21 Jul 2008

I’m starting a list of The Scariest Places Of The Celtic Tiger – those weird new parts of town which grew unchecked during the Tiger Years and are the built manifestation of the imaginations of those who have no business imagining places. Sandyford is the first on my list.

The thing about Sandyford is that, even though it’s only twenty minutes from the centre of Dublin, it feels like you’ve flown half way around the planet to get there: it’s the antithesis of Irishness. Stepping out of the car, its dreamlike eeriness provokes a sense of dread. You feel drained of all energy, like you’ve got the worst dose of jet lag ever. You can’t tell which direction you should go in: everywhere looks equally unpromising. Everything sounds unnervingly odd too: like you’re stuck in an edgy scene from an Altman movie where people keep twiddling round with the reverb knob. It’s giving you the willies.

Automatic doors open; you pass through and they swoosh closed behind you. You’re not sure whether you’re entering something or exiting it. You take a left, or maybe it was a right. You find yourself in the residual space between two buildings – a street, perhaps? A normally dressed person approaches and, suddenly, you don’t know what to do – you have a strong desire for some kind of human contact but this other man looks too suspiciously normal to be in a place like this for no good reason. Is it possible that he’s someone (a Replicant?) employed by the Dark Lords of Sandyford to walk around and fool visitors into thinking they haven’t stepped into a parallel universe?  

Another left, or maybe a right; another change of scene. You’re now in a large rectangular space surrounded by Energy Efficient Buildings. You figure out its some kind of public plaza and that you’re the public (apart from the employee in the orange boiler suit at the far end who, from this distance, looks like he could be wearing an ice-hockey goaltender’s mask. You try not to notice).

There’s a giant, bronze twisty sculpture thing sitting right in the middle of the plaza. It surprises you to discover that this peculiar edifice has doors. It has a function. It’s a building of some sort. Why on earth, you wonder, did the people who built such an unattractive thing use such elaborate construction techniques and expensive materials? Perhaps because - despite its over-the-top appearance - it holds some special emotional significance for them? Then, you have a heart-achingly, Rutger-Hauer-in-Blade-Runner-tear-shedding-moment when you realise it’s…

… a crèche.

You’re seized with anxiety at the sudden realisation that, my God, these people have children. Overcome with aching despair for the silent innocents of Sandyford, you search around for some kind of comfort – something normal, something sane. Wait! Is that curious, tinted-glass panel behind the oversized column on the unpeopled passageway the entrance to a newsagents? Oh thank goodness! But as the doors slide open and you hurry inside in search of something earthly, you’re filled with a new trepidation.

‘An Irish Independent and a Cadbury’s Crunchie please’, you stammer.

Words so commonplace have never before seemed so alien. The shop assistant is suspicious of you: Jesus – he’s figured out that you’re not a Scientologist!

Back in the car, you make your escape. In the relatively normal environs of the Dundrum Shopping Centre you find yourself reminiscing about how quaint things were in the past when the only planning worries we ever had were some tacky shopping malls and an invasion of high street multiples. Sandyford, you now understand, has lowered all our expectations.

Friday, July 25, 2008 1:57:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I wonder do South Dublin Co. Co. planner androids dream of electric sheep Garry? To be fair, even this globalised anytown anywhere isn't dominated by oriental language neon signage...yet...but only because of a downturn in the economy I suppose. Still it has nothing on this place: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/21/arts/design/21blad.html?ref=arts
Saturday, July 26, 2008 7:49:38 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ronan, its funny you that you should refer to the NY Times article on LA. When I was jotting down my ramblings about Sandyford, I was originally drawing heavily on LA comparisons to make my point. It wasn't working for me though: I came to the conclusion that comparing Sandyford to LA does a diservice to LA and fails to capture the dystopia of Sandyford.

I was in LA last year and was very impressed with the efforts being made to improve it. They're starting from a low base point and they sure have a long way to go, but the spirit and enthusiasm to turn things around is definitely there. There's a whole new movement of neighbourhood organisations leading the way: very encouraging.

Have you ever been to Phoenix, AZ? Ooof.
Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:42:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
How about Clongriffin near Clare Hall/Donaghmede in north county Dublin? Belmayne ( for sexy living - as advertised by the Redknapps ) is part of this development too!...
Joe R
Friday, August 15, 2008 8:38:27 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hey Joe, you're one ahead of me. I was going to get onto Belmayne on an upcoming post.
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