Last Christmas, I spotted a notice in the window of the Irish Examiner advertising Unique Gifts. I was definitely not in agreement – if it can be repeated, can it be unique? I still believe that unique means a one-off, not repeated previously or repeatable in the future.
Working in construction, it is rare than one will see something novel. Every material and component now needs certification. Such certification process costs money and so it does not encourage bespoke, unique or special components. There are some, but they are rare.
The uniformity of construction materials falls in step with this age of mass production – this age when the new buildings and even a street in Cork city could be uprooted to or from many English cities. There are many chainstores selling the same products as in Birmingham or Manchester, quite likely in a building that is so similar to the new street or buildings in Cork.
It is as if we are reverting to restricted choice, back to the days of Henry Ford – any colour you want so long as it’s black.
I have a recollection of hearing a radio piece many years ago where the design by Frank Murphy of the Church of All Saints in Drimoleague in 1956 was complimented – quite possibly Alf McCarhy & Gerard Kennedy, but I cannot find online now. A few weeks back, I travelled to the church to photograph the plaque by Seamus Murphy. I did not expect to be there long.
I was there quite a while, appreciating what I saw.
I then remembered the radio documentary. I loved almost every detail and the choice of materials.
It is regularly mentioned on building sites that some issue does not matter as it will be covered by the plaster. Frank Murphy did not have that luxury as there was no plaster – at least not until they (subsequently, I presume) added a toilet block.
The finish on the blocks with quartz -like exposed aggregate is definitely not widely available. I suspect that the blocks and the special shaped blocks at window reveals were manufactured specifically for this project. The external blocks are different to the internal blocks.
The curved blocks are so demanding to be touched.
The design effect of the openings in the blockwork at the altar end and the projecting block nibs externally initially prompted me to question why. I answered myself by just appreciating the design and the way it broke up a large expanse and prompted the eye to move along the wall.
And that is only the blockwork.
The stained glass feature is a story in itself. The lightwells, I like. The creation of crosses in the formwork to the exposed concrete beams made me smile.
The stepped effect with the stain glass; the curve on the balcony; the mural behind the altar; the stonework with similar projecting nibs; the windows; the coursing; the downpipes; and the curves, all brought a continuous feel good factor to this observer.
There are probably very many details that went unobserved by me on that visit.
If heading to West Cork, I so strongly recommend a short detour to view and appreciate for yourself.