Architecting The Plumbing
Sean Mulcahy


Sean Mulcahy. 1982

©Monica Pidgeon

I imagine we all agree that the qualities required of a building are those of commodity, firmness and delight. This definition, given by Henry Wootten and taken from Vitruvius, appeals strongly to engineers. The structural engineer identifies his role with firmness; the services engineer, his with commodity or performance; and they both believe, with some justification, that the archi- tect's main concern is perhaps over-much with delight. The danger lies in thinking of them and valuing them separately. None is sufficient, all are requisite: none is independent, all are interdependent. The instrument re- quired for building design is not the inch ruler nor the straight edge, but the balance. I trained as a mechanical and electrical engineer without any clear idea of - which of many engineering careers I might follow. However, it seemed then, in 1947, that building services engineering was a rapidly expanding field and I was given the opportunity of joining a new practice set up in Dublin by a Danish engineer Jorgen Varming. He along with structural engineer Ove Arup rhad been invited by the Irish architect Michael Scott to assist him in a programme of buildings and in particular the now famous Dublin Bus Station.


Dublin Bus Station, By Michael Scott

©Sean Mulcahy

This Le Corbusier-influenced building won for Scott the Irish Gold Medal and led later to the British medal. I worked for some months on plumbing details for the Bus Station and realised that my engineering education had taught me little about building engineering and nothing about architecture.

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