Adapted from “Generations”, Our City, Our Town, Cork Independent, 9 October 2008
I recently went along to the launch of the Elysian Tower, Cork and Ireland’s tallest building. Over the years of its construction, I have photographed its ‘putting together’. I probably like everyone had mixed emotions about it. I was excited about seeing all the different pieces added but also fearful of the change; how this building dominates Cork’s skyline sticking out and how different it was to most other Cork buildings. However, the entire work grew on me as I regularly observed all the new additional parts. In particular I marvelled at the thousands of workers who seemingly crawled like ants over the building every day, each person bringing their own talents to the overall construction plan. There seemed to be always a buzz, a rhythm and a pulse. The building gradually took shape. I was struck by the height and even took time to reflect on the various hoarding sign such as, “this will change everything he thought”.
The Elysian took shape, etching itself into Cork’s skyline, well into the emptier parts of Cork’s skyline. The building now seems to book end the city in the east whilst County Hall book ends the city in the west. I attended the launch with all the above threads in my own mind. The launch was good. The speeches commented on how iconic the building was, the risk taken to now launch apartments on our recessive economic scene. Ideas of leadership, public realm ownership, inspiration and comparisons with Shandon were put forward but overall I thought the whole concept was undersold to me in terms of the Elysian as a leader in Irish architecture. I suppose that’s the question that struck me what does or maybe what should a leader do?
The speeches ended and I travelled on the tours up to the show apartments. I marvelled at the classy apartments, chatted to the interior designers from London about where they get their ideas from. I got excited at the views down on the city, especially the docklands and imagined the changes that hopefully will take place in the next twenty years. The tour carried on to the top penthouse balcony. And there it was a view to ‘die’ for, Cork City Centre in all its glory. The city centre island and the hills of the northern valley of the Lee or more affectionately known as the northside. Camera out again and probably snapped forty pictures in ten minutes. There was so much to see, so much to zoom in on. This was a view of my city I had not seen before.
I stared at the canvass of urban landscape and the different buildings etched into the landscape and thought about all the people living in the view I was seeing and then I thought about my work on Cork’s past and the former generations that lived and worked in the rebel city. The tour came down and we entered the Japanese style garden, another impressive piece of work. I came away from my launch going wow, that was impressive. The Elysian is changing place and identity once again in Cork. The Elysian as a place evokes feelings of pride stirring something deep and emotional in me that connected me to my experiences on that evening and in my photographing of the Elysian since it initiation. Two weeks have now passed since the launch and I see the Elysian skyline being compared to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Big Ben in London. The thing is that I still think the project is being undersold in terms of it representing modern Cork and even being a leader in bringing the city into the future. I’m disappointed.
The Elysian is partially due to the downturn in the economy. However, below are pictures I took on an open day last October 2008. One could travel up the building to the viewing platforms of two apartments. The view presented the city in different light – presenting new ways of looking at the city by Lee. The Elysian has created new debates on the city’s future. Love it or hate it, it’s imposing, it has a modern attitude. As the tallest building in Ireland, its also offers a discourse about the city dweller looking down on the city seeing the city in a different way to that of the citizen on the ground. Below are some views from the top.