Origins, Contexts, Publics
Edited By Edwina Keown and Carol Taaffe
Ellen Rowley Transitional Modernism: The Case of 1950s Church Architecture in Dublin 195
Ellen Rowley Transitional Modernism: The Case of 1950s Church Architecture in Dublin ‘an age of stark contradiction and contrasting styles’ — Richard Hurley1 This essay presents a study of the culture of architecture in Dublin in the post-war period, 1945–1960, through an examination of Catholic church architecture. It focuses on one seminal event, a 1954 competition for the design of a new church at Clonskeagh in south County Dublin. Often cited anecdotally by a generation of Irish architects, this competition has not yet been studied in a hermeneutic sense, in the context of the cul- ture and discourse of Dublin architecture. Firstly, this essay challenges the enduring notion that ‘nothing happened’ in Irish architecture during the post-war period. Taking church design as its text, it discusses the modern- versus-traditional dichotomy apparent in the reluctance of the Church’s patron – in this instance, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid – to embrace modernism in Dublin architecture. But interestingly, when we scratch beneath the surface (using the Clonskeagh competition as the paradigm), this ‘battle of the styles’ appears less a Manichean polarisation, than a form of a transitional modernism. What can be seen in post-war Dublin is an architecture tentatively evolving towards a modernist approach (in form and technology) – a form of modernism ultimately founded in tension. 1 Richard Hurley, Irish Architecture in the Era of Vatican II (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 2001), 30. 196 Ellen Rowley The Historiography of Post-War Church Architecture in Dublin Catholic church design in Dublin during the post-war period presented an exciting...
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