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OUTCASTS – Handball Alleys: Architectural Outcasts 2014


Outcasts is currently on exhibition at Darcspace Gallery, 26 North Great Georges Street Dublin 1, until 18th July 2014 as part PhotoIreland Festival. The exhibition will be accompanied by architectural models of the alleys created by Peter Carroll of A2 Architects.

Paul McCarthy and Aoife Murphy have photographed the sites of handball alleys (‘Pinniúr’ in Irish) throughout Ireland over the past number of years. There are estimated to be around 700 outdoor alleys in Ireland, though this number is in decline due to demolition.

Peter Carroll created the architectural models directly from the photographs. The models accompanying are deliberately abstract in nature and are made to relate to both the immediate context of the alleys as well as the viewpoint of the photograph. The models attempt to distill the provocative nature of the form, siting and making of these alleys in their often unexpected contexts.

“Any wall, any ball” was the traditional challenge to play handball against any flat vertical surface. It was originally played against the old walls of castles or churches. In the nineteenth century alleys (structures of one to four walls) began to be built for the purpose. It is still a popular indoor sport but until very recently, handball was a principle summer outdoor pastime. Players could arrive unannounced and wait their turn to play. The informal organisation of the sport belied its fierce competitive, pugilistic character. The leather and wood ball used gave us the phrase ‘to play hard ball’. These alleys were at the centre of a democratic national sport of free association.

The project has different ideas behind it. On the one hand it documents social and architectural history and its imprint on the Irish landscape. Its other motivation is more conceptual- by expressing their forms through a typological series of photographs we come to look at these structures as strangely remote “anonymous sculptures”.

They are now the remains and remnants of a passing period in Irish society. Their unprepossessing, starkly functional modernity and the austere appearance of their concrete construction seem to exclude them from what is generally considered to be Ireland’s architectural heritage. Though the alleys are authentically local to Ireland these concrete arenas remain dubious outcasts, edged out of our normal understanding of the vernacular.

Outcasts was exhibited in Madrid at PhotoEspagne in 2008 and in Limerick at Cat Dig, as part of EVA in 2010.

OUTCASTS – Handball Alleys: Architectural Outcasts is NOT an IAF event and is delivered by A2 Architects and darc space for more information please visit this website.