The Crawford has just opened a watercolour room and there are some lovely pictures there which I have never seen before. Not entirely relevant to this post but at the moment there is a great exhibition on cubism as well – Mary Swanzy is a revelation to me; I thought her pictures were really lovely [I’m sure that ‘really lovely’ is the kind of accolade the cubists would have liked].
Anyhow, to the watercolours – look at this lovely view of Cork:
The picture by John Fitzgerald dates from 1796 and is described as “Old Saint Finbarr’s and Elizabeth Fort”.
And look at this picture of the same view that I snapped on the walk back to my parents’ house:
Very recognisable, I think, although the old Beamish and Crawford site on the right [now closed down] is obviously not from the 1790s, Elizabeth Fort is still the same and even though the cathedral got rebuilt in the 19th century, it’s still in the same spot.
Now, let us consider one of the great architectural travesties visited on Cork. This is a picture of Cork Opera House before it was burnt down.
My parents remember the much loved 19th century opera house burning in 1955. I once read somewhere words to the effect that any architects who built a replacement would have had their work cut out to build something that the people of Cork would take to their hearts as much as the old building, but they didn’t even try. This feels entirely true. This is the replacement building on the site of the old opera house:
It has actually improved since I was a child as then the side facing the river was an uncompromising brutalist plain wall. It has been somewhat relieved by the addition of a glass window over the river and glass cladding at the front but it is still, to my eyes, quite spectacularly ugly. To be fair, I assume that the 1960s architects did not realise that their clean lines would be disfigured by the addition of a large poster for Grease and the Toyota ad on the roof [a permanent, unlovely feature].
Enough Cork architecture for today.