The Twentieth Century

The great changes that resulted from national and international events of the first quarter of the twentieth century are generally difficult to discern in the buildings of the period. Architectural development throughout much of Ireland continued to be tied to local traditions and materials, remaining virtually oblivious to international trends and the rise of a modern style. Even official patronage, which dominated most new building activity in this period, appeared at times reluctant to absorb outside influences. In the early decades of the twentieth century, many designs for churches, housing, post offices, schools and Garda Stations were of a traditional cast that was in no way innovative in style.

The search for an appropriate new architectural style in the nineteenth century had focused largely on new materials, ultimately leading to the development in Central Europe of what is generally termed the Modern Movement. Its underlying principles advocated a radical break with the past, whereby established architectural styles and decoration were rejected in favour of a new style, determined by the function of a building and the possibilities presented by new materials and manufacturing methods.

Early in the twentieth century, the most radical buildings were in the Art Deco style, which evokes a glamorous pre-war age. This style found great expression in cinema architecture, where decoration was stripped down and streamlined to essentials, the former Ritz cinema in Athlone by Michael Scott being a typical example. Significantly, Scott was one of the first architects to use the Modern style, neatly exploited in the 1930s, for his own house, Geragh, at Sandycove, its unconventional curved elevations and flat roof representing a complete break from traditional forms. Although Modernism was established in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century, continued interest in the principles of the movement has endured down to the present day. In more recent decades the number of buildings that can be described as truly Modern has grown considerably.

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