“EVERY great architect is a great poet,” stated Frank Lloyd Wright, one of world’s most acclaimed modern architects.
OF course he wasn’t referring to architects as authors of rhyming lines, but to the altogether different sort of lines they use in their buildings.
Wright maintained that there are profound similarities between building-design and poetry.
“An architect must be an original interpreter of his time, his day and his age,” he said, emphasising three aspirations that are similarly shared by any self-respecting poet.
Sadly, there aren’t too many buildings around the place these days that fulfil Wright’s lofty objectives though older edifices, such as the plantation castles reproduced here on Friday, are good examples of his noble goals.
Those huge castles’ tense history is revealed by the height of their entrances above ground-level, by the vast strength of their walls, and by their narrow overhanging windows in circular towers giving an all-round view.
Everything was designed for defence; harsh reminders of cruel times, yet poetry in stone!
The walls were so thick that if an extension was needed, rather than cutting through the virtually impenetrable sides of the castle, which would have required immense effort, they extended upwards - hence the outward corbelling at the un-strengthened tops of the towers to support additional ‘roof space’!
A lesser-known example of ‘poetic’ architecture, not too far away from Friday’s historic castles, also recalls ‘time, day and age’, but tells quite a different story. It is quite an imposing dwelling, off the beaten track, and coincidentally, it has close connections with a regular contributor to this page! The Wilson family, who hailed from Woaghternerry (pronounced ‘water-nairy’) and Gortmesson, town lands close to Enniskillen “were an interesting lot,” Christopher Wilson told me recently.
Christopher, who has in the past recounted many warm reminiscences here, told me about his colourful family tree, and shared a photograph of their similarly colourful and evocatively named Darjeeling bungalow! His father, also called Christopher, was a leading Northern Ireland politician in the 1930s - 1950s.
Eddie, one of his dad’s brothers, was told as a young man that he was very ill and would only live for a few months. He died at the ripe old age of 97!
As little children, Christopher’s dad and his young brothers watched a pig being slaughtered in the then acceptable and colloquial fashion - an enthusiastic bang on the poor porker’s head with a heavy stick!
“One of dad’s brothers Sam was unconscious for four days,” Christopher told me, “because the others copied the pig’s execution by clobbering him with a big stick too. Sam fortunately survived and in later life became the owner of clothing manufacturing factories in Drogheda and Belfast.”
Another brother William (Willie) had a timber business in Dublin where “he manufactured bungalows which were sent as do-it-yourself kits to far-flung parts of the British Empire,” Christopher explained.
A number of the bungalows were exported to Indian tea plantations, but one of was re-routed to the Wilson family in Fermanagh!
“Hence the Darjeeling bungalow near Enniskillen,” explained Christopher. The bungalow has a very different story to tell about Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘time, day and age’ than the nearby Scottish-styled plantation castles.
Even the name ‘bungalow’ is expressively poetic in origin, from the root word ‘bangla ghar’ meaning ‘a house in the Bengal’, which was traditionally a small, single storied, detached homestead with large windows (for ventilation) and a veranda (for shade).
William Wilson’s pitched roof replaced the indigenous flat roof to discourage local monkeys from moving in upstairs! Every fixture tells a story! The Wilson’s colonial-style home is no longer owned by Christopher’s family, though co-incidentally, its owner is George Wilson who “is not a relative but a good friend” Christopher told me, and thank you George for permitting us to read about your beautiful home.
The bungalow’s perfectly symmetrical (poetic!) recurring elements, such as the windows, vertical supports, beams, and the corrugated segments, reveal its talented designer’s objectives - a house that could be prefabricated, packed, transported, and put together by a novice D.I.Y builder on the other side of the world.
It’s all the rage today, if on a smaller scale, mass-produced for our ubiquitous ‘flat-pack furniture’ superstores. Without doubt the Fermanagh-born bungalow manufacturer was far ahead of his time. And fortunately one of his British-Raj Dublin-made masterpieces remains today, resplendent to a tea amongst the rolling green drumlins of Lough Erne!