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ACE2335 Cork by Design! Cork’s History in (about) 100 Objects (Morning, Central Library, Cork City) is a Course

ACE2335 Cork by Design! Cork’s History in (about) 100 Objects (Morning, Central Library, Cork City)

Starts Jan 31, 2023

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Full course description


Course Overview

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.


Course Overview

Classes will be delivered for eight weeks from 31 January to 21 March 2023.

10:30am to 12:30pm 

Location-Central Library, Grand Parade, Cork City 

Closing date for applications: Monday 23 January 2023

Week 1. Introduction to Design History. What is ’design history’? Who is and who is not ‘a designer’? What are the best-known design styles? This session will tease out these issues to provide a solid foundation for later talks.

Week 2. 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 3. Victorian Cork – Gothic Revival and Industrialisation. The rise of the Catholic middle class and of Cork’s religious institutions, development of UCC, transport infrastructure & the National Monument

Week 4. The Celtic Revival and the Irish Arts & Crafts movement. The development of a local arts & crafts tradition, including the role of the language movement and examples of work exhibited at the Exhibition of 1902, culminating in the Honan Chapel, but including some other examples which may surprise.

Week 5. Pt 1Cork’s Modernisms- An examination of the rise of Modernism in the C20th, with reflections on how Modernism and the International Style were explored in Cork after Independence explored in Cork after Independence. Pt. 2. Cork’s Suburban Housing. This talk will examine how Cork grew from 1900 and how public and privately-built suburban houses were designed, decorated and used.

Week 6. Pt 1Contemporary Design in Cork. This talk examines how Ireland began to adopt European ideas about Industrial Design in the 1950s and the first exhibitions of Contemporary design in the city. Pt. 2. Cork from the 1960s to the 1980s - How did the city respond during the 1960s economic ‘boom’? This talk also considers the work of the city’s first generation of locally-qualified designers.

Week 7. Walking Tour No.1: Neo-Gothic and Celtic Revival – UCC Area


Week 8. Walking Tour No.2: Mostly Modernism – City Centre


Course Lecturer

Dr 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.

Teaching Experience, To Adults: 

· ACE Course A Compendium of Cork Art, History and Culture run at 

Nano Nagle Place (2 seasons, 2019 & 2020) 

· Ashton School A Glimpse of Cork – 10 wk course concentrating on 

local history (with Ronnie Herlihy, 10 seasons, 2016-2020) 

· Friends of the Crawford (guest lecturer on three occasions) 

· Cork Literary and Scientific (guest lecturer on two occasions) 

· Cork Historical and Archaeological Society (guest lecturer) 

Teaching Experience, To Undergraduates: 

· Technological University Dublin, Product Design (BSc), 2004-2010 

· UCC, History of Art, BA, 2018. 

· MTU (Crawford College of Art & Design, 2018 & 2020) and NUI Maynooth (2009)


Entry Requirements

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.


Contact Details for Further Information