic might suggest.

Conclusion of DoCoMoMo Ireland’s 2010 RPS Submission

ffrench-Mullen House is in good condition and retains many of its original features such as each flat disposition and layout within the block, the two stairwells, original fenestration patterns, and tile cladding. Though there are layers of paint over the tile cladding, the tiles appear to be intact beneath and the paint could be removed. The block continues to be inhabited as social housing, managed by Dublin City Council.

ffrench-Mullen House has made a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Dublin and as the only extant example of Michael Scott’s social housing in the city, the block is, in DoCoMoMo’s view, a heritage structure of regional importance.

New Year Events, IMMA The Price of Desire

Join us on the 25th of January for at 1:45 for a unique tour and exploration of Eileen Gray’s work and life on the last week of the IMMA exhibition.
Mary McGuckian will preview and discuss her new film ” The Price of Desire”. This will be followed by a guided tour of the exhibition by Jennifer Goff ( National Museum, with responsibility for Furniture, Musical & Scientific Instruments and the Eileen Gray Collection).

This is the last week of the Eileen Gray Exhibition. Join us for this unique experience of a fantastic exhibition.

The event is free for members, or 10 euro for non-members including entry to the exhibition (normally 5 euro). Places are available on a first come first served basis.

Meet 1:45pm in the entrance foyer of IMMA Saturday 25th of January.

2:00pm Shane O’Toole in conversation with Mary McGuckian, starting with a clip of her film ‘The Price of Desire’ and followed by Q&A. 2:45pm Tour of Eileen Gray exhibition by Jennifer Goff. 1 CPD point available .

Award-winning Northern Irish director Mary McGuckian’s latest film, The Price of Desire, is set substantially in and around Eileen Gray’s most abiding work, the villa E.1027 at Roquebrune Cap Martin, now recognized by many as the first fully fledged modernist house ever constructed. The drama explores the controversial events and details surrounding Le Corbusier’s effacement, defacement and eventual erasure of Gray’s authorship and ownership of the one of the most important houses of the 20th century. Irish actress Orla Brady plays the lead role of Eileen Gray opposite Swiss actor Vincent Perez as her nemesis, Le Corbusier. Canadian actress and singer Alanis Morissette and the emerging Italian actor Francesco Scianna play her lovers, the famous French singer, Marisa Damia, and architectural critic, Jean Badovici, respectively.

Texaco Building Protected

Plan to demolish ‘significant’ 1970s office block in Ballsbridge is rejected: Irish Times Frank McDonald

An Bord Pleanála has refused permission for the demolition of an early 1970s office block in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin after concluding that the existing building was of “particular architectural, technical and vernacular significance”.
West Register (Republic of Ireland) Property Ltd had sought permission to demolish the former Texaco Ireland headquarters on Pembroke Road – currently an Audi car showroom – and replace it with a five-storey office block by Shay Cleary Architects.
However, Dublin City Council’s decision to approve the scheme was appealed by An Taisce and the Pembroke Road Association, supported by Docomomo Ireland, which is dedicated to documenting and conserving buildings associated with the Modern Movement.

Courtesy Irish Times Frank McDonald

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/plan-to-demolish-significant-1970s-office-block-in-ballsbridge-is-rejected-1.1521487

Materials Analysis in 20th Century Buildings May 15th

A JOINT PRESENTATION by DoCoMoMo and ICOMOS Ireland

Materials Analysis in 20th Century Buildings
An Introduction and case study on
PARK HILL, Sheffield.

by
Peter Cox, Vice President of ICOMOS Ireland.

7:00 PM Thomas Davis Theatre TCD dublin Wednesday May 15th

Raymond Neutra VDL

“ As an architect, my life has been governed by the goal of
building environmental harmony, functional efficiency, and
human enhancement into the experience of everyday living.
These things go together, constituting the cause of architecture,
and a life devoted to their realization cannot be an easy one.”
— Richard Neutra, Architect

Docomomo is delighted to present Raymond Neutra to discuss the restoration and of VDL STUDIO/RESIDENCES IN SILVER LAKE at BOLTON STREET ROOM 259 May 2nd

VDL STUDIO/RESIDENCES IN SILVER LAKE

Central Bank Competition Exhibition and Launch

DOCOMOMO Ireland wishes to invite you to the opening of the Central Bank in the 21st Century competition awards and exhibition at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 on Thursday 4th April 2013 at 6.30pm

The competition – an open design competition to develop ideas for what the building might become – attracted more than 60 entries and presents many thought-provoking ideas for what this building may become after it is vacated by its current occupants.

The exhibition of all entries will be officially opened on Thursday 4th April at 6.30pm by Dublin City Architect, Ali Grehan. The exhibition will run at the Irish Architectural Archive until Friday 26th April (Tues-Fri 10am-5pm). Ali Grehan will announce the winners and present the prizes.

What is the purpose of the competition?
The Headquarters of the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame Street in Dublin, (Stephenson & Gibney Associates, 1979) will soon be vacated by its current occupants. The question is: what will become of this iconic building?

In recent years, the Central Bank HQ has become emblematic of the struggle between democratic and corporate interests. During its 32-year history it has evoked many passions – ranging from revulsion to admiration – but it is ultimately a symbol of modern Ireland, constructed with an air of defiance during a cruel recession. In our current straitened circumstances the DOCOMOMO competition sought to encourage once more a certain disregard for convention, a quest for adventure and an exploration of possibilities.

The purpose of the competition is to create a body of ideas about how the Central Bank building might approach its next phase of life. The principal aim is to re-imagine the building and its immediate surrounding environment in an innovative and exciting way. The building is in four distinct parts and ideas are invited for all: the tower building, the rebuilt Commercial Buildings, the two storey basement carpark with plaza above and the three story annex.

Who entered the competition?
The competition was open to all individuals and groups with an interest in presenting creative ideas for the future use of this landmark building. It is a conceptual architectural competition.
What are the prizes?
There is a prize fund of €1500. The winner in the main category will receive €1000, the winner of the student entry will receive €300 and the winner of the prize for best presentation will receive €200. The prize for best presentation is sponsored by Inspirational Arts.

All entries will be exhibited at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, from Thursday 4th April to Friday 26th April (Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm). Selected entries will feature on the DOCOMOMO Ireland website www.docomomo.ie.

Who were the competition judges?
The competition assessors were drawn from strategic planning, architecture, culture, architectural history and current affairs backgrounds and are:

Ali Grehan who devised and coordinated PIVOT; Dublin’s bid for World Design Capital 2014, was appointed Dublin City Architect in January 2008. Her career has spanned private practice in Dublin and London, as well as the Public Service. She was recently elected to the Council of the RIAI where she continues to advocate for the value of better design by way of interdisciplinary collaboration.

David Healy is a founding member of Respublica, a collaborative group of designers and architects. In the summer of 2012, Respublica exhibited a large scale model of Central Bank in various locations across Dublin to spark a debate about the building and encourage speculations on its future. David is currently working in practice and teaching in UCD School of Architecture.

Kathleen James-Chakraborty is Professor of Art History at University College Dublin and Chair of the Irish Architecture Foundation.  She is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy. James-Chakraborty is an architectural historian whose research focuses upon modern German and American architecture.  Her most recent book Architecture since 1400: A Global Survey is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press. 

Paul Larmour is an architectural historian and Reader in Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast. Among his many books and articles is ‘Free State Architecture: Modern Movement Architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949’ (Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 2009). At various times he has been a member of DOCOMOMO UK and DOCOMOMO INTERNATIONAL. 

Joe Mulholland is Director of the MacGill Summer School. He has held several senior positions in RTE including Editor of Current Affairs, Director of News and Managing Director of Television. He was Chairman of the News Section of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) 1993-7 and Chairman of Radio Television Kosovo (RTK) 2001-2. He was Chairman of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) 2006-2012. He was named Donegal Person of the Year in 2009.

What is DOCOMOMO?
DOCOMOMO Ireland is the Irish chapter of the international organisation DOCOMOMO. DOCOMOMO Ireland succeeds and replaces the Irish DOCOMOMO Working Party, established in 1991. DOCOMOMO is an international organization, founded at Eindhoven in The Netherlands in 1990, committed to the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement.

St.Columba’s Tour Rescheduled to the 9th of March

St. Columbas’s Tour has been rescheduled to the 9th of March at 1:30 booking at the events page.

Central Bank Competition

We’re getting close to the end of registration, thanks to www.e-Architect.co.uk for posting our link on their website:

http://www.e-architect.co.uk/dublin/docomomo_central_bank_competition.htm

If you have registered and you have NOT received an link to the competition files with 48 hours, or a reply to your contact, please , please check your spam settings ( it seems that if you are using a hotmail account this is more of a problem).

Thanks All.

AGM: Monday 28th January at 6:30 pm

The Docomomo AGM will be held on Monday 28th January at 6:30 pm sharp at the ECO-UNESCO ‘the greenhouse’17 St., Andrew St.,Dublin 2.
The AGM will be 1 hour .

AGENDA

1. Presidents’ Address
2. Treseaurers’ Address ( Presentation of Accounts)
3. Secretaries’ Address
4. Appointment of Officer’s
5. All other business

If you wish to be part of the Docomomo Committee please make contact via our website. We meet once a month, except for the summer, the workload is very light and the spirit of the committee is collaborative.

Central Bank in the 21st Century

CENTRAL BANK

DoCoMoMo Ireland presents Central Bank in the 21st Century: an open design competition to develop ideas for what the building might become.
The architectural ideas competition seeks to generate discussion among designers and decision-makers about the future of the Central Bank building. The competition is open to all and offers a prize fund of €1500. The competition opens on 1st December 2012 – registration is via www.docomomo.ie. Submission of entries is 1st March 2013. The assessors are drawn from strategic planning, architecture, culture, architectural history and current affairs backgrounds.

What will become of the Central Bank?
The Headquarters of the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame Street in Dublin, (Stephenson & Gibney Associates, 1980) may soon be vacated by its current occupants. The question is: what will become of this iconic building?
In recent years, the Central Bank HQ has become emblematic of the struggle between democratic and corporate interests. During its 32-year history it has evoked many passions – ranging from revulsion to admiration – but it is ultimately a symbol of modern Ireland, constructed with an air of defiance during a cruel recession. In our current straitened circumstances this competition seeks to encourage once more a certain disregard for convention, a quest for adventure and an exploration of possibilities.

REGISTRATION CLOSED

WE AIM TO SEND THE COMPETITION PACK WITHIN 48 HOURS OF RECEIPT OF ENTRY. PLEASE CHECK YOUR SPAM MAIL IN CASE IT GOES THERE.