Following on from the last couple of updates in this series we have a few more local examples of Contemporary Architecture worth discussing.
1. Student Apartments, Victoria Cross, Cork (Next to Victoria Mills, in previous post)
Verdict: A definite ‘Thumbs Down’
Student Accommodation, Victoria Cross, Cork, Ireland
Check out the vent ducts running up and down the back of the building. Not only is the building itself bland looking with poor choice of external finishes and colours but they go and make the vent ducts visible from the roadside?? A great big No No. Absolutely ruins the aesthetics in one foul swoop! I don’t think I have ever seen a local example of exposed ducting as blatantly poor and obvious as this.
Furthermore, the rounded vents on the facade look terrible and the colour of the render doesn’t help either. It looks like it has ‘gone off’! Add to that, the glass corners on the left are too overshadowed by the timber veneer running above and between the enclosed corners. Surely it would have looked better on this side and helped aid the massing of the glass corners if the timber was ommitted or at least reduced in length and kept closer to the left hand side in the pic, or extended further to the right avoiding the vertical lines of the glass corners. Staggering like that would have given better weight and appeal to these corners. As it is, the ‘in line’ nature of the timber cladding and the sides of the glass corners blends both in together in similarly dull colours. Personally I think it just looks cheap as an architectural effort.
The other side of this building was shown in the 1st series in this set of posts next to the Victoria Mills building which itself has particular aesthetic problems also. Across the road you can see this old building pictured below.
Victoria Cross Cycles, Cork.
This is right across the road and up a little bit from the apartment building just shown. A local bike shop, this is a much nicer view, seeing the side of this old building than the ducting and awfulness of the student building above.
2. Apartment block on the River Lee in Cork City
Verdict: Jury Vote!
Apartment block on Riverside in Cork
Ok I have mixed feelings on this one. One thing I love is the Triangular light boxes on the top which are oriented in pairs at 2 different angles. Combining an early 20th Century style brick building with conservative lines with a contemporary light box idea should be applauded here and I think it stands out really well, and proud, on the quayside here. The red brick is capped at the tops in stone and reminiscent of earlier 20th century buildings particular of North American cities, and the window layout is linear and organised for the most part. I do like the zig zagging of the other front window areas to the right side and the blending of the round corner column in the middle of the shot into the facade by attaching small balconies, in a contemporary style. I’m just not a big fan of the dark colour of the window frames and their particular sizings, and when this building gets dirtier as it has before (A feature of buildings in Ireland and Britain also is the staining that occurs from run off of rain and pollutants particularly on flatter facades below windows and below tops of parapets etc), it can look pretty bad as a piece of exterior architecture after a few years. The light boxes, are its only saving grace when staining builds up.
This one though is a building that lights up the quayside from a distance, the stepped rooflines and those lightboxes providing a really nice visual aesthetic to the quayside overall. Certainly things I like about the design. But some of the details and specifications let it down.
Side of Apartment on Quayside, Cork
I like the buildings lines and forms but those windows, they just don’t like right to me. They should be lighter maybe? Most of my problems with many local contemporary buildings include, or are just limited to these dark grey window frames. A recurring problem of taste perhaps!
3. Cork Opera House, Cork City, Ireland
Verdict: Thumbs emphatically ‘Down’
Cork Opera House, other view
Cork Opera House, Cork City, Ireland
This is the Cork Opera House, Not so bad on the inside, particularly when they renovated it all but this side wall is awful. Some background first…
The Opera house was burned down towards the middle of the last century. It was quite a fine structure for its time, and it was subsequently rebuilt at a time when Modernism was at the forefront of Architectural design. The Opera house followed suit, its orientation obviously suggestive of its desire to face the ‘important‘ direction, which would have been front where the patrons would enter the building….this being the street/square Emmett Place just in view to the left hand side stretching away into the background along the left side of the building.
Therefor the less important side being the quay side was just viewed as a ‘side wall’ of sorts, and all the emphasis was placed on the other side, the front side on the left. This picture shows a couple of alterations that were made during the renovations. The tall thin glass window on the left, the enclosed glass balcony sticking out of the quay side wall facing us, and the almost vertical glass facade to the very left which runs along that front of the building were all added to break up the monotony of the blanket wall on this quay side a little over 10 years ago if memory serves correct. There was an all-glass vertical facade already in existence at the front but this was redesigned at a slanted angle to be visually more impressive and appealing and viewable from more angles such as this one across the river.
The large box on top is for the stage props. All in all, it was a very functional looking building, which wasn’t the problem, its drawback was this particular facade which seemed to be just seen as the side of the building rather than another ‘front‘. If the building was turned, facing the camera, those sides would look fine as they would ‘house‘ the large glass facade in a much nicer way, drawing attention to the front and how it is enclosed, rather than blocking all views as it does in this direction. To sum up, the biggest problem was its orientation and lack of foresight that this side would impact on the whole quay here, becoming an ugly obtrusive block wall hiding the other sides of the building.
And as you can see, the wall is so massive it is now used as an advertising banner all be it for a good cause, promotion of the opera house, the arts, and other cultural events that pop up. Its a pity that the square facing the Opera house entrance is really nice, featuring old buildings, an art gallery dating way back and other funky premises…
On the upside they have improved the other side of the Opera House a little by doing this!…
Other side of Cork Opera House
The green Ivy actually looks really well on this side, allowing the glass facade to break out nicely and providing a nice colourful separation between the Opera House and the Crawford Art Gallery Building to its left.
4. Boot’s, Paul Street, Cork
(Back of store is shown in pic, facing Quay)
Verdict: Jury Vote
Booth's development on River Lee, Cork
This is Boot’s department store in Cork, redeveloped about 4 or 5 years ago now. Its a nice design, particularly from the other sides, while the heritage building facing the camera was refurbished and incoporated into the design which works around it.
View down the side of Boot's
Here you can see a blend of modern designs with old heritage buildings. It works quite well in this particular shot.
Going back to the quayside shot, On the face of it, the two designs dont really work together but then again…if you were to strip away the advertising plastered all over the glass facades, and were to occupy this side of the building as was intended I think it might look quite different. Particularly when you see how the white beams and posts to the right appear to come out of the white heritage building and fuse themselves into the rest of the glass structure.
On the other hand you could say that currently the beautiful old heritage building is just surrounded and overshadowed by a monstrous glass wall, and that they simply need their own separate allotments.
Two different opinions, both have a point, personally I like the rest of the development and if this was used as was intended I’m sure I would like it more but it just looks soul-less as it is. Any building thats empty loses something but when large glass monolithic buildings (which has become common place in office and retail developments recently) lie empty they look disastrous, like soul-less boxes. I am bordering on giving it a thumbs down but am on the fence still, so I will leave it for the readers to decide this one!
5. Mixed Use Development, Lavitt’s Quays, Cork
Verdict: Thumbs Up
A Riverside Development on River Lee, Cork
Riverside Development River Lee, Cork, close up
Riverside Development Apartments with Retail, Commercial below.
Once again this development grew up around a protected building pictured in the middle of the shot in black in white. However, I think it works quite well here. The development maintains a sense of evolving over time with its different styles and marries them in together quite well I think. The red brick sections to the right side reference the red brick building next to it but seem to serve nicely also as a backdrop to the white section in front of it. Use of depth here provides a nicer quality and helps to give real character to the facade. The simple rectangular windows work nicely in contrast to the other sections such as the brick and marbled stone parts while thankfully I don’t see dark window frame fenestrations or solid pieces apart from the outside frames of these rectangular windows. These blend in with the walls and don’t take from other parts or the nearby traditional building with it’s old style windows. Using larger windows with compartments and open-able segments would really detract from the surrounding details.
Taking one simple detail to highlight a point, look at the tall window segment in the red brick part of the facade on the right side. To it’s left is a large white facade while to it’s right is a red brick building with fine white timber windows. The solution here is the use a modern dark framed glazed section but incorporating a white surround like a picture frame around it. This highlights the old building to its right and particularly works in providing a visual link between the two developments. It looks as if the old building and its windows and colours are evolving into the development to the left.
Again, many may think it looks too complex or a mish-mass of totally different styles but I think this is what works fantastically well here. It will stand the test of time better than many other monostyles and singular design styles. Ask yourself this, What makes traditional streets and historical developments things to be proud of and preserved today? It is generally the intricacy and qualities of designs and many varieties and flavours of designs that provide streets and urban landscapes with oodles of character. It is a reason I think the development above works well and compared to the failed examples of quayside designs mentioned before it in this set of posts I think it provides real energy and organic qualities to this quay.