12 Publishers

Architecture, Art, Design, Photography, Music & Writing

Art June 2021

Dunree Fort – Site of Engagement


Following an open invitation by Artlink my proposal for a collection of three objects devised around the theme of pilgrimage was selected for the open art exhibition at Dunree Fort in the Inishowen Peninsula, County Donegal (Ireland).

Gathering – Concept Model of Creels Proposal

This proposal takes a number of sources as inspiration for establishing a temporary (permanent) art work at Fort Dunree.  These include a nod to the pilgrim trail (Turas Colm Cille) of St. Columba (Colmcille), where the pilgrim is entreated to mark various sites by circumnavigating various crosses and stele three times (“The pilgrim circles the cairn three times, praying, and then, placing his back to the stone, makes a declaration renouncing the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.”).  In two instances there are three circles (Cloch an Aonaigh, “The Stone of the Assembly” & Gannew and Curreen townland) located on a single cross and in another three squares (Straid townland, with echoes of the labyrinth).   

This composition has three vessels for gathering, which echo the form of wicker baskets and creels, shaped in part like ballistic shells.

The material framework provides the visitor with a legible framework and interactive container.  Visitors are encouraged to carry with them a stone (white) to locate in the container.  Over time the artefact and its material reality will change, according to its exposure and its vulnerability to the elements.

Gathering – Maquette (for scale)

The maquette shows the scale of the creels and how the creel will be populated by visitors.  This gathering is purposefully permeable, illustrating the ultimate futility of containment and the fragility of permanence.

The material for these creels is readily available, constructed from reinforcing bar and mild steel wire which is spot welded to form the creels. A base plate facilitates the anchoring to the vessel to the concrete pad.  The metal is untreated and left to oxidise.

Gathering – Maquette

From simple materials this proposal seeks to address the sacred, in terms of both placement and idea.  It also nods to the influence of the site, both materially and functionally.  As an active participatory installation it will take on different values according to each visitor and begin a movement to repopulate with new ideas.  It is hoped by interfacing with this installation that the visitor will think anew about site and place, and the relationship of human activities.

Noel Brady (transdisciplinary artist)

The Group Exhibition will run during July and August 2021

This work has been made possible by the generous support of ArtLink and The Arts Council of Ireland


Architecture June 2020

Bishop Lucey Park, Cork – Design Competition

3rd place in international competition


Warp & Weft, a dynamic threshold for Cork

The scheme takes its inspiration and character from unearthing the archaeological remnants of the old city of Cork.  The burgage plotlines inform both pattern of path and place. A stone veneer is laid uniformly, as a warp and weft pattern, across the gentle slope rising from Grand Parade and South Main Street.


This design facilitates a permeable connection between these two thoroughfares, by removing fences, walls and barriers. Introducing a uniform design character gives structure and legibility to the space, consisting of 3.6 m high portals.  This architectonic device provides a regula for the space.


To address the barrier-like fortified wall, a metal and glass grill covers an artificially illuminated cavity. Elsewhere archaeological structures emerge to contain raised wildflower beds.  Linear timber seating encircles this archipelago of planters.


The space adjoining Grand Parade has been cleared to facilitate temporary events such as music performances and a new café is proposed to face south onto a courtyard shared with the public house on the corner of Tuckey Street.

C:Data_NJBA677 - Bishop Lucey Park677 - Design677_ElevationsThe construction consists of veneers (stone paving and timber seating) and discrete retaining or point load structures, (concrete walls, steel and timber frames).  Artificial lighting is integrated into the portals across the whole of the park which can be modified to suit different thematic and temporal conditions.



As neither square nor park, the design is a blended mix of art and architecture, landscape and urbanism.  It is purposefully a neutral yet dynamic framework that bridges the distance between the old and the new city of Cork.

Urbanism February 2020

Cavan Market Square

Between 2018 and early 2019 NJBA A+U provided urban design research and a vision for the much maligned Market Square in Cavan Town, Ireland.  This multi-level design research exercise enfolded the shareholders, the local authority and town team in a process which evolved to make a dramatic intervention in the centre of this old urban centre.


The earliest extant record of the town dates from 1591 which identifies two (long demolished) castles, one on the hill overlooking the town and the other set into the fabric of the town next to the Franciscan friary.  Mapping this over the more contemporary fabric it reveals the relationship of the various artifacts to the morphology of the town’s streets.


What remains of the original Victorian Market Square is a pale reflection of its earlier form.  At the centre near what appears to be a well on the 1591 map the old market house was demolished in the 1960’s to make way for a different hub, the general Post office.

Design Challenge

Initial research into the temporary use of the remaining area suggested a different alignment for market stalls that re-affirmed the street condition and cleared a space for people to engage in a truly urban space.  This emphaised the lost opportunity that existed hidden behind the newer fabric, that is the abbeylands, where it is reputed that the body of Owen Roe O’Neill is interred.  Aside from the historical resonance of this space the spatial pattern at the heart of the town is at stake.  With the support of the main stakeholder, the post office, a new idea emerged.


Re-aligning, re-positioning, re-situating would allow a new connection to the heart of the medieval town that was anchored around the old friary, whose church suffered at least three catastrophic fires.  It remains an empty unloved and oft forgotten void.  By identifying the key boundaries of the centre; between Town hall Street, Main Street, Bridge Street and Abbey Street, the centre can be re-invigorated, and re-connected to its place.

The relationship between church and market space can once again be reunited.  A new branded scheme clarifying the core can become the anchor for a new identity for historic Cavan.


Engaging local stakeholders required a multi-disciplinary approach to communicating ideas and engaging interest.  Combining, drawings, plans, sketches, computer and physical models helped convey the reality of the proposal, eliciting generous, welcome and critical comments.

Simulating before and after proposals were the most effective, especially those that portrayed the reality of the impacts through photo-montages, that reflected what viewers were already familiar.



Simulating or imagining the use of the space was even more effective in convincing the audience of the substantial benefits accruing from the dramatic changes.  The new vision offered a 400% increase in usable public space at the heart of the town, capable of holding exhibition sports events (Tennis / Basketball), small concerts and a more substantial civic space.


Emptying the space is not sufficient in itself.  Instead a framework that reinforced the street condition of Main Street, provides the infrastructure for temporary accommodation when and if markets are required.  This disciplines the often random nature of such events without compromising the operation or enjoyment of the space.


Next Steps

Currently the Abbeylands are subject of a new urban masterplan which suggests that significant changes will emerge for this effort and finally the town will be rewarded with a market square that holds the heart of the town in the centre.

njba a+u was commissioned by the Cavan Town Team to provide a vision in conjunction with he key stakeholders surrounding the space.

Design February 2020

Material x 3

Synthetic Reality’s output increased in the first month of the new decade.  Aiming to launch at least one design per month has seen three new designs launched on the Design by Humans platform.   The target is to double the designs available on the platform in 2020 (40). Currently 23 differing designs are available for purchase.


1 Magellan

Magellan was designed as a new logo for the Portuguese Space Agency as part of an open innovation engagement.  Regretfully overlooked SR has repurposed it as the logo for a fictional space mission.  The Magellan iconography includes a depiction of the constellation of Dorado (The Dolphin). The subdivision of the blue sky identifies the four cardinal directions necessary for terrestrial navigation.


Two versions of the Magellan mission T-shirt; a team badge version and then a full sized version above.

2 Diversity

Diversity is another re-worked idea around the idea of diversity and celebration.  An abstracted idea of arms raised in celebration it doubles as a bird like “flying free” symbol.  This is available in a bright version or faded version.

3 Drift

Drift was inspired by the observation of ice floes in a river and the fragmentary but unified character of the image created an interesting but balanced dynamic.


Drift White (on Blue)

Three versions are available, Blue, Red and White on a wide variety of T-Shirts and other tops.   With an ambitious range of topics for 2020 Synthetic will be busy responding to the demand for new concepts.



Further details: https://www.designbyhumans.com/shop/Synthetic/

Design January 2020

New Parenthesis Research Logo

2020 seems like a good year to advance plans and ideas.  So it is for Parenthesis Research.  In developing this new logo it was important to find a suitable image that would unite the various threads that make up the back story of setting up the company and its new mission.


Parenthesis Research‘s emergent mission is to provide innovation for companies at all levels of business.   With a background in design and business the company is the next step evolution from the early business iteration; Synthetic Reality.  The choice of name was pertinent to this mission.  Picking the singular form of  parenthesis “(” was deliberate as it denotes an open ended framing of the areas of research that the company is committed to undertaking.  Without boundaries the future remains open.  As an “umbrella” type organisation under which different research types might be sheltered also reinforces the use of the “(” symbol (even if in a 90 degree orientation.


Parenthesis Stamp_080120sm © Parenthesis Research / Synthetic Reality 2020

The chosen image emerged from a sketch exercise attempting to unify the disparate but simultaneous images of Tree, Umbrella, Infinity while evoking a crafted or hand worked element.

This is united to the brand name and includes a subtle hint to origins in Synthetic Reality, with the capitalisation of the last letter.

Parenthesis logo_080120 copy

© Parenthesis Research / Synthetic Reality 2020

As we progress through 2020 more details will  emerge from the mission and current and planned projects.


NB 09 01 2020

Writing June 2019

Across the hill; Giants

The sound of the hard ball leaving the bat echoed along the front street.  Screams pulled the boy from tree to tree.  Above them chestnut leaves spread out filtering sunlight.  In the grove at the intersection of the back street and great hill gathered the children of summer.  They came from the nearby cottages to meet their cousins from town.  Under this canopy they held council on the world in between games of tag and hide and seek but none would venture towards the hill.  Until the sun left the sky they occupied the outside realm while adults held their council indoors.  Sometimes, to pass the time, they would throw sticks at young chestnuts, only to be disappointed, secretly wishing for autumn but loving the summer.  As the shadows grew long so did their stories.  With backs against the heavy trunks they wove a fabric to resist the creeping cold.  One story concerned a race of giants that lived across the hill.  John was nine when he first heard the story.  It was late and shadows had given way to thick shade and though the sky remained azure with orange clouds, the valley grew dark.   The laneway that led up the hill between a hedge and row of beech trees was darker still.  He stared at this emptiness as the story unfolded of how they had withdrawn to the nearby forest secreted away from others.  “Sometimes you can hear them play rounders”, the eldest boy explained, “ever see lightning, the crack is the ball flying from the bat and thunder, that’s the sound of the giants running the bases”.  When the call home came, John welcomed it.  Stars had begun to appear and as he sauntered home he heard the faint rumble of thunder.  Nervously he looked back into the darkness.  Sleep eventually enveloped him.  The following morning John took himself outside.  The air was sharp and the filled with fresh rain.  In the Chestnut grove he looked up through the thicket of branch and leaf to the sky.  Leaning on the trunk he watched the tree top twist in the wind.  As his arms stretched out and embraced the tree he felt the pull of the wind on its knotted bark.  A sudden crack turned his head towards the hill.  Across the back street, a small stream and through the gate to the lane he started.  As he climbed the beech row to his side opened out onto the plateau of the hill.  At the top he saw the valley fall beneath him the rivers and lakes joined together bathed in morning light.  He wondered if this is how giants saw the world.


Number of words = 444

© Jon Gregory 07 April 2012

Architecture May 2019

A Bridge to Remembering

“The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.”

Martin Heidegger Building, Dwelling Thinking


Competition Entry Report for Commemorative Bridge at the Irish War Memorial Islandbridge, Dublin


Making a bridge provides the opportunity to gather the world, unifying the heaven and earth, the past and future.  It gathers up the earth, the banks and the river into a single thing.  In this location the bridge must prepare the visitor for the journey across the river to the memorial gardens.  This design brings together ideas about pilgrimage, memory and order.


According to (Camillo) Sitte, the urban space before the church should be narrow and long, an extension of the processional route.  Here to shelter and enfold the visitor the prepared space is surrounded by stone walls that carry the engraved words of the war poets; a testament to the loss of innocence.  Water flows along each side and echo off the curved entablature to further calm the pilgrim.

Sound & Poetry

The courtyard provides a tranquil and isolated space in the busy city for the visitor to slow down.  This transition is a necessary purification process that prepares the visitor for the journey to the memorial garden.  The screening walls are formed to deflect and contain the sound of flowing water.  The concrete elements can be precast allowing their placement with minimal disturbance on the existing ground.  Openings to the rear allow the sound of birds and the wind in the trees of the nature sanctuary to percolate into the space.

Anchoring & Threshold

The bridge element is anchored to each bank with an entrance portico, a threshold that signals the crossing.  These embankment elements resolve the unique topography on both sides of the river, allowing for full universal access.  A hydraulic lift and staircase are provided inside the buttress element.  This strategy provides for a flat arrival court at +5.0 M and a flat bridge deck at +7.1 M.  This approach allows for 2.1 M clearance beneath the arch over the river as well allowing the river path on the southern shore to be uninterrupted.  These weighty anchors provide the necessary restraint for the bridge (see structural description below).  The northern portico element is also marked by a bell tower.  It is proposed that a bronze bell be commissioned as the percentage art project.

The Divided Path

In the medieval world the visitors to the great cathedrals were directed (under the eyes of Christ) to enter by one door and once their pilgrimage was satisfied, exited by the other.  These double doors are divided by the pillar that supports a Vesica Piscis above.  The porticos provide a similar choice.  The vaulted gateways are illuminated from above.  The allusions to both the Medieval Cathedral and Lutyens’ war graves motifs are not accidental.  The vaulted gateways frame the space and provide a sense of scale while providing clues to distance.

Material Character

The materials are driven by topography.  Concrete provide the material of abutment and bridge, brick the middle ground, while stone completes the entablature, extending to the structure of the bell tower.  Concrete provides defence against the vagaries of rising and falling water, marking the plimsoll line of the structure.  Brick provides tactile warmth.  The hard wearing surfaces are paved in stone, slabs over the courtyard and the bridge deck. Stone cobbles mark the crossing from one realm to another and completes the structures by capping the porticos and faces the courtyard walls.


The proposed bridge spans 45 metres from two concrete platforms.  To minimise the impact of the bridge on the environs the design carves out a narrow zone of impact.  The first stage is the sinking of piles and caps upon which the abutments will be constructed. The walls of the stair cores create a rigid box to connect the bridge.  The abutment foundation is anchored to the pile caps and in turn provides the landing point for the bridge’s arched soffit and flat parapet.


The bridge can be erected simultaneously from both embankments using cranes located on the abutment foundations.  These lift the bridge segments into place. The first three segments are connected by joining steel cable strands together and tensioning them. The last segments can be connected using post-tension strands on-site and then lifting in place, with the final “keystone” dropped into place locking the structure together.

The bridge design balances nearly all of the self-weight of the bridge.  The tendons are located near the bottom of the cross section at mid-span, near the top of the section where bridge meets abutment, and then somewhere near the centre of the cross section at the far end of abutment or end of bridge.  Post-tensioning the tendons will pre-compress the concrete in the region of the cross section where there is tension due to bending under applied load.  Additional pre-stressing to ensure compression throughout the depth of section in the unoccupied bridge is used so that tension stress is never greater than the pre-compression.  This provides good deflection performance and long term durability.  The bridge will be built using C50/60 concrete and 15mm 7-wire post-tension strands.  At the base of the bridge we need 10×22 strands on each side and at middle 8×22 strands in total.  Additional 2-wire crossing strands, perpendicular to the main strands, will be placed 1m c/c.

Environment – Construction

The construction of the bridge relies less on disturbing and more on placement.  Aside from the piles and caps there is little disturbance envisaged for any part of the construction.  No significant excavation is envisaged for any construction with new surfaces established above or at the existing grade levels.  The arrival court is formed using cut and fill to accommodate the new levels at or near the existing grade level of the roadway.  The southern portico is accessed by a simple path, land graded either side to minimise its physical impact.

Environment – Post Construction

The post construction environment is similar to that prior to the introduction of the bridge, the mature trees (with one or two exceptions) are maintained and a nature enclave is protected (encouraged even) to the eastern side of the arrival court.  The existing river line and footpath are maintained.   The extent of the impact remains a narrow strip with limited impact outside of this zone.   Access to the bridge is facilitated using stairs, ramps and elevators.  It can be isolated or secured by decorative gates if required.

Marking Time

Marked by the sound of a bell, the sound of water, the mark of words, the echoes of people and place, this project had the ambition to enfold space and time with sound, light and words to guide and effect a change in the visitor.


Credits copyright reserved by authors

Design & Concept NJBA A+U; Noel Brady

Design & Engineering Bakkala Consulting Engineers; Chris Bakala, Erik Altmäe

Cost Analysis KMCS; Nigel Spence, Anthony Devane

Art May 2019



Intersection A

Intersection is a series of studies investigating the nature of matter and space, in particular the intersection of these phenomenon beneath the surface of appearance.  These maquettes illustrates the initial studies that focus on direction and energy.


Intersection A – Detail

Intersection A suggests the continuity of energy through another material emerging along a different vector which suggests an alignment to the study of nuclear physics.


Intersection B

Intervention B however is balanced, precariously, between entering or leaving the mass (base) of the sculpture.


Intersection A – Detail

Though this work may suggest a position within the minimalist orthodoxy it evokes a narrative dimension regarding the nature of time and space.


© N Brady 2016 & 2019

Writing February 2018

Night Trains

Night fell with the rainstorm that carried across the city. On a hill to the North, Franz Vekaris stared from the second floor window of his flat. The night air filled with the sound of rain and heaviness, a sickly warmth that deadened his spirit. The rain fell vertically, forming perfect geometry in imperfect puddles. Outside, the street reflect the warming glow of the sodium vapour lamps. The recently storm wounded tree lay dormant beneath him. A crooked tear peeled away at the pavement, where the roots lay bare. This aging anchor had stubbornly resisted the gales but caused gas to rupture forth from beneath.
Night workmen had worked deep into the twilight to make the conduits safe. Franz had watched them, toiling in the dark with portable lamps, that aided their careful investigations. The tree could not escape their accusatory enquiry. Once revealed the tree could neither deny its guilt nor had a voice with which to defend itself. Naked, more vunerable now in its maturity than it had ever been in its youth. It could only remain to take whatever punishment that would be meeted out.
Franz empathized, with the tree. The truth, once exposed, would attract public vultures to preen their feathers while casting acid remarks. Justice would be sought, even at the expense of truth. How wretched the tree must feel, he thought to himself. The root that caused the trouble had become its jailer.

What had it done but challenge the wind, exert its presence, to tell of its existence, its majesty, its survival. How could one punish that nature which is life. Franz remembered a time when he refused to punish a dog that had bit his hand. He recognised that it was in the dog’s nature to bite. Nature in all its forms and existences must be acknowledged and accommodated. When the gas company installed the main it had not respected the nature of the tree. Now the workmen had not considered the nature of the tree.
The night had grown quiet and interfered little with his thoughts. They flowed with the water along the street. They scattered before him as he tried to haul them back into some order. The rain tumbled in synchronous symmetry with the rumble of the night trains as the noise echoed in the streets. Blue-white flashes illuminated the low cloud behind the tall chestnuts. The electrical discharges from the railing cuttings cast their shadows into elongated threads over bridge and plaster facades. He had long lived with the sound of night trains. They never seemed too far away. A low guttural rumble echoed all along the empty subterranean corridors finding its way ceaselessly into hollow hearts.
Franz looked again to the gaping wound in the footpath. Like a decaying tooth, it had been left to be ravished further by weather and traffic. As he closed his eyes, he remembered the furious activity which unfolded earlier.

Arriving home from work he had noticed the faint odour of gas, elusively flickering on the wind. The elm which stood for over a century outside of his doorway buckled under the strain of the wind. Caution pushed him to park his car further down the hill. The scent, he noticed was strongest near the tree. Once inside he had telephoned the gas company. How clear the events were inside his head and how much part of the trial he had become. Later still, he had watched the men disembark from the company van to begin their survey. With strange meters and devices they stood, talked, walked up and down, stood and talked about things other than gas. Franz had tried in vain to distinguish the words from the rumble of night trains which had begun their vigil early. Giving up he had returned to the chair in his room where he watched television on mute. It had remained like that for a long time; the televison, the workmen, the trains, all conspiring to form a blanket of static more unintelligible than before. It droned inside his head, stirring lost passages into life.
Tonight was different. The conspiracy began as usual but had retired early. On his single bed, behind him, lay Carmen. He looked back at her prostrate body, half hidden by the heavy covers. He was jealous of her child like fortification secure in a world of dreams while all around him the darkness circled, tearing at the edges of his world.

She had arrived late and skipping dinner they went to bed quietly, their lovemaking softly bringing sleep. For Franz it had been a short respite. Awake now for over an hour he sat watching the rain. Under the blankets a curtain covered and protected them from thoughts distracting and foreign. Out here in the room there was no such protection where his thoughts brought him closer to the outer world. Gathering his things he dressed himself in the small kitchen located off the single room.
The street air cleansed the bedroom warmth from his face. Cool and refreshed he raised his head to the rain. The rain’s salt mixed with the salt of his dried perspiration. Thoughts of the sea flooded his head as he tasted the wetness. As he passed by the stricken tree he reached out to touch it in sympathy. Pulling his sleeve back his watch caught the light from the street lamp; 2.20. He moved uphill away from the tree, away from the flat, away from Carmen.
He liked this time of night when the streets were his alone. Feeling his heart take the strain of the hill he felt alive. His pulse sent shivers through his soul. The sound of night trains rumbled in his ears. The rain began to ease in front of the increasing wind. Echoes of the sea were carried with the sound of crashing waves in the tree tops. Steam issued forth from a gulley in the road, from a subterranean world of rumbling. Pictures of caverns beneath the hill filled his head.

Arriving at the summit Franz looked down at the city writhe among the shadows. At times animalistic and at others mechanistic, the city appeared to growl and change gears simultaneously. While the animal moved with long laborious effort at the edge of existence, the machine ground on, endlessly. Around him gentile facades of brick walls and even paned windows hid a masss of anonymity. Below him, he searched out his flat, in one such a house, amongst the masses of roofs and chimneys. He thought of Carmen. He was disappointed that he depended on her for encouragement. Franz continued on, with the rumble of night trains for company. No further thoughts disturbed him and time soon came to return as dawn approached and Carmen would soon awake. The cleansing was welcome but only slight.
The tree remained steadfast in its resistance, alone. Inside the faint hints of a red sunrise stretched ancient fingers across the covers to where Carmen slept. The light formed tiny impulses beneath her naked skin gently stimulating her to awaken. Franz sat in the chair watching her arrival from the dream state. The first image of her day would be Franz looking down at her. Carmen stretched out her hand to feel the dampness of the coat sleeve.
– “You were out.”
– “Just a walk, couldn’t sleep.”
– “You never sleep these days.”

– “They will probably cut the tree down.”
Carmen thought about the tree before nodding acknowledgement.
– “Come to bed.”
Franz obeyed her gentle order, undressing and letting the clothes directly fall at his feet, joining her as he slipped beneath the warm sheets. She breathed the freshness of morning from his neck and hair as she nuzzled into the nape of the neck, surrendering her warmth to comfort him. Franz was once again enveloped in her security.
– “Let’s go from this place.,” Franz said softly into her ear.
– “Where would we go?”
– “Somewhere quiet.”
– “Why?”
– “Because I hurt you being like this.”
– “It won’t be any different,” Carmen asked, opening her eyes.
– “Probably not.”
– “Why move, I’m here, what proof do you need?”
– “There will be no let up, no respite, no rest.”
– “I know.”
With that they closed their eyes in order to sleep. Sleep came to Franz a little easier than usual. She remained awake. Franz did not move, breathing slightly an inch away from her breast. She continued to stroke and caress his back allowing his head to fall onto her breast. She stared at the ceiling grow light as the sun rose higher in the sky. As it progressed her mind grew empty. She had no real answers for her own questions let alone those Franz would ask. Where could they go?
Franz awoke as the rainclouds had returned to the sky above their sanctuary. They found themselves in each other’s arms. When the raindrops hit the window panes he turned to see. Beside him Carmen lay quiet and he kissed her on the forehead, his fingers tracing loops on her arm.
– “Better get up, I suppose.”
– “Mmmmm,” Carmen mumbled.
– “Tired?”
– “No, no it’s just, it’s. Well, it’s Saturday.”
Franz knew and would have been willing to let the day dwindle into the nothingness of evening but he felt restless. He sensed that it was a restlessness born out of innocence but would bring guilty results. Leaving their bed they dressed silently. Instead of breakfast they decided on an early lunch. The rain spat at them from the clouds inconsistently as they pulled their raincoats tight. Armoured against the whole of the world they stepped out from the porch. There were no workmen because of the rain and the wound had been temporarily mended. Taking the bus into the city centre they browsed bookshops before taking lunch in a small cafe, away from the milling crowds of shoppers. Their togetherness was an oasis and their mood improved as the time passed. They remained in the city as little as possible but stayed for a film walking along the embankment before heading home.

As they turned the corner of their street they found themselves in the midst of boughs and branches shorn from the old elm. Franz halted dead in his stride. All joy evaporated on seeing the large pieces of canopy strewn around the roots. Carmen gently led Franz inside.
As they lay in bed Carmen noticed a tear on his cheek. She let sleep overcome her tiredness but for Franz it was not so easy. The night trains began their vigil, their rumbles cleaving a path through his brain. The sound of the machine crudely masked those of the earth as it swung its continuous arc through space. The silent night remained an elusive place. As he yearned for a silence he feared did not exist, Franz lay awake. Carmen’s breathing belonged to the silence. The great elm in the wind belonged to the silence. The conspiracy did not. The night trains did not; their poignant echoing call bouncing along the empty yards and gullies, voices moving slowly through the still air. There would to be no answer to their call.
Franz lay awake for hours before leaving Carmen again. The night became clearer as the wind rose to greet him. The wind invigorated him, lifting his step. Seeking again the highest place, his favourite place on the hill he saw the city reveal itself again. Lying below, vulnerable he felt an ache for those that lay within as he had for the tree.

Inside the song of life rose up, a grinding melody and deeply resonate mood. Stretching out his limbs he felt the muscles tense, stretching further as if to encapsulate everything and yet nothing.
Across the city, lights appeared in the western sky. Arcing over the city they headed higher towards the hill. Taking delight in this event he watched as a new set joined the others in tight formation. He lay back on the damp grass, eyes heaven bound, watching the aircraft take a position among the stars for a short time. As they neared, one after the other their alignment formed a liaison with the moon. In unison these arrogant sons of technology joined hands with an ancient soul. The night trains dwindled into the distance smothered by the sound of the wind as it coursed its way through the trees around the hill. The wake noise of jet engines overlapped with the wind as it grew ever stronger, ever more alive. Franz closed his eyes and listened. He heard the earth murmur. He heard it breathe. He rode its back into the night-side. He felt the emptiness of space rush past him. He felt his singularity. He touched the horizon. He glimpsed tomorrow. He saw the future as he saw the past. The boundary between had dissolved. He felt no longer the earth as ground but cloud, carrying him onward. Weight and gravity left him. He slept.

As Franz woke he saw the day’s new light touch the highest floors. Leaving the hill he recognised a new silence that had revealed itself at the threshold. He knew this would always be with him. Joining Carmen his heart was coloured with a new sense of understanding.
Later as Sunday opened into their flat she awoke to a smile.
– “You were out again last night.”
– “Yes.”
– “What sort of day is it.”
– “Quiet.”
– “It is Sunday after all.”
Franz smiled and kissed Carmen’s forehead and her eyes. The night trains would no longer conspire or haunt him. He had found what evaded him, within himself, within Carmen. Nature would find a way.

2,293 words
© 1987 Jon Gregory

Architecture July 2018

Dolphin’s Barn Urban Space


NJBA A+U plan of intervention 

On the cusp of the new millennium NJBA A+U were part of a new urban space initiative championed by Jim Barrett City Architect at Dublin City Council.  Several under-utilised and under-valued spaces across the city were identified as part of the strategy.  Taking advice, suggestions and direction from the city architects and transport departments the task was to find a suitable model for urban renewal.  Concerns regarding the use of these spaces were paramount.

NJBA A+U Model Study 

Where social activities were positive they should be enhanced and where those activities were anti-social, proposals had to alleviate or deter.  Supporting mechanisms such as active public frontage and housing were important components of any solution.  In addition, where suitable, existing traffic use, including parking, could be maintained if it supported activity.


NJBA A+U – Section through main junction

In this proposal, shared spaces were a key strategy to ensure valuable public activity, especially in font of the church.  Commercial uses along the edge of the spaces are re-enlivened with robust hard landscaped space augmented with trees and public lighting.  Where viable, residential uses above shops support passive surveillance.  A new mixed use building on the edge of the main public space provides financial subvention for the public realm works.


NJBA A+U – Main space in front of church with mixed use supporting building

The existing condition also suffers from access problems.  The crossing is difficult due to its unique geometry, topographical variation and traffic levels.  Safety was a priority from a traffic management perspective.  This scheme proposed both shared spaces for the low density areas alongside public functions in front of the shops and the church. For the main crossings more direct connections were proposed and the usual pedestrian barriers removed to facilitate easier movement of pedestrians.  This would necessitate a pedestrian prioritised lighting sequence.


NJBA A+U – Study of new urban space and supporting mixed use building

Regretfully this scheme was not progressed.  It remains only in sketch form a potential solution.