Tuesday, February 5, 2013


 It is a welcome surprise - Finbar's Hotel, Picador, (original paperback), London, 1997: Dermot Bolger, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton, Jennifer Johnston, Joseph O'Connor, Colm Robin, (devised and edited Dermot Bolger).

If only architects could respect each other and cooperate as the writers and illustrators have in this publication where seven different Irish writers and seven different illustrators have each written and illustrated one chapter of this novel to produce a coherent story and a quality publication. The chapters, illustrators, and authors are not correlated, so there is no naming of the work of any particular writer/illustrator. The inner rear flap of the book reads:
'The authors are listed above in alphabetical order. As for which author wrote which chapter, we leave it to the reader to decide.'
The question is: is the author's name relevant? Tradition says 'No' - and so it seems here too.

Just imagine what our cities might be like if architects and artists could do the same instead of trying to be the greatest hero - the latest genius! - always criticizing others in the profession, trying to get other's projects, and never praising good work; indeed, always being prepared to deface the work and reputation of others without apology or any particular need beyond the desire to destroy the original identity in favour of the new - 'ME' with 'my' declaration: "I am the greatest!" The profession, I am referring in particular to that in Australia, is indeed a greedy and selfish, ego-centric indulgence that does nothing for the greater good. Just look at our towns and cities today; just look at the standing of architects in the community - they are seen as irrelevant dilettantes, more interested in their own unique ideas, reputations and incomes than anything else. Clients are only a means to enhance the architects' own self-satisfaction and importance, little else. Architects are considered to be just a waste of money. As for artists - well, artists get work only because the government has legislated that a certain proportion of monies must be spent on art. Is it as though a little art might hype the imagined reputation of those in power - make them appear just a little bit sensitive and caring?

Finbar's Hotel offers us a great model to follow, and is a tangible example of how fruitful co-operation can be. Consider places that have enjoyed the benefits of a co-operative approach; consider also Indries Shah – see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/starting-work-what-to-do.html :
'When there is arrogance, knowledge cannot operate.'
It seems that outcomes alone prove this, even if the statement is never acknowledged or understood, or is considered trite and irrelevant by the profession - practitioners and academics.

Just try to imagine one building designed by seven architects and seven artists! We cannot get seven separate buildings by seven different architects and artists to sit together with any subtle coherence or mutual respect. Each wants to claim the individual's right to self-expression: 'ME' and 'MY' and 'MINE.' It is never 'YOURS' for the community and city. The ideals of the 'Heroic' period linger on as heroes seeking worship in spite of the changes in the story line – see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/on-language-shetand-dialect.html

 The results of co-operation are intriguing. The reading of Finbar's Hotel opens up a wonderful interplay of circumstances, life, memory, time and place that becomes a marvellous model for understanding the functions of architecture. This is what architecture is involved with. This is what architecture encloses, enables and enriches: the tapestry of life, living, loves, laughs, leers, larks, lacks, luxuries and lies that can be summed up as experience, but is always more than this: more subtle; more amorphous; more interconnected; more coincidental. It is something that should never be forgotten in the modern struggle that seeks to make architecture just a grand sculptural statement.

The quote from page 213 (Chapter 106) seems to sum the situation up with typical Irish panache:
'You can travel as far as you like . . . but you always end up in the same place.  . . . You always end up in some dive;  . . . a wet dream of the future that some fool had thirty years before.'

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