Date Published: 20-Oct-2009
UP to 3,000 people visited public buildings and private houses in the inaugural Open House festival highlighting local architecture in the city over the weekend.
The event, which took place in association with the Irish Architecture Foundation, has been hailed as a resounding success. People came in their droves to experience some of Galway’s examples of quality design – in fact the organisers are already considering organizing an extended event next year.
“We are thrilled with the public response and enthusiastic engagement with Galway’s first architectural event,” said Patrick McCabe, Chairman of Open House Galway’s Steering Group and an award winning architect with Simon J Kelly Architects.
“Many people visited not just one building but as many as they could fit in and were delighted with the quality and variety of design presented while the architects who conducted the tours were also pleased to get feedback from the public.
“It’s obvious that there’s a demand for this event in Galwayand it is our intention to expand the programme for next year to incorporate further elements to ensure the public remain interested and engaged with our built environment. The tremendous success of Galway’s first Open House has proved that the public enjoy and appreciate quality architecture design.
“There was a great architectural buzz about the place and it was a morale boost for architects in this current climate. There was a great tour on the NUIG campus on Sunday where 200 people participated, the Marine Institute was particularly popular with 350 visits over the weekend, as was the new Born development on the river, and the Mutton Island Lighthouse,” he said.
Fifty volunteers helped marshal people in and out of the public and private buildings on show over the weekend – all the private home visits had to be booked online for security reasons.
Almost 300 people attended the opening in the Centre Pier Building at Galway Docks on Friday evening, where Swedish architects JM – Konrad Milton and Carl Jagnefait scooped the Centre Pier, Galway Harbour Ideas Competition with their entry entitled ‘The Sky Pier – Unity in Duality’ while Galwegians Laura O’Brien and Faela Guiden won the student category.
The prize fund was…
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.
Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.
She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.
Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.
Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.
When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.
Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.
And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.
All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
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