Scott Tallon Walker is one of Ireland’s most well known architecture firms, and brings together the architectural expertise of three of Ireland’s most prominent architects: Michael Scott, Ronnie Tallon and Robin Walker. The firm has been involved with the design of many iconic Irish buildings, most of them prominent public buildings like Miesian Plaza, Busáras bus station in central Dublin and the Aviva Stadium.
With their combined expertise, these architects formed a practice which continues to uphold the same design ethos it did when the firm began, but each one of these architects is respected in their own individual capacity for the way in which they have influenced the nature of Irish architectural design on an international scale, especially considering the limitations that were placed on the trio over the years, from post-war lack of materials to economic restraints.
We’ve spoken about Michael Scott on this blog before, and the legacy that he has left in Dublin with regards to architecture and a commitment to the principles of modern design. To expand on the individual expertise of the architects that made up Scott Tallon Walker, we’ll investigate the life and achievements of Ronnie Tallon in this post, who up until he passed away recently, was still very much involved in the running of the firm, and is considered an icon.
Tallons iconic status was publicly honoured in 2010, when he was awarded the inaugural RIAI James Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture. Tallon is also the only architect to win two RIAI Triennial Gold Medals before turning 40.
Ronnie Tallon’s Architectural Background
Ronnie (Ronald) Tallon was born in Dublin, and started his architectural career working on the design of the Ballyowen Sanatorium while studying architecture at UCD. After he graduated in 1950, he started working for the Office of Public Works, where he worked on the Drogheda Post Office. In 1956, Tallon was headhunted by Michael Scott to work for his firm, and in 1959 Tallon partnered with Scott as part of Michael Scott and Associates.
The firm completed a number of works between 1960-1975, and was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by the Queen in 1975, which is considered one of the most prominent forms of recognition in the architectural world. The work that the firm completed during this time, according to the Irish Times: “…defines the coming of age of our Republic; it appears to be nothing less than the physical manifestation of Lemass and Whitaker’s radical plan for Ireland’s modernisation.”
This quote refers to the way in which Lemass and Whitaker implemented various plans for modernisation in Ireland while working for Ireland’s. This plan for modernisation consisted of the First and Second Programme for Expansion respectively, and can be considered the forerunners to Ireland’s current “open for business” culture, which we’ve explored in a previous post on Irish tax regulations.
Ronnie Tallon’s Prominent Architectural Works
Besides being involved in the original design of Miesian Plaza (then called the Bank of Ireland building), Tallon was involved in the design and construction of many buildings, which are listed below:
Church at Knockanure in County Kerry (the first modern church in Ireland)
Old Lisney building, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. (the first modernist building constructed through urban infill)
Renovation of PJ Carroll’s factory (now part of the Dundalk university campus,included in an international exhibition at Harvard University with famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas)
Goulding Summerhouse, Enniskerry
Papal cross for mass in Phoenix Park in 1979
Tallon House (similar in design to Farnsworth House, Tallon House shares the same elevation off the ground and similarities in open interior design)
the 1798 Tulach a’ tSolais memorial, Wexford
Tallon’s Influence on Contemporary Architecture
In addition to the individual buildings listed above, Tallon was a master planner and architect at RTÉ for 50 years, and was responsible for the design of many campuses for civic organisations. Tallon’s campus design for RTÉ was even exhibited as part of the 2014 Venice Biennale, which formed part of the theme “Absorbing Modernity, 1914-2014”.
Tallon is also credited with redefining the design of the business park, an example of which is the East Point business park in Dublin. Other concepts that Tallon is credited with pioneering and championing are the use of art in architecture, and the radical use of new engineering designs such as at Wood Quay, which “…pay homage to their historic predecessors in the use of indigenous Wicklow granite and by marking the public entrance a generous four-storey portico.”
Tallon’s Design Inspiration
Tallon’s architectural design has been inspiraitional to many, but to understand what inspired him, we look to Mies van der Rohe and designs from further afield, such as the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, Japan, which is considered an “historical” example of modernism, in the design of the space and lack of interior decoration. Interestingly, the founders of the modern movement in architecture saw similarities in the design of the Katsura Imperial Villa, which reflects the same aesthetic ideals 300 years later.
Tallon, His Legacy and Miesian Plaza
As we’ve mentioned above, Miesian Plaza is one of the most prominent examples of not only Scott Tallon Walker’s architectural expertise, but is also representative of Tallon’s own individual experience of Mies van der Rohe’s approach to public architecture. Like Mies, Tallon is also celebrated for bringing modern ideas to an international audience, and it is this legacy that is currently being re-emphasised in a contemporary context with the refurbishment of Miesian Plaza.