As Dublin Airport turns 81 we re-publish Jeannette Farrell’s 2017 article focusing on the design of Terminal One.
“Maybe you can say this about a lot of airports” says London-based Irish designer Christopher Lawson, “but certainly of Dublin; each new building is in the upper echelons of architecture of those periods in which they were built. And now there’s this kind of beautiful lineage of buildings on site” from Georgian through the International Style and the Brutalist Terminal One, built in 1972 and is, according to Lawson, “so hideous that it’s really, really beautiful”.
“It’s probably since coming to London” he continues “that I became properly interested in Brutalist architecture and of course Dublin Airport is one of the first Brutalist buildings I came in to contact with without even knowing it and it’s only now that I really appreciate the building for what it is. It’s clearly a building that’s been very considered and in a way it’s incredibly ornate. When I look at it I think of someone trying to embrace this idea of very Blade Runner-esque features. There seems to be this idea of a Brutal progression to it and I like the combination of that grotesque sans serif sign that announces Dublin Airport, which is so typical of its time and funnily, which really ruins the building”.
Whether it’s nostalgia that makes him think so fondly of the terminal he offers, “there’s definitely an aspect of nostalgia to it, of course, but then you start thinking about these buildings and analysing them and the Central Bank is not such an appealing Brutalist building for example, so I definitely think objectively speaking that the airport is a very nice example of the Brutalist canon. There’s an ambition to Brutalist buildings. They kind of wear their ambitions on their sleeve and they seem even more poignant in Dublin. I’m not sure if that’s because the surrounding buildings were so of their time so they really seem more distinct but sometimes they seemed quite futuristic and the futuristic ambition of them was really appealing to me. There were a few buildings around Dublin that I was attracted to and at the time I would think about without knowing why. The bank on Baggot Street was another where we used to skate”.
Much has been made of the original airport, opened in 1940 and designed by Desmond Fitzgerald. A curved building with tiered floors to mimic the lines of an ocean liner it was heated by turf and catered for 100,000 passengers a year. Operating just one flight a day to Liverpool and back, the airport shut during World War Two and was reopened in 1945 with a flight to Croydon in south London. The opening of Terminal Two in 2010 caused quite the kerfuffle across an almost bankrupt Ireland, designed as it was by aviation heavyweights Paton and Watson to cater for millions and millions of passengers that no one could envisage would ever arrive. Terminal One though segued into memory without much of a fuss and not even a mention of the architect involved; it’s Ireland’s brute masterpiece that’s hiding in plain sight.
“The latent motif of these Brutalist buildings is that they don’t give much away of the interior from the exterior”, Christopher concludes. “They have this sort of really nice reveal aspect to them” and can be unusually generous and warm behind their voluminous concrete walls and maybe that’s their appeal and their unexpected beauty.
Christopher Lawson moved to London in 2008 to study Graphic Design in Central Saint Martins.
In partnership with classmate Marcos Villalba, he established the London-based design practice Villalba Lawson in 2012. Operating with a modernist mindset, the multidisciplinary studio works within the realms of editorial design, visual identity, art direction, digital and environmental design with clients and collaborators across the fields of art, culture, fashion, education, manufacturing and publishing.
Words: Jeanette Farrell
Featured Image: Dublin Airport 1940
Image 2: Terminal One in 2011