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The Cork Institute of Technology


The 1960s saw ambitious changes to national education, with new institutes of technology established in major cities across Ireland. These schools trained cohorts of workers with practical skills appropriate to emerging local industries as part of a bid to strengthen regional economies. At the campus of the Cork Institute of Technology, three heavy buildings were designed and built over a fifteen year period. A circular, stepped quadrangle lies at their centre, acting as thoroughfare for over 10,000 students today.


Commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts

These images use three of Shane de Blacam’s buildings in Ireland as a stage for photography. In place of heroic vistas and glossy interiors, I looked for more intimate moments in the buildings, where one might see how materials have aged or how the architect’s careful hand has orchestrated a special coming together of light and shadow, mass and void. Using a square-format camera and 120mm film, the images are vignettes that describe a highly sophisticated architecture - one that masterfully mediates elements across scale and that is embedded firmly in context.


Speaking to Shane before going to these buildings, he preceded descriptions of each building with a story. A story not about what the building looked like, but a story of the unique circumstances in which each was made. It affirmed that behind the bricks and mortar were projects that engaged and were sensitive to the social climate and history of their place - a feat that commonly goes unnoticed in monumental works of architecture. Accordingly, this display presents three sets of photographs as three essays, using text to anchor the images to a building with a story that has roots extending far beyond a photograph’s frame.

Abbeyleix Library


Market houses are a typical feature of Irish towns, built by English overlords as a place for local traders to sell their produce (although actually a ruse to seek the physical presence of their tenant farmers in order to collect rent for the land). Many have been repurposed, like at Abbeyleix, which is now a library and exhibition space. Today, the local community in  Abbeyleix are conserving and restoring a beautiful open-access bog landscape that had been for many years harvested for peat.

Trinity College Dublin


A fire in 1984 destroyed the interior of the dining hall at Trinity College Dublin, prompting a careful restoration and reconfiguration of its surrounding spaces. Though originally intended to be a wider redevelopment of the 47-acre campus, the fire reduced the scope of work to something much denser. A wooden atrium was slipped in between the 18th-century buildings; smooth wooden shutters sit alongside reinforced king-post trusses, gridded terracotta tiles alongside granite fireplaces.

The Wooden Building


The Medieval Quarter is the oldest in Dublin, and The Wooden Building lies within this former walled city. As part of a wider residential redevelopment of this district, the unassuming 9-storey building defies conventional planning guidelines, quietly towering over its neighbours to provide views across and beyond Dublin. The penthouse apartment boasts enormous windows and a rooftop terrace garden, from where you can easily spot Dublin Castle.

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