Water Towers of Ireland

[Image: From Water Towers of Ireland; photograph by James Young].

An exhibition up—possibly for just one more day—over at University College, Dublin, features photos by James Young. For the last 10 months, Young has been assembling a typological study of water towers in Ireland. Young describes it as “part inventory, part photographic essay and part history.”

Of course, Young’s work has presumably been greeted with very many comparisons to the work of Bernd & Hilla Becher.

[Images: From Water Towers of Ireland; photographs by James Young].

Many of the structures are militaristic and even explicitly fortress-like. They are prisons for water.

[Image: From Water Towers of Ireland by James Young].

Others could be mistaken for ornamental menhirs, functionless and inexplicable totems standing patiently in the fog and rain.

[Image: From Water Towers of Ireland by James Young].

I just wanted to post a few of my favorite images here, but then urge you to look through the many other examples over at the Water Towers of Ireland website.

[Images: From Water Towers of Ireland; photos by James Young].

You’ll see, among other things, that many of the more forensic portraits, as seen above, have been twinned with casual, souvenir-like Polaroid shots—such as this one, in Castlemoyle, the very first tower posted on Young’s site.

[Image: From Water Towers of Ireland; photo by James Young].

Perhaps this last one heralds the aborted start of a new branch in architectural history, that of mycological brutalism.

11 thoughts on “Water Towers of Ireland”

  1. Great post! A very interesting photographic taxonomy of these omnipresent landscape (and urban) elements that often go unnoticed. To me they look like the lovechild of Wright and Sant'Elia.

  2. Weird. I'm from Ireland, and am also a student at UCD (where there is indeed a water tower) and I never really though about them as "prisons for water" or purely ornamental. I always just used them as a landmark for navigation, such as around campus.

    I definitely want to go see this exhibition now.

  3. The site that you linked to doesn't appear to exist! Or at least, seems to be a parking URL for something.

    Otherwise: very interesting! I've seen towers like this elsewhere in Europe as well, particularly in Germany and France. In America we only get the 'round UFO' towers, but not 'military fortress' models or 'mushroom' types.

  4. As an American, it's so strange to see water towers made of stone or concrete.

    No sir, you need to make them out of aluminum and then put the name of your lovely town in big bold letters right at the top!

  5. While I understand the appeal of the work and inevitable comparisons with the Becher's work, I find this set of photographs to be… lacking, to say the least.
    Aesthetically, there seems to be no rigor in the ways in which he photographs the structures. With the Bechers, the lighting and framing (soft, frontal) were as neutral as possible, to allow for a maximum of difference in the structures to be registered.
    With Young's photographs there is clearly no interest in neutralizing the scene, as each structure is photographed with little regard to composition or light.
    For me, the aesthetic neutrality and soft beauty of the Becher's work elevates the scientifically-driven methodical survey to something beyond the sum of its parts.
    With Youngs work, the sum of the environment, light, composition and subject add up to chaos, with all entities competing for attention. Resulting in each frame as an unresolved haphazard 'portraits,' and the entirety of the set a catalogue of aesthetically indifferent snapshots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *