Discover the Incredible Architectural History of Ireland
When most people think about what an architect does, they automatically think about designing modern buildings. While many architects do design modern structures, some architect jobs in Ireland are tasked with fitting new designs with traditional architecture. It’s important that Ireland maintain its traditional style while also moving into the future with modern features.
As such, it’s important to know the architectural history of Ireland to honor and preserve the past while moving forward at the same time.
Ireland’s Vernacular Architecture
Single-story vernacular structures were the primary style of architecture in Ireland, where these low buildings were tightly packed into villages and small towns. House-building traditions that resulted in the vernacular structures were passed down through thousands of years and heavily influenced residential buildings in most areas of the country.
Irish vernacular structures are typically constructed from local materials such as timbers salvaged from the ocean and shoreline and thatch made from wheat reed or straw (and sometimes, rye, barley, heather, or oat straw, depending on availability). The structures were usually rectangular in shape and as small as feasibly possible due to the scarcity of available timber.
Most of the original vernacular architecture is gone because it was built for immediate necessity rather than longevity. However, Irish villages have replaced the original structures with similar, stronger buildings that resemble the Irish vernacular architecture style to maintain a semblance of their past identities.
It is important for architects working in these villages to keep this traditional and conservative approach in mind.
Other Architectural Styles in Ireland
When you get out of the villages of Ireland and into the bigger cities, you’ll notice a fairly drastic change in architectural style. One of the most defining architectural styles in the country’s existence is the Georgian style, which isn’t exactly a single type of design. Instead, Georgian architecture is the name for any building constructed during the rule of several King Georges between 1714 and 1830.
Dublin, for example, is considered heavily Georgian in nature, but it actually has components of Neoclassical, Regency, and Palladian architectural designs. The southern part of the city, in particular, is considered “Georgian Dublin,” with Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, and Saint Stephen’s Green the prime examples of this style.
The structures built in the Georgian areas of Dublin are typically constructed of brick or stone and are rigidly symmetrical. Every feature, including windows and doors, is spaced perfectly apart and includes arched tops, ogee caps, and other minor embellishments. Internal shutters, sash windows, and either sloped or flat roofs are the main characteristics of residential homes in the Georgian style.
Palladianism, which is a riff on the Georgian architectural style popularized by the architect Andrea Palladio, is characterized by many of the same features as traditional Georgian architecture, including being constructed of brick or stone. However, Palladian designs were grander and more stately and, as such, were used primarily for government buildings and other important structures.
Many contemporary architects are still influenced by Palladio’s ideas on proportion and symmetry but without the use of classical architectural elements. This approach would be particularly appropriate for architects working in Irish cities that want to maintain the old-world appearance of their buildings while still moving into the modern world.
Victorian Architecture in Ireland
The Victorian period in Ireland arrived in force by 1830 and lasted until about 1901. It was a striking departure from the flat or slightly sloped roofs that marked the Georgian and Palladian styles, and the single-story structures of the Vernacular period were long gone. Instead, Victorian ornateness and steeply pitched roofs became the norm in Ireland, especially in the larger cities.
Symmetry was still a major feature of Victorian architecture and prominent in churches built during this time. You’ll see two identical spires in the front of Victorian churches, along with turrets, towers, dormers, and stained glass. Findlater’s Church on Parnell Square is an excellent example of a Victorian church in Dublin.
Other examples of Victorian architecture in Ireland include
- The Royal City of Dublin Hospital
- The National Museum of Ireland
- The Central Markets in Cork
- The Natural History Museum
- Olympia Theatre
- The National Library of Ireland
- The National Gallery of Ireland
During this time, architects in Ireland and other European countries began to reject the symmetry of the Palladian, Georgian, and Victorian styles. This led to the rise of the romantic medieval Gothic revival style that featured pointed arches, porches with columns, bay windows, and front-facing gables with decorative wood elements.
While this style still looked to the past for inspiration, it was more forward-thinking with its departure from symmetry and regular shapes.
The Gothic style, which was often considered inappropriate for rural settings due to its irregular and complex shapes that were difficult to incorporate into natural surroundings, can be found in most major Irish cities, including Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral and Cork’s Blarney Castle.
It’s an exciting time to be an architect in Ireland. Still, as you think about all the wonderfully modern structures you’re going to design, keep an eye on the past to ensure continuity and honor the architectural styles that came before.
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