Little Republics
13 January–3 March 2023

The Irish Architectural Archive and Askeaton Contemporary Arts co-produced Little Republics: Preparations and Elements, a solo exhibition by Adrian Duncan from 13 January to 3 March 2023.

Spread throughout the ground floor galleries and exterior courtyard of the IAA’s Merrion Square building, this extensive presentation of artworks and interventions is the culmination of a year-long artist residency scheme situating the artist between Dublin and Askeaton. During this time, Duncan has researched and developed a new series of sculptures, displays and printed matter, each related to the cultural impact of the housing phenomenon Bungalow Bliss.

Bungalow Bliss first appeared in 1971 as a self-published catalogue of affordable house designs, initially drafted and distributed out of a car by Jack and Anne Fitzsimons to newsagents, petrol stations and bookshops. Over the course of the next thirty years, the Fitzsimons sold over a quarter of a million copies throughout Ireland. It resulted in tens of thousands of new dwellings appearing in Irish towns and surrounding countryside. Duncan grew up in one such house in Longford, an upbringing that has influenced much of his recent artistic and literary work, leading him to examine the influence and affect the Irish bungalow had on the housing market, the surrounding landscape, and families who lived in them. In his appraisal, Duncan looks at what these houses are, why they look the way they do, and why they were so popular with the inhabitants of rural Ireland yet aggressively dismissed by many in the architecture profession. This legacy has radically transformed the Irish landscape and its history of dwelling, and Duncan asks what meaning and value bungalows have in today’s society.

Sculptures derived from the physical dimensions of a bungalow subtly yet repeatedly intervene throughout the Georgian grandeur of the IAA’s Merrion Square building. Included is a collaboration by Duncan and textile print designer Olga Tiernan in the main entrance hall. The artist’s own experience of drafting engineer drawings are reflected in new artworks placed beside a selection of key Bungalow Bliss designs, Fitzsimons’ publications and photographs and letters from the archive in the Heinz Gallery. In a gentle yet poignant provocation, Duncan has constructed a full-scale bungalow roof structure out of timber trusses, positioned the back courtyard of the IAA alongside which are placed four ‘planning permission-notice’ styled works featuring press clippings from the archive. The roof truss, curiously out of place in the middle of Dublin and miles away from any other building of its kind, it becomes apparent that the history of housing in Ireland is a long and complex one, and that familiarity with previous incarnations of building and dwelling are crucial to realistically find new kinships and forms of living today.

Duncan’s expansive research is further featured in his book Little Republics: The Story of Bungalow Bliss, published in late 2022 by The Lilliput Press. In addition, Duncan digresses on the ideas behind his work with artist Michael Holly, freely available to view here.

About the Irish Architectural Archive

The Irish Architectural Archive was established in 1976 to collect and preserve material of every kind relating to the architecture of the entire island of Ireland, and make it freely available to the public. Its collections include the most significant body of historic Irish architectural drawings in the world, with in excess of 2.5 million drawings and related documents, ranging in date from the late seventeenth to the early twenty-first centuries. Also housed in the Archive are over 500,000 photographs, one of the largest collections of photographs in Ireland, and an extensive reference library. Constituting a vital national cultural resource, the IAA has proven fertile ground for visual artists in recent years – in collaboration with Askeaton Contemporary Arts, Adrian Duncan’s tenure as artist-in-residence was preceded by Fiona Marron and Patrick Hough in 2019.