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Faith in the Future; Liam McCormick Founder of Modern Church Architecture in Ireland

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Joy-Anne Fleming
University of Dundee, UK
This study looks at the poignant history of Irish church architecture and its unwillingness to change in the era of the Second Vatican Council. It focuses on the work of Liam McCormick as he is now recognised by many as the Founder of Modern Church Architecture in Ireland.

The intention was to determine the vital role he played, both as an architect and a countryman at a pivotal point in Ireland’s history and assess how Liam McCormick used good design to exemplify, to both the people and the Church, the benefits of contemporary Irish church architecture.

This study begins with an introduction to Liam McCormick and a brief explanation of the requirements of designing for religious organisations. It also addresses what was happening in Ireland in the era of Vatican II and compares this to the more exciting design advancements which were occurring in the rest of Europe. Following a summary of the movements in modern church architecture in Ireland six case studies were selected for in depth analysis. What was of interest is how an architect, famous for his work being ’of this place,’ could have such a strong language running through his commissions though scattered all over the country. This section of the study aims to discover how he composed this language and how successful his designs were.

The chapter is broken down into four sections, each one addressing specific aspects of architectural design - Site Topography and Form, Plan, Light and Materiality.
Each case study was then analysed in terms of architectural criteria, rather than as six separate case studies.

The conclusion is then presented under several subject areas: Liam’s McCormick’s Patronage to Ireland, how he addressed the issue of iconism in design and finally spectates on whether or not his story is one of success.

The study has evolved from research into both primary and secondary sources. Site visits provided me with the opportunity to interview many priests, clergymen, parishioners, builders and local historians, including Liam McCormick’s widow, all of whom gave me great insight into the man, his life and work

Joy-Anne Fleming

One of the most refreshing aspects of Joy-Anne’s dissertation was the degree of primary research that she carried out in Ireland by meeting parishioners, clergy and Liam McCormack’s widow.

This gave originality to her discourse, using McCormack as a point of reference for many theoretical and philosophical insights into the development of contemporary Irish ecclesiastical architecture, yet remaining focussed throughout – a fine balance rarely achieved by students.

The analysis of architectural work through light, spatial quality, materiality, was innovative and developed a mature understanding of design.

On the basis of such thorough and considered work Joy-Anne achieved the highest mark in her year.

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