Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
The town I loved so wellJuly 26, 2012 - 1:48pm
By Dermot Keys
Roddy Mannion may be best known for his architectural work but the Moylough native has recently launched a comprehensive new book on the city called Galway: A Sense of Place.
The book charts the evolution of Galway City, looks at its culture and architecture, and provides a vision of the city’s future development. It provides an in-depth analysis of a city that he has lived in and worked in for 25 years.
The well-known local architect never imagined that he would write a book but it came about in a relatively organic way. After researching and writing about the impact that the new port would have on Galway, he was inspired to expand the work to cover the wider city.
“I see it as a study of the city of Galway and all the unique features that make it up,” Roddy explained.
“I was attracted to the title “A Sense of Place” because I think a sense of place captures the uniqueness of a particular locality. What I wanted to capture was the distinctive features of Galway that distinguish it from all other cities in Ireland. In studying the city, I wanted to look at all its features but also its weaknesses and flaws.
“So I suppose I would describe it as a warm embrace of a city I love living and working in, but at the same time it is a gentle whisper in the ear that all is not perfect! That’s the way I’d probably describe the book.”
Researching the book threw up some interesting surprises for Roddy, including the fact that Norman French was Galway’s first language between the 13th and 15th centuries and that an old Gaelic settlement at Menlo once rivalled The Claddagh in terms of size.
“It was great doing the research because all these gems came up that I hadn’t been aware of and it was lovely to read about them. I have most of them in the book in some form.”
As well as offering an insight into Galway’s history and culture, the book also looks at the city’s potential development.
“The city has grown more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. The population has trebled since 1951 but more revealing is that the physical city has grown tenfold, so in other words the city has physically grown over three times more than its population growth. Now, we’re a far more spread-out, sprawling city than we were 50 years ago.”
Galway now has a population density of approximately 30 people per hectare, compared to 90 people per hectare in 1960. A typical European city has about 100 people per hectare. Roddy explains that Galway’s current low density is too low to support a proper public transport system.
“I suppose we turned our back on the historic city, which was a compact, mixed-use, dense city. If we’d continued with that, we would be able to provide a transport system because it would be a lot smaller and more compact.”
Galway is located in a 4km wide neck of land between the Lough Corrib and the sea and Roddy examines how this has led to traffic issues in the city.
This congestion is centred on the eastern approach roads and, although the proposed Outer Bypass will provide some relief, Roddy believes it will ultimately end up going the same way as the Quincentennial Bridge.
Two alternative transport systems are mooted in the book. One is to develop the existing railway line which comes into the heart of the city from the east.
“The international trend is that you have high density around a transport route like that because it makes sense. That piece of transport is the most sustainable piece of transport infrastructure we have in the city and we are dismissing it.”
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.