Launch 6pm Tue 25 June
Running 26 June-31 July
Irish Architectural Archive
45 Merrion Square East, Dublin 2
Labourer’s Cottages of County Wexford is a research project undertaken by Simon Bates and ongoing since 2016. The project began with an urge to draw attention to these iconic buildings which seem to permanently sit in the landscape.
Exploring Labourer’s Cottages through photography, the images of Bernd and Hilla Becher come to mind. The Bechers’ studies of industrial typologies were documentary in nature and were often exhibited by type, laid out in grids. Each piece of industrial architecture was photographed in black and white, in flat light, and isolated from its surroundings. This approach meant that similar forms of structure could be easily compared and contrasted.
Moving away from the documentary style of the Bechers’ work, Bates’s images look to give an emotive value to these objects of the everyday landscape. The photographs convey their personalities, and act as portraits, not just of the dwellings, but also of their inhabitants.
Although recognised academically as important, their heritage value has gone unremarked, and to date none have been accorded protected structure status. Local Authorities are not currently in a position to dedicate finances or resources to recording these quietly iconic buildings.
Designed by Wexford County Council from the 1890’s up until the 1930’s, they are simple in form and detail they show enduring qualities. They have classical proportions, pleasing scale, and durable finishes. The basic form has been extended to, and individualised by painting, finishes, colours, etc. Despite extensive changes to many of the houses, they remain readily recognisable.
The cottages are a part of the vernacular architectural heritage of County Wexford with layers of cultural, historic, and social significance. Although they occur in other counties, their proliferation in County Wexford points to a marriage of specific housing policy with land ownership conditions, and the status of the agricultural labourer at the time. They are so associated with the landscape of Wexford that it is valid to call them a local icon. The fact that so many survive and continue to be adapted is evidence of their formulaic success. Interesting key issues include the pattern of distribution, nuances in building styles, and the different ways they have been adapted and extended over time.
About Simon Bates
Simon Bates is a documentary photographer based in Wexford. Simon completed an MA in Documentary Photography at the University of the Arts, London, in 2014. His personal work has exhibited in PhotoIreland Festival in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014. In 2012 an image from his Next Time Round project was selected for exhibition at the RHA Annual Show 2012. He has taken part in numerous group exhibitions, and his work has been published in national and international publications.