I’ve lived in Galway for a lot of my life now, and I know the lie of the land pretty well. I could close my eyes and take a fairly detailed imaginary stroll through town.
Just like someone you see every day getting taller or fatter or older, I sometimes don’t notice the landscape shedding it’s skin and gradually evolving into a new place over time; change comes dropping slow. Still, I can also go for a real-life walk and, if I’m in the mood to pay attention to the familiar surroundings, notice the most tiny detail – a new piece of graffiti here or a replaced road sign there. There’s comfort in it.
Alongside this organic type of development, there are the obvious and sudden changes brought about by Development-with-a capital-D. New buildings (like the hideous new city museum dropped from space next to centuries-old stonework) arrive from nowhere, catching me off guard and forcing me to annotate the map in my head.
RTÉ’s radio documentary series on architecture The State We’re In: Revealing Irish Cities features an episode on Galway. An architect takes the presenter for a ramble around the city, chatting about the design and history of the streetscape as they go. Even though they don’t explicitly name the buildings they are talking about, if you know the area, it’s easy to follow along.
It’s like being taken on a reverse psychogeographical journey, where your emotional connection with a geographical environment has already been defined, and by replaying the space in your head through someone else’s experience it becomes new. It’s cool.