mcculloughmulvinarchitects

McCullough Mulvin Orange Mark Orange’s enquiry takes five buildings in Dublin and focuses on one of the architects who designed them. The architect - interested in the city, in architecture place and memory - is called on to revisit the structures after a period, to look on them or explain them. The result is recorded - visually and aurally. The resulting tapes are presented in the buildings; they vary considerably - one is of the architect’s digestion; in another he stands on the roof staring into the city skyline, in two more there is an exchange of words; subject and enquirer never visit the fifth, though it is close by - there is no explanation why. Visitors are then encouraged to walk between the sites.

Linked Projects
  • Trinity Long Room Hub
    Trinity Long Room Hub

    Dublin, Ireland

  • Irish Architecture Foundation
    Irish Architecture Foundation

    Dublin, Ireland

  • Temple Bar Gallery + Studios
    Temple Bar Gallery + Studios

    Dublin, Ireland

The tapes vary in their veracity. Some are muted and altered, possible facts are smeared out; the others are possibly more truthful, but not simple - they are layered, allusive, referential pieces. The investigation releases islands of possible fact from the straitjacket of standard truth, a floating stew which inevitably generates new contrapuntal relationships between people, architecture, cities, time and memory - proposals and projections of other possible narratives, a kind of uncertainty factory. The original truth, if there ever was one, perhaps the architect-as-hero describing an ineffable progress of creativity - becomes impossible to stand over.

To be the subject architect in this process is to be in the frame; the mock heroic figure on the roof stands on wooden steps that he needs in order to be seen on his own building - a design error - and that can be kicked out from under him (being Dublin, its not that high up anyway). The show submits a demolition notice for Temple Bar Galleries like a piece of evidence; the building’s existence is threatened and therefore its value questioned; this hangs over the proceedings. The shadow of certain films which display architectural hubris hover in the background- the tapes are inconclusive, hard to follow - it is an uncertain performance. Were they worth explaining? Did the architect even make sense? It opens questions about the architect’s role and position in the making of architecture. By placing tapes as physical objects, cuckoo-like physical interventions, the enquirer further questions the role. His position is interesting as his motivation is not neutral. Is it an honest question or an expose; is there a wish to join the team, or absorb the architect’s role, or mimic its sense of control by manipulating the original?

Anxiety is darkly funny; the Gothic atmosphere naturally fuels introspective dreams - subject quickly becomes object. Watching the tapes, one has the sense of a vague historical figure of fading memory strutting round the city, unaware of ridicule, his words negligible and role uncertain. Exile from the role also offers freedom and ludic possibility; released from the hero’s armour, the ghost follows the enquirer’s dutiful procession from a distance, watching people watching him. On sustained observation, the idea of the architect-hero is impossible to sustain, a pantomime figure, the white male of contemporary vaudeville rather than a real proposal, a shadow puppet posing general questions about creativity and memory. But the questions raised by presenting and then cutting away at the image contain electric possibilities. The idea of the single creator, and role of the architect - the professional figure - need mapping, re-description, more air - not a destruction but greater fluidity of movement. There is no critical gap between art and architecture. Single individuals seldom create whole concepts. Memory is an unreliable guide to who did what and why.

Despite its fissuring of idols, the enquiry is itself a proposal, a project and a construction, an elegant work of architecture in its own right with all of the necessary breaking of ground, milling of old material, choosing of a site. It addresses all of the issues of starting a creative process, where do you begin - and the chance or fragmentary images that act as catalyst for ideas - it just throws them up in the air again. It does not obliterate potential, merely proposes other options, making a kind of alternative particularity that runs counter to the globalized reduction of the specific. This works at several levels. Being the work of one practice, the buildings are partially random - their putative link is, slightly, their public function but perhaps more their architectural nature as projects embedded in the history of Dublin. Small sets of spaces on narrow plots which are themselves made as contemporary interventions into existing structures or places. Or, as in Trinity, into strongly defined Dublin contexts. They are earthed, they represent some form of honouring the memory of the city - not the pap public memory of Dublin as a locus of literature/poverty/human warmth, but the dark crystalline nature of culverted rivers, damp layered earth, the mass of rooms, mews and walls that occupy the driven mind and which provide the basis for architectural obsession - how to build here, make contemporary things which are of the place.

This quality of location extends to urban scale and close detail. The location of the sites in a small city where relative adjacency - the psychogeographic capacity to walk between them in the length of single conversations - describes the linear nature of the place. At the smallest scale, the presentation of the tapes within and against the buildings is itself architectural - an embedding - as well as being a seed of possible explanation. Architectural interventions lodged in the architecture much as the original design was lodged in or on an existing structure.

In this version, the human capacity to sink into roles like coats with list of attributes, to capture space and strike poses must be seen for what it is, provisional. It’s not necessary to know everything there is to know or to go everywhere in the world to begin to understand anything, to make a proposal. There is even a beauty in imagining places, even spaces and rooms in cities you have heard of but never seen. Much of this turns on the reality of memory - personal, public, the history of the city, embedded material. The project offers myriad alternative interpretations to accepted truth. That explosion of possibility also underlines memory’s frailty - nobody remembers, or not for long. Both private memory and the mediated consumption of public recollection are faulty. Perhaps real memory resides more in the cold crystalline fact of physical things rather than people - and they are subject to erasure. Everything fades; nothing is certain. 

—Niall McCullough