St. James’s Gate in Dublin is significant for a number of reasons. It was once the gate through which one entered from the West into Medieval Dublin; it was the starting point of the Irish pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, sanctified for being the site of the well of Saint James; but nothing has become so historically and culturally entrenched in this quarter of the city more than the name of Arthur Guinness. Indeed, the Guinness brand has become Internationally synonymous with St. James’s Gate, fashioning a distinct iconography that demarcates the now 64-acre site stretching along the River Liffey and up into the heart of Dublin 8.
Walking along the Quays from Smithfield to Heuston Station, the spectator’s gaze is monopolised by the smokey industrial skyline of brown-brick chimneys and steel silos that intensify the rays of the evening sun. For anyone nostalgic of this city’s past – the rich and austere cultural fabric woven into its cobbles – the site of the Guinness brewery under the warmth of the Spring sun is heart-warming, for no other reason than its familiarity. The familiarity of a legacy whose narrative you feel a part of as a Dubliner. There is something strangely inviting about the brewery. The streetwalker’s role as flâneur becomes something more. More than disinterested voyeurism. It adopts a reciprocity with the environment. The brewery’s image becomes part of your story, your identity. It reminds me of the immediacy of architecture as a story-telling medium. Of how the materiality and history of buildings and structures have the power to inspire introspection and retrospection. To make one think. This is surely the achievement of a legacy worthy of its name.
Here’s to Arthur!