Do you remember when it was all fields around here?
How we take change in our surroundings for granted.
It’s amazing how quickly you forget how much has changed around you. There was a good piece in The New Yorker last week on foot of the Apple tax news which has come back to my mind a few times since the first reading. Adam Davidson talks about the effect which the arrival of the likes of Apple, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and a range of pharma companies on these shores have had on the Irish economy. As we know very well, those multinationals didn’t just come here for the good of their health or for our sausages, but their effect on the transformation of this country’s economy cannot be understated.
For the purposes of his Apple-focused musings, Davidson naturally enough takes the start of Ireland’s change from “a barely developed agrarian country, hemorrhaging ambitious citizens to London, Paris, and New York” to be the computer company’s arrival in Cork’s Holyhill Industrial Estate in 1980. That’s 36 years ago, basically a generation and a half ago, and the changes which have occured in that time here (and elsewhere) are quite colossal. You wouldn’t recognise the place back then because it really did seem to be all in black and white.
But you don’t have to even go back 35 years so realise the kind of changes which occur and which we take for granted. Due to the kind of building work which put years on you, OTR has spent the last few months out of the gaff in Dublin 3 exploring the attractions of other areas of the city, including a month around Grand Canal Square.
When I lived up the road in Irishtown in the early part of the last decade, it wasn’t quite all fields around here, but you certainly didn’t have the expanse of modern offices, apartments, restaurants and the like which are now in situ. Back then, it was the beginning of a work in progress to transform an area which was black with post-industrial leftovers and contamination. That’s just 15 years ago, yet the thousands who walk around the area every day going to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre or the Facebook and Google offices or the shops probably regard this built environment as if it’s been there forever.
The re-up of our surroundings quickly becomes the new norm and we forget what was there beforehand. Our memories are surprisingly easy to recalibrate and it’s often hard to process and render what was in situ before the latest new thing arrived. Music venues are a good case in point. The history of Dublin music is littered with the names of once vibrant and essential spaces which are now no more. You might have a rough idea which neighbourhood or block once housed the TV Club, the Top Hat, McGonagles, The Funnel, the SFX Centre, the Olympic or the Underground, but memories get hazy over time and you forget where they were. In some cases, there have been several changes of use since that venue was once in its pomp so the memories fade away like a document which has been photocopied too often. You just have to hope that someone else is keeping track of all of this.
The latest iteration of this is the news that the former POD complex has just changed hands for €6 million. The space which was once home to a nightclub, venues and bars, may well, if plans are to be believed, become “a ‘Covent Garden’-style cultural and commercial ‘Opera Quarter’.” Some day we must compile a list of all the “‘Covent Garden’-style” developments mooted and dreamed up for the city. Given the money involved, however, you can take it as read that the old Harcourt Street railway station is about to have a new lease of life within the next couple of years. You can also assume that whatever takes over the space will quickly relegate what was there before in our minds.