Full course description
Design history is a relatively new field related to art and architectural history, but which often concentrates on mass-produced things or objects considered outside the usual canon of fine or decorative art. Design historian are interested in everyday objects as well as exceptional ones, and in anonymous designers as well as famous names. The social role of design is key to understanding the value of designed objects in peoples’ lives.
This course will provide learners with a basic background to the history of design from the eighteenth century to the late twentieth century concentrating on products, interiors, graphics, the urban environment and buildings.
Students will be introduced to the commonly understood design styles (Gothic Revival, Art Nouveau, Modernism, Art Deco, etc.) but where this course will differ from a basic primer in the history of design is in the manner by which specific examples from Cork city and county will be used to illuminate and elucidate the discussions. This will bring the course alive by putting the best and most interesting examples of local design in a national and international context. Some of these Cork examples may be familiar to learners, but the course aims to surprise as well as inform.
It will be of interest to those with a curiosity about social history, local history, architecture and antiques, as well as those familiar with the story of design in other places.
Classes will be delivered for six weeks from Tuesday 27 September to 15 November. 10:30am to 12:30 pm.
Location-Central Library, Grand Parade, Cork City
Week 1. Design in Georgian and Regency Cork. The talk will concentrate on the design of everyday objects (transport, lighting, shops, signage …) and architecture (domestic, civic and religious) with some social history to provide context.
Week 2. Victorian Cork – Gothic Revival and Industrialisation. The rise of the Catholic middle class and the development of Cork’s religious institutions, UCC, transport infrastructure, the National Monument and Cork’s early industrial exhibitions.
Week 3. The Celtic Revival and the Irish Arts & Crafts movement. The development of a local arts & crafts tradition, including examples of work exhibited at the Cork Exhibition of 1902, the role of the language movement, culminating in the Honan Chapel, but including some other examples which may surprise.
Week 4. Part 1. Cork’s Suburban Housing. This talk will examine how Cork grew between the wars and how public and private suburban houses (some notable, some anonymous) were designed, decorated and used, who the clients were, and where and why they were built.
Part 2. Case Study: Murphy’s Brewery. An examination of how a major Cork firm engaged with design throughout the twentieth century in its pubs, advertising and branding.
Week 5. Cork’s Modernisms- Delivered as a walking tour. An examination of the rise of Modernism in Europe and the US in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and some reflections on how various types of Modernism (Art Nouveau, Art Deco, the International Style) were explored in Cork after Independence in graphics and furniture and in commercial, domestic and industrial buildings.
Week 6. Cork from the 1960s to the 1980s - Delivered as a walking tour. How did the city respond during the 1960s economic ‘boom’ and what happened next? What were the most notable developments in the design of the city in these decades and what can they tell us about our city? This walk will also consider the work of the city’s first generation of locally-qualified professional designers.
Tom Spalding earned his PhD on Cork city’s everyday twentieth century design at the Technological University Dublin in 2021. He holds a Master’s degree from the Royal College of Art, although his primary degree was in Mechanical Engineering. His books include A Guide to Cork's Twentieth Century Architecture; Layers: the Design, History and Meaning of Street Signage in Cork and Other Irish Cities; and The Cork International Exhibitions, 1902-1903 (with Daniel Breen). His work as a consulting historian includes contracts with the University of Leicester, Cork City Council, art galleries and private enterprises. Tom.email@example.com
Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement. No prior knowledge of Irish culture, folklore, mythology or the Irish language is necessary.
Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.
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