The Real Shopping Mall

Henry Street

Main Street

The US architectural firm I worked for was famous for urban renewal projects. Capital for renewal projects was often short though. The main way to attract money was to visualize a good retail mix and sell the concept to City Hall. Add a wealthy developer and a persuasive leasing agent, and the result could be Faneuil Hall in Boston, South Street Seaport in New York, or Kildare Village in Ireland.

Thus the Festival Marketplace concept was born. The formula has been copied all around the world. Successful developments really can revitalize a rundown area and bring wealth to a town. If the construction is done cheaply, you get a plastic, paper thin Death Mall.

The idea of moving to Kenmare, County Kerry was very attractive to me: the streets looked like the architectural elevations we had dreamed up in the office, only they were and continue to be the Real Deal! Generations of shopkeepers and the law of supply and demand are responsible for the perfect retail mix. The buildings are real stone, wood, wrought iron and glass. Shop signs are painted on wood, neon signs are mostly disallowed. The wonderful x-shaped town plan manages to avoid the strip-mall feel of many small Irish town. One could think of the mapmaker and town planner William Petty (d 1687), and King Charles II of England, as the original architect-developer pair!

These two paintings, Henry Street and Main Street celebrate the lasting beauty and variety of Kenmare’s two main shopping streets. I took some artistic licence to feature the mix of shops and restaurants I have especially liked over the past 15 years.

On my ideal Henry Street you can find: Wellies, Veggies, Houses, Organic, Beds, Gifts, Pints, Cashmere, Dutchmen, Shortcut, Curls, Gossip, Sheets, Wills, Shave, Money, Lace, Dinner.

On my ideal Main St you can find: Hostel, Sausages, Pints, Haircut, Souvenir, Pasta, Wine, Chips, Teas, Rings, Crockery, Office, Pizza and Dinner.

Perhaps I’ll bump into you soon!


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