I have a secret fetish for architecture (just not so secret any more ). I have been known to fondle bridges; to lose my breath over mindblowing overhangs; to stare at the steel ceilings of stadiums rather than the pitch and wonder just what allows 50,000 people to hop up and down without it all collapsing.
When in major cities, I take lifts to the 50th floors to examine how buildings work; to wonder at it all. To be wowed by the fact that it is not the beauty of a building you should solely look at, but the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.
Perhaps some of this wonderment is at the confidence that architects have that buildings will achieve what they set out to achieve; that the light will fall exactly where they said it will, and how far that light will reach before embracing a darker shade. I wonder how architects sleep at night, knowing the terrifying possibilities that are attached to every creation.
When I think of architecture and architects however, my thoughts do not solely spread to buildings and structures.
I am a firm believer in the apportionment of credit for any vision, confidence, the breadth of belief. Galway is one such creation that has had many architects.
In weeks like this with the artistic hum from the streets of the city outside my window, I think of the architects of the Galway we are experiencing this week and for the next three. Those people who 40 years ago or more had the madness and the confidence to do what they did, never knowing that their small but gigantic steps would lead to the vibrancy we experience at this time of the year.
The Galway into which the Galway International Arts Festival was born was vastly different, one more suspicious of creative types with long hair and flares; it was a time when the possibility of what those pioneers were trying to achieve was not so easily roadmapped - for that reason, our appreciation of the likes of Garry, Mike, Ollie, Marie, Mick, et al, must never diminish.
Their memories must be ingrained into a sort of creative Mount Rushmore. A reminder of what could be achieved, and can be achieved, if the right mix if applied. For that reason too, the link between the public and the creatives must be made stronger.
In recent years, the general public are getting a greater sense of the festival, the arrival of the Festival Village at Eyre Square last year was an example of this. The inclusion of the People’s Build; the sheer delight at the arrival of the Big Top, etc, are all signifiers of a growing bond between the creators and the consumers, with all art hoping to persuade one to become the other.
When you step out over the next few weeks and sample a film at the film fleadh, or take in a performance at the arts festival or fringe festival, or just happen upon a street show, let you not forget those who made it possible; let us realise that with a bit of nurturing, many things are possible.
Galway has a great nurturing culture of start-up at the moment. Places like the Portershed and the third level institiutions are fertile meadows for the creative brains looking for solutions to problems we do not even realise we have.
Getting back to the true sense of architecture, let us not underestimate the responsibility of the city’s built environment to similarly nurture, encourage, and stimulate; to create spaces that will enable creativity that will continue to be the hallmark of Galway for decades to come, just as the vision of the arts festival pioneers has done.
When I think of these, my mind goes to concepts such as the Bonham Quay development; the Ceannt Station renewal, the potential for the Nuns Island development; the fledgling plans for the development of the Dyke Road area, and hope that they embrace this spirit of freedom and inspire a whole new generation of thinkers.