Irish Architecture Both Then & Now

Travel has always been a passion of mine.  It’s just recently that I have been able to combine this passion with my career.  Architecture fascinates me.  Maybe it is because my dad is an architect.  Maybe it’s because architecture around the world changes so much - from the 70 story skyscrapers of New York City to the shanty towns in Cape Town.  Or maybe it’s the stories the century old walls could tell.  Whatever the reason, it has always caught my eye.  

I would like to introduce The Traveling Lens - a travel blog focusing on my studies of  architecture from around the world.  Through this series I will be documenting the architecture both large and small.  From the tallest and most spectacular sites to the small dwellings found here and there.  

The Traveling Lens Architecture series starts with my recent trip to Ireland.  Universities, castles, humble cave dwellings, and of course ruins.  The work and effort it took to design and build some of these buildings is astounding considering most of these were built hundreds of years ago before computers, excavators, and cranes.  The man-power behind the walls is almost hard to believe.  


Dublin is known as the City of Literature so naturally we had to start our journey at Trinity College.    The layout Trinity College is very interesting.  It has a very compact design, all the main buildings look inward and there are only a few public entrances.  This allows the university to maintain a tranquil, collegiate atmosphere.

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St. Patrick's Cathedral in the heart of Dublin is a spectacular site.  The Cathedral, built around the 12th century, must have towered over Dublin with a spire reaching 43 meters.  

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After a few days in Dublin we headed to the countryside where the architecture changed dramatically.  We went from towering, prosperous buildings and churches to ruins of old monasteries.  The first stop was Glendalough - pronounced Glen-da-loch.   Glendalough is an early medieval, monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin.  What is left of the buildings is picturesque to say the least!  



The Ballingskellig Priory is one of my favorite spots in Ireland.  It's definitely not the most spectacular site we visited however there is something really special about this place.  The monks who lived here centuries ago built this abbey and dedicated it to St. Michael.  You will have seen their other dwellings on Skellig Michael in the very last scene of the most recent Star Wars movie - they sure knew how to pick the spots!!



Castles, castles and more castles.  It is rare in Ireland to drive through the countryside and not see a ruin of an old castle off in the distance.   There is a romantic thought when I think of castles - the lives of the people that lived behind the walls.   It makes me think of all the fairy tales I was read when I was a kid.  Ah, if the walls could tell the stories of the people that lived behind them.  Maybe it's the mystery, the stories untold of the people who lived here is why I am so attracted to these sites.    Here is a handful of my favorite shots of the castles we visited.



The Ring Forts in Kerry are quite impressive.  The simple architecture of these defensive fortresses has withstood the test of time.  These forts were erected between 500-800 and are great examples of non-ecclesiastical, monumental architecture.   When these forts were first discovered there were artifacts from the Iron and Bronze Age, suggesting the existence of an early farming community.  The question is why and when did they leave their homes?

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Whenever I travel I try to immerse myself in the history and culture as much as possible.  In a country like Ireland so rich with heritage it's hard not to feel like you are just strolling through a giant, interactive museum.   The architecture throughout the country changes so dramatically.  The biggest question I had during my travels were about the people who built and lived in these amazing spaces.  The stories told and untold about these homes and castles are so intriguing to me.  And of course the question I found myself asking the most - why did they leave their home and allow it to fall into ruin?  Though the architecture changes so much as you travel through the country they all have something very important in common - they were designed by people, built by people, and lived in by people.