Wednesday, 16 January 2008

And who owns here?

This space reminded of the the ragtrees near holy wells, like Gobnait's well in Baile Bhúirne or Glendalough. The trees carry tokens of the dead or the vulnerable and a hope for their salvation....

Fox on Foley Street

What I see are the passing people, the separate place where Stéphane dances, the bare trees that are being cut down, the new apartment buildings, the hoardings around new construction.

What I hear is the sound of timber boards and jack-hammers and one strong bird whose whistle momentarily defeats the mechanical music.

What I know is that the blob under the tree is a concentration of Bernadette energy and that Stéphane is fighting the inhospitable cold and yet the fight, vulnerable and strong, moves me.

163 Sheriff Street

On our reconnaissance walk, we came across 163 Sheriff Street. It seems to be a cottage left behind when all its former neighbours have yielded to new development. 163 Sheriff Street is surrounded by the kind of tall gates that protect building sites and no one can wander in to knock on the door. But whoever lives there has maintained a vegetable patch in the shadow of the overlooking apartment complex. It would be easy to imagine a narrative of resistance in this single remaining cottage, but that says more about me than it bears a relation to fact.

A trip outside

They came with me, leaving the familiarity of the studio where so many interesting ideas, touches and relationships were already extending. We went into the gloom of a cold January afternoon and I asked them - Bernadette, Matthew and Stéphane - to see and feel for me. I brought them on a walk down Sheriff St, past the new developments of Spencer Dock, the new DART station and on to the edges of the new tide of development. Bernadette asked me later what it was about particular places that made me identify them as places where I'd like us to put our physical material, our embodied relations. Her question made me realise that it's not so much buildings as atmosphere that draws me; but that the process of construction, particularly on the scale we see in Dublin, creates an atmosphere.

When I look from the bridge at Spencer Dock and its development, I see the meeting of the gleaming aspiration and the unreconstructed dereliction. I see the energy of the new and the powerful vestiges of the old. I see cranes, mountains, rubbish, plate glass and many, many high visibility jackets. I see in the juxtaposition of these elements a location where our physical inhabitation can be like a lightning rod for the energy of the juxtaposition. We can help it be seen through our work.

Who owns this space between public roads and private property developments?

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

2008 Olympics: new towers for a new superpower

This article by Ellis Woodman in the Telegraph
describes some of the spectacular building projects that are underway in Beijing at the moment. Given my dance on the Olympic site, I am tickled by Woodman's hope that the Bird'sNest stadium will provide public spaces for dancing.

With capacity for 100,000 spectators, the National Stadium, or "Bird's Nest" as it is now universally known, is effectively one building within another.

An inner concrete bowl supports the seating and a steel exoskeleton rises up around and over it to form the roof. Except for the fact that the seating is arranged in a distinctive saddle-like profile, the bowl is relatively conventional.

The exoskeleton, however, is anything but. This mad tangle of enormous steel members was supposedly inspired by the patterns of crazed Chinese pottery. Miraculously, given that it has been built from elements weighing up to 350 tons, the finished product does somehow achieve the delicacy of that starting point.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the scheme is the Piranesian space caught between the concrete core and the steel enclosure. Shops, hotels and restaurants are set into the underside of the seating, opening on to the concourses which occupy this gap.

After the games, these spaces will serve as a new kind of public realm. If the stadium were to be built in the West, it is hard to imagine that they would be occupied. However, in China one regularly encounters people playing cards, dancing or exercising in the street. If they can capture something of that energy, these spaces promise to be remarkable.

Of course this new public realm that he hopes for will have been achieved at the expense of the people whose homes were demolished to make way for the Olympic site:
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions has estimated that 1.25 million residents have been displaced as a result of construction work related to the games, although the Chinese authorities claim that only 6,037 homes have been demolished.

Will they come back to dance their old pathways?