A drive into the Irish countryside should always be an enjoyable experience. Yet, if you were to take an elevated road to better view the sweep of land before you, it will inevitably be found that the picturesque scenery is ruined by the imposition that is the white building.
In times gone by, cottages were whitewashed in lime in an effort to combat insect infestation in the stonework, due to its anti-bacterial properties. Such quaint structures became synonymous with rural Ireland. If we see one today we might be forgiven for expecting to see John Wayne punching the head of a fella just outside the door as Maureen O’Hara looks on in an approving yet seductive manner.
However, as our population has today grown to that which is almost comparable with pre-Famine estimates, and as individual households are, on average, smaller than previous, the landscape has become splattered as never before with stand alone housing. Those built with natural materials blend seamlessly into the landscape. But those painted white do not. Compare the following two photos.
Traditions have ensured that the dominant colour of such dwellings is white, but there is now no practical reason for this. If a person was to look upon the proliferation of white buildings cross the countryside that stand in contrast to their green surroundings, and instead picture the same scene but with buildings that are painted in pastel shades more sympathetic to their surroundings, then I feel that the most reasonable people would agree that the white is indeed a blight.
Today, Building Control could recommend that all new buildings be decorated with colours selected from an officially approved palette. They can also move to ensure that existing white buildings are eventually repainted in the same manner. Imagine a countryside of houses coloured in the way that those in Cobh (featured) are painted. Bright? Yes. Vibrant? Yes. But still completely in harmony with the rich colours to be found in Ireland.
The relevant authorities can easily make this difference to our countryside. They need only inspiration and imagination. And all these improvements can be achieved for the cost of a coat of paint.
An Ireland, where such considerations are dealt with in a creative way, would be one where greater numbers of tourists would flock to photograph our colourful landscape, in numbers that would leave the Italians of Venice in Forty Shades of Green envy.