Last Sunday: Festival of Street Culture

I learned about the Kings of Concrete festival late last week, and I barely remembered to go at midday on Sunday.

It was a gorgeous day, probably the warmest yet, and the sun was beaming its love upon the whole land. Just to walk to the Dublin City Council building was a joy. At first, I thought it was an odd place to stage a festival of street culture, since The Street is a reliable “menace” that city-level councillors abuse for re-election in every place that I’ve ever lived.

I’ve been to the building dozens of times, to perform parking-permit rituals and other exercises of city life. The building is a hulking, brutal modernist office block. On the inside, it is comfortable and logical. The people who work there have been friendly and intermittently helpful.

The outside is almost never appealing. It is nestled on the side of a ridge, beneath the venerable Christchurch cathedral. Yet its grey concrete and unadorned steel detract from the site, and its public spaces are so repellent that nobody cares when they are fenced off. The front commands a wonderful view of the River Liffey, but I find the steps and landings too unsettling to enjoy. Even the smokers seem alienated by its plazas.

But! Seeing this festival cover every inch of that space was like seeing a man in a perfectly tailored suit or a woman in an expertly designed dress. The skaters and graffiti artists and spectators filled it perfectly. Like that exquisite dress, you couldn’t imagine the building being attractive without the people, or vice versa. Kings of Concrete, indeed! The Dublin City Council building, during the week, now looks like a royal castle while its court is away.

I took photos of the people, but I didn’t even try to capture the architecture come alive. Maybe I’ll get another chance someday. Here’s the Flickr photo set. Enjoy!

3 Comments to “Last Sunday: Festival of Street Culture”

  1. Dave said...
    1 August 2008

    So, do you think they held it close to the city center to take pictures of the graffiti artists and skateboaders? Now they’ve got a book on them!

    Nothing like slinging around unfounded accusations on the internet.

  2. Will said...
    2 August 2008

    That’s thinking like an American cop, Dave! It’s true that the NYPD, CPD and LAPD excel in infiltration and entrapment, American small-town cops rely on the set-up job, and the bobbies in the UK love them some CCTV surveillance. But in most of the civilised world, “getting the book” on minor “anti-social behaviour” is considered distasteful.

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