Tag Archives: Festival International du Film sur L'Art

Talking to My Father — Blog on its making!



My lat­est film ‘Talk­ing to My Father’ was fund­ed by the Arts Coun­cil’s — REEL ART Scheme and pre­miered at the Dublin Film Fes­ti­val 2015. To date it has had a cin­e­ma run at the Irish Film Insti­tute screened at the Amer­i­can Archi­tec­ture and Design Film Fes­ti­val, Cork Film Fes­ti­val and the Fes­ti­val Inter­na­tion­al du Film sur L’Art in Mon­tre­al.

Simon BordThe film ‘Talk­ing to My Father’ came about through an unusu­al set of events. The archi­tect Simon Walk­er  shared office space with my pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Loopline Film.Over the years we had end­less con­ver­sa­tions about the gold­en era of mod­ernism in Ire­land and I want­ed to make a film with Simon at the helm that explored this era. I filmed sequences with Simon explain­ing how archi­tec­ture and art was used by the gov­ern­ment of the day as a kind of brand­ing of mod­ern Ire­land. I intend­ed the start­ing point to the time  Michael Scott erect­ed an elab­o­rate pavil­ion for the New York World’s Fair in 1939 as a sym­bol of a new, mod­ern Ire­land. Then I dis­cov­ered the film I actu­al­ly want­ed to make was elsewhere!

Loopline Film offices in Lad Lane Dublin closed after our land­lord lost his shirt dur­ing the bank­ing cri­sis. One of the rooms in Lad Lane was rent­ed by my friend the archi­tect Simon Walk­er. We found much small­er premis­es on Bag­got Street and when Simon moved in I saw that he had box­es and box­es of archi­tec­tur­al doc­u­ments relat­ing to the life’s work of his father Robin Walk­er.  He filled me in about Robins life as a young archi­tect, which includ­ed study­ing with Le Cor­busier in Paris and a stint work­ing along­side Mies van der Rohe in Chica­go before return­ing home to Ire­land in the late Fifties to work along­side Michael Scott who lat­er made him a part­ner in Scott Tal­lon Walk­er. Scott Tal­lon Walk­er were at the fore­front of Ire­lands rapid expan­sion after years of aus­ter­i­ty and emigration.

As a part­ner in Scott Tal­lon Walk­er, Robin Walk­er became a key agent in this nation-build­ing process. The film accom­pa­nies Robin’s son Simon, also an archi­tect, on an explo­ration of some of the most inter­est­ing and icon­ic pub­lic and pri­vate build­ings pro­duced dur­ing this rich peri­od of cul­tur­al opti­mism and civic ide­al­ism. Simon though a great admir­er of his Fathers lega­cy also remem­bered with sad­ness the ear­ly sev­en­ties when his Father with­drew from the world of archi­tec­ture and to some extent his family.

I was intrigued and began to think of how this might become a film. Our con­ver­sa­tions became the basis for a short pilot I made for a sub­mis­sion to the Irish Arts Coun­cil’s — Reel Art Scheme. For the pilot I sug­gest­ed that Simon write a let­ter to Robin and this devise worked so well that the film became a reality.

Donat 1The first film­ing took place in Both­ar Bui the beau­ti­ful vil­la Robin built for his fam­i­ly on the wild Beara Pen­nisu­la in South­west Cork.  Simon’s sis­ter Sara looks after Both­ar Bui and main­tains its upkeep by rent­ing it out. It is a very pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for artists and archi­tects and for a few weeks the Walk­ers and their many friends and an army of young chil­dren inhab­it this par­adise. The mag­ic of this won­der­ful archi­tec­tur­al mas­ter­piece was cap­tured in all its glo­ry by my long­time cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Pad­dy Jordan.

bf1The thread of Simon’s let­ter was the con­duit for the films jour­ney into Robins archi­tec­tur­al lega­cy . As we began our jour­ney to film Robin’s work, Simon told how his Fathers func­tion­al approach to archi­tec­ture did not appeal to some and con­tro­ver­sy dogged his ear­ly build­ings like the ‘Opera House’ in Cork and his ‘Bord Failte Head­quar­ters’ in Dublin. In one scene Simon took his stu­dents to the now emp­ty ‘Bord Failte’ build­ing and shed light on Robin’s intent to cre­ate har­mo­ny between his cre­ation and the Geor­gian build­ings that sur­round­ed it.

kinsale 4LRThis core tenet of Robin’s approach to site is stun­ning­ly demon­strat­ed in our sequence at ‘The Week­end House’ in Kin­sale. This mod­ernist mas­ter­piece stands on pil­lars over­look­ing Kin­sale Har­bour.  The house went through a peri­od of decline until the Healy fam­i­ly bought it and set about restor­ing it to Robin’s orig­i­nal design. Iron­i­cal­ly they chose Simon Walk­er to over­see the work and this led to one of the best scenes in the film.


Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Dublin Restaurant

Simon’s jour­ney unearthed many oth­er mag­i­cal archi­tec­tur­al encoun­ters with his Fathers lega­cy. He con­veys how Robins Open Vol­ume plan for the Restau­rant at UCD has been blocked up with par­ti­tions and his rad­i­cal plan for the stu­dents to sense free­dom in the build­ing is now sad­ly oblit­er­at­ed. The same image is con­veyed when Simon vis­its Robin’s Art Build­ing at Maynooth Col­lege. The build­ing once sat like a jew­el on the land­scape but is now unloved and uncar­ed for and can hard­ly be recog­nised as it is swamped by new ugly struc­tures all round. Robin’s clar­i­ty of design can still be seen in all its glo­ry when we wit­ness Saint Colum­ba’s Sci­ence Block and his cam­pus at Wes­ley College.

wesley college

Wes­ley Col­lege Dublin

Robin’s with­draw­al from archi­tec­ture coin­cid­ed with the oil cri­sis of the ear­ly sev­en­ties when the ideals and ideas of the Mod­erns was aban­doned for a more spec­u­la­tive approach to pub­lic build­ings. Robin left the stage and con­cen­trat­ed on writ­ing which are con­veyed through­out the film by read­ings from the actor Patrick Bergin.

I designed the film as a lone jour­ney by Simon into his Fathers life and I delib­er­ate­ly avoid­ed ‘Talk­ing Head’ inter­views and let the build­ings speak for them­selves. The orig­i­nal music com­posed by Stano and the haunt­ing Sound­scape by Philippe Fau­jas fuelled the mag­i­cal atmos­phere of the film. We were also gift­ed to be able to fea­ture the great poet Sea­mus Heaney recite his poem ‘An Archi­tect’ which he wrote after Robin’s pass­ing as a gift to  his wife Dorothy Walk­er. The films pri­ma­ry focus was  to bring out the human sto­ry of Simon reach­ing across two eras to under­stand his Fathers work and to mir­ror his own feel­ings about how todays soci­ety is will­ing to let these build­ings dis­ap­pear as if they have no val­ue.  I hope this film helps to high­light the impor­tant work that Robin and his con­tem­po­raries have con­tributed in Ire­lands first major begin­nings in Nation Building.

Sé Weekend House

The Week­end House Kinsale

Direc­tor: Sé Mer­ry Doyle (Films inl­cude: John Ford — Dream­ing the Qui­et Man; Patrick Kavanagh — No Man’s Fool; Patrick Scott – Gold­en Boy; Kath­leen Lynn — The Rebel Doc­tor; Alive Alive O — A Requiem for Dublin; Jim­my Murika­mi – Non Alien)

Script: Simon Walker

Cin­e­matog­ra­phy: Patrick Jordan

Music: Stano

Voice of Robin Walk­er: Patrick Bergin

Pro­duc­ers: Andrea Pitt and Sasha King

Dura­tion: 90 Minutes

Fund­ed by: Reel Art

A Loopline Film

Con­tact se@loopline.com