Dublin's lesser spotted architectural gems
THERE’S NOTHING truly hidden within Dublin’s public realm. If it’s on the street, it’s there to be seen, as long as we give ourselves the chance to look. Busy city streets contain a huge amount of visual information. We filter out details so that we’re not too distracted to get where we’re going.
When something interrupts the filtering, new things pop up on even the most familiar streets. Maybe it’s roadworks pushing you out further than usual so you can see the rooftops. Maybe it’s sunlight acting like a grand laser pointer. Maybe you’re a passenger, freed from the responsibility of paying attention to the road. Maybe it’s a tourist staring up at something for long enough that you follow their gaze.
Even in the parts of Dublin where there’s a certain amount of repetition, things rarely start out identical and never stay that way. Georgian terraces might seem uniform until you’re staring at a photograph trying to pick out a particular house and suddenly you see the differences in the fanlight design, the window heights, the brick colour and mortar style, or even that one house is taller than its neighbour.
Houses or flats built to a pattern gradually take on identities, as parts get replaced or patched up, or decorative finishes are added. At the very least, the doors might be painted a different colour.. These points of difference, whether they’re whole buildings or small details, give the city its texture and richness. There’s pleasure in seeing a beautiful thing (or even a beautifully ugly thing), pleasure in reading the city’s stories even without knowing the specifics of when or why each layer was added.
The detail isn’t just about enjoyment: it helps our sense of orientation, giving us dozens of ways of knowing where we are and feeling like we belong to a place.
Each of us will pick out different things – not noticing the old handball alley because there’s a really nice shopfront right beside it or missing the shopfront completely because there’s a weird chimney sticking out above it – and they add up to create our own internal maps of the city. Our personal maps are more memorable than names and signs and are infinitely more enjoyable.
1 RICHMOND SURGICAL HOSPITAL, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7
On the edge of institution-dense Grangegorman, the Richmond Surgical Hospital was constructed in the 1890s to replace a former convent that had been in use since 1807 with a patchwork of modifications.
The Richmond was designed by the partnership of James Rawson Carroll and Frederick Batchelor, and it appears to have opened formally in 1901. In recent years, it was in use by the Courts Service, with the wards converted to courts by the Office of Public Works, but this is no longer the case.
The hospital plan was a wide “U”, with the wards in the side wings – each bed had a window above it, which you can see along the sides of the blocks. An Irish Times’ report on the opening in April 1901 lists many of the hospital’s modern features, and says it was “practically fireproof”, with “modern ventilation throughout and warmed filtered air for the theatres”, and that “the whole building is raised from the ground upon high arches”.