Following on from Part 1, next up are three brick based Developments:
1. New Campus in Cork Institute of Technology, Bishopstown, Cork
Verdict: Thumbs Up
This is a great brick contemporary design. References to North African and Medieval styles with Modernist roots combine to form a fabulous courtyard campus.
Depth & Modernism
Depth is created by focusing on hard angles and using simple but large shapes like cubes and cylinders (A modernism trait) with little interference from other materials that might soften the effect. The right angled solid nature of brick is highlighted by using cuts, particularly long narrow slits vertically to counteract the long horizontal form of the overall brick mass itself shown in the pics above. In its pure and simple form it is a wonderful material that needs little else to show itself off. Keeping to basics is usually the best way. Large rectangular shapes can do this, and are helped by using rectilinear cuts into the surface whether sparsely or more plentifuly as is in this case. This linear horizontal and vertical sparring is also very pronounced in Modernism. Brick is particularly great as a material to utilise in modernist architecture but oddly is under utilised as such a tool these days (This is most likely due to the cost of the material and the fact that modernism itself looked forward to new materials like steel and concrete rather than attaching itself to traditional designs that often used brick, but with current contemporary architecture drawing from many more sources it seems quite useful as a material to incorporate).
In terms of the visual aesthetic it is ideal in my eyes as a contemporary modernist material when used simply and correctly like above. Highlighting the quality of this brick is best done through focusing on its own nature and texture by exploiting light and shadow as a result of the brick predominantly, which is why this design looks superb. Everything is set on a different plane behind the brick. In terms of the facade the only interruptions in the surface are the cuts. No other material is seen at this plane. Passages and windows and doors are all behind and don’t lie in the same plane as the brick. Massing of the material is highlighted superbly, the brick feels almost monumental.
North African & Medieval references
The forms of the design also draw on old North African Palace traditions in the use of external passages and arches that run alongside the internal courtyard and also in the hidden/protected nature of the spaces behind the brick. The narrowness of the openings harp back to traditional hotter climates and architectures where protecting internal spaces from glare, sunshine and overheating were/are important and also to Medieval times where slits were used for soldiers to point and shoot out of but be able to hide behind easily. The slits along the top of the facade walls also echo this. The feeling here is of being in a North African Palace or Medieval Castle with an internal courtyard and walls around an enclosure. The tall cylindrical part echo’s many old forms such as a settlement’s internal castle.
These elements are all combined in the Campus design with a contemporary twist which I think look fantastic. Needless to say this building has won awards for its design.
Another factor in the design and selection of brick as a material was the preceding project, The Library building in between the new campus and the old campus. It was an award winning building with a fantastic contemporary and modernist twist on brick but without the North African or Medieval influences. Considering this building was completed in 1999 its certainly a building that has aged well and remains a beacon for other Modernist or Contemporary style buildings brick or otherwise.
On to the Next one, another brick development
2. Merchants Quay Shopping Centre, Cork City
Verdict: Thumbs Down
This was one of those buildings that was praised when it was built without fully considering its context.
It was praised because it was one of the first large retail regeneration projects in the city centre at that time in the tail end of the 1980′s, early 90′s and brought much needed employment back to the this area, with the previous homes along the quay having been demolished for safety and the poor state of the buildings, while an original quayside was present long before those homes were built in the first place. Unfortunately scaffolding just went up around half of the shopping centre at the time of these pictures below but you can still get a clear idea of the situation here.
Most of the homes that were built previously consisted of stone rubble and were whitewashed or painted over then, all were pre war houses. So Red brick then? On the Quayside?? Red brick was not really an Irish traditional building material outside of Dublin urban areas and its Georgian influence, the main exception being certain grand buildings in Cork City Centre or Manor houses built by or for the upper classes prior to the war era. Other examples were warehouses built along Quays for storage. Any examples of it remaining along the quays is on the North side basking in daylight and sun, like below, and small scale, rather than on the South side facing north covered in shade and allowing moisture to soak in more readily.
The River Lee runs West to East through the city with river splitting near the centre, around a former marshy island into a North and South channel and joining again before exiting towards the harbour eastbound, the city centre was built over the marsh and many streets are shaped as they were built over the many channels throughout the marsh.
Brick was used by upper middle classes as a reference to English history with its own style and industrialisation. But many of the former residential houses on the southern quay here were not brick but stone and painted/whitewashed over, making this massive brick development a bit curious. The original Merchants Quay was formerly a traders Quay most likely built from stone and rubble if memory serves correct from the old archives, but possibly brick, I am open to some correction on that. The Quay was rebuilt and widened for this development and the design references the arches theme as such from the original Quay building but the materials dont seem right for the current site and orientation, particularly in the extensive nature of the building here, and its ‘Wall‘ effect. As its mostly in the shade too I think it could have done with splitting up the brick facade a small bit to bring some more colour to the quayside. The brick itself isn’t the problem but with the dark road and quay walls it could also have done with a different texture somewhere to brighten the quay and separate the two sections of the shopping centre and avoid that feel of a long wall.
Urban Planning and interaction.
Unfortunately, but a little expectedly this development never brought life to the quayfront here, lacking in interaction with the bustle inside the shopping centre and main shopping street around the corner, never drawing people to the quay or across from other quays to this side as there was no life or interaction available except the ability to go through one entrance far down at the end and into the building. The other entrance at the top was accessed from another street….So the whole quay side has one entrance down at the end. There was and still is no real reason to walk up along the quay anymore, I mean, why not just go inside and walk under the shopping centre roof and its shelter? This did nothing to attract life to the outside. It simply doesnt do anything to liven up this part of the river which is a big problem as all it does is reinforce the idea of a ‘wall‘ along the riverside, rather than a bustling interactive and open quayside which it could and should be. This is not just true of this development but also for many other developments of the 80′s and 90′s which only looked at car travel instead of targeting urban living and pedestrianization. Its not too pleasant to look at in places either (those green windows sticking out are pretty bad, as are the multitude of high position windows that dont appear to have any function except as exterior decoration) but mainly it is a fail in the overall design and material choice and the interaction of the quayside with the populous!
In particular with the material choice of red brick there should have been a better use of the arches or depth along the length, rather than putting mock arches flush into a flat facade with fake shop fronts also (shop fronts located their entrance in the centre itself, these glass fronts were actually the backs of the stores and were not accessible from the quayside outside). Again, the overall effect is a ‘Wall‘ rather than something interactive. This Postmodern-esque reference to arches is an example of exaggerated historical references that did nothing to aid a facade, if anything, in this case, it just reminds you of what it could have been and actually detracts a little from what could have been a fine exterior.
Options such as better use of clear glass and or better use of arches to introduce depth to the facade would have been a positive move as would rearranging the layout to avoid a wall and/or linear edge all the way up the quayside. More ACTUAL openings large or small, would have introduced space and depth. Staggered levels, stories or layout may also have changed the feel of the quayside while perhaps sheltered or glassed internal balconies for the restaurant above for example would have furthered the three-dimensionality of the space and brought customers ‘onto’ the quayside. The windows presently above the ground floor are not for customers purposes and are mainly tinted which dont help to introduce space, light or life to the quayside. A more opened or flowing nature to the development would have improved this. As it is, this brick facade just walls off the area and in this instance the brick material could have been utilised better to open this quay up with real depth and character.
3. Apartment Development in Academy Street, Cork City
Verdict: Thumbs Up
This is a new apartment building which was introduced as part of the redevelopment of the whole block 3yrs ago. It was the former site of the Cork Examiner Paper Offices and has plenty of History of its own.
From the various details to the really nice varied colours of the brickwork it looks great. I especially like the brickwork and its textures. Instead of choosing a single brick set with one colour of roughness there is a nice blend of different types of brick, producing a nice mix of cherries and reds and blueish-greys even! This depth of shades and rough textures provides a nice character to the facade and also gives it the appearance of growing up a long time ago. Many of the bricks may have been reclaimed from the previous building, they certainly look like they have been weathered, but I am not certain,
Fabulous Doors and leadwork patterns. Gold plated accessories such as custom door bell ringers and door handles also add a traditional touch.
Check out the Mosaic tiles at the top in green and black. The woodwork around the windows is also pretty tasty looking. Some fabulous details really in this contemporary building; an original with its own slant on traditional styles.
I like the leadwork on this piece of glass. Quite a contemporary design but it does look great.
The development of this whole city block involved retail outlets with residential apartment and offices overhead. This is an entrance to the apartments overhead but has provided a beautiful exterior full of character and historical references with some nice contemporary features. As mentioned already the tile-work is classy at the top with nice ribbon patterns present also.
The brickwork and details are intricate and add to the overall effect. This contemporary postmodern-esque facade is designed with skill and beauty at its core and is one of the few really great examples of its type in recent times in the city.
Thats it for now, Hope I’ve shed some light on various brickwork examples in contemporary design. I’ll be back next week with the next installment of this series