Monday, October 3, 2011

#90: 90 Paces, Collins Barracks

Collins Barracks, Arbour Hill, Dublin

All throughout the courtyard of the Collins Barracks, you'll see these hand-painted numbers on the walls. Near the entrance, the signs on either side read 100 PACES, and the numbers count backwards from there: 90, 80, 70, and so on. Back when the barracks was occupied by the British army, the numbers were used to train soldiers in rote military drills, but after the fight for Irish independence, some prescient soul must've tipped them off that Ampersand Seven was coming 'cause they vacated the barracks but left me the numbers. Thanks, Irish army!

The Collins Barracks now holds the decorative arts wing of the National Museum, but it's also a pretty good place to sit in a courtyard, take a couple pictures, and eat a croissant smuggled from your hotel, just in case you were wondering.

The barracks, built starting in 1701 with bits and bobs getting added on throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, is just about the oldest building in Dublin, second only to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. If you've ever seen the film Michael Collins, or anything else about the history of Dublin and the fight for Irish independence, then -- well, let's be real here. You can probably barely see any of these old buildings through all the continuous gun smoke and heavy whiff of history.

In 2006-2007, the courtyard of the barracks was also home to a site-specific art piece by Sean Taylor called 100 Paces, which invoked the long-past military drills and filled the square with sound and choreography. I wasn't there to see it, but through the magic of the internet, a little morsel of this public art remains.

It's definitely worth a look around. I'm usually too busy haunting the courtyard to remember to ever go inside. But next time I'll have to take those extra 90 paces.

No comments: