AKC News // Cool Heads at City Hall

builsing Design By Robert Payne
13 April 2007
Source: Building Design

The architect's acute observations of Cork and conceptual understanding of the city's urban context have produced a splendid extension to the city hall. There has been a boom in the construction of town halls in Ireland since local government was reorganised in the early 1990s. This Klondike of opportunity has produced mixed results, success or failure normally turning on the question of appropriateness. Although local government has been reformed, its powers are still limited and its functions remain modest: sweeping the streets, collecting the bins and making sure the water flows through the pipes. In Ireland, a mayor is not like his counterpart in France or Spain: rather than being elected, he is selected by his fellow councillors annually, by rotation among the political parties.

He has neither the time nor the legal powers to make a strategic impact on the lives of the local population. These are important things to know when judging the crop of new town halls because they beg questions about representation not only in the political sense but in the architectural one too. In general, projects that are extensions of existing seats of local government and do not include the council chamber appear to have coped better with this dilemma than the ones that are entirely new buildings. More often than not, the former have been able to avoid the bombastic expression that has usually consumed the latter when confronted with the need to represent their function as a place of political assembly.

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Date : 20-04-2007