Architecture, Infrastructure and the Making of Modern Ireland

‘A free Ireland would drain the bogs, would harness the rivers, would plant the wastes, would nationalise the railways and the waterways, would improve agriculture, would protect fisheries, would foster industries, would promote commerce, and beautify the cities …’ (Padraig Pearse, ‘From a Hermitage’, 1913)

Somewhat unusually in his often romantic writings Padraig Pearse – poet, pedagogue and revolutionary – chose to describe the future of an independent Ireland in terms of infrastructure and technological processes. Terence Brown’s locating of this excerpt at the beginning his seminal work Ireland: A Social and Cultural History 1922-2002 highlights the simultaneous and interlinking construction of both a new physical and cultural landscape for an independent modern nation. Lacking any significant industrial complex, the construction of new infrastructures in Ireland was seen throughout the 20th century as a key element in the building of the new State, just as the adoption of an international style modernism in architecture was perceived as a way to escape the colonial past. For Paul N. Edwards modernity and infrastructure are intimately connected.

‘infrastructures simultaneously shape and are shaped – in other words, co-construct – the condition of modernity. By linking macro, meso, and micro scales of time, space and social organisation, they form the stable foundation of modern social worlds’ (2003: 186).

Simultaneously omnipresent and invisible – infra means beneath – Edwards also points out that infrastructure tends only to become apparent when it is either new or broken. Interpreting the meso scale as being that of the building, this session calls for papers that critically and analytically investigate aspects of the architectures of infrastructure in 20th-century Ireland. Like the territory they explore these papers may range across scales to oscillate between a concern for the artefact and its physical landscape, and the larger, often hidden systems and networks that co-define this architecture.

Session Chairs: Gary A. Boyd; g.boyd[at]qub.ac.uk and John McLaughlin; john[at]johnmclaughlin.ie, Joint-curators Irish Pavilion, International Biennale of Architecture, Venice 2014.

Call for Papers