DUBLIN city council is considering restoring Sandymount Strand to its Victorian glory by building a new pier or refurbishing its 19th-century baths.
The council is inviting architects to suggest ways of regenerating the baths, now lying in ruins on the beach.
The scheme could be the first in a series of improvements along Dublinâ€™s coastline. The recent opening of a â‚¬300m wastewater treatment plant is expected to improve the quality of the sea water and lure back bathers.
â€œAs people come back to the water, we have to work out how to manage that,â€ said Jim Barrett, the city architect.
â€œThe rationale of Dublin bay will be different to what it was in the past.â€
The council stressed that the Sandymount proposal was tentative and would not proceed without consultation with local people, whose view of the sea could be blocked by a new pier.
â€œItâ€™s just at the idea stage,â€ said Dermot Lacey, a Labour councillor. â€œSome people have elevated it to a definite proposal and are already campaigning against it and saying no to even looking at it.
â€œWe can get rid of the baths altogether if thatâ€™s what people want. But there must be something better than leaving a heap of concrete on the middle of the strand.â€
The council is likely to launch an international competition to establish the design potential of a pier based on the remaining structure of the baths. It would also explore how to pay for the project, probably by allowing a restaurant or wine bar to be built on the structure.
Sandymount has been used as a bathing beach since the 18th century and its former pier was the only one of its kind in Ireland.
The baths were built in 1883, measuring 150 sq ft and divided into menâ€™s and womenâ€™s sections. Sea water was pumped in by steam power.
The pier, a 55-yard lattice-wood structure with wooden decking linking the baths to Strand Road, was opened in 1884 and staged concerts twice a week during the summer. Kiosks selling seafood delicacies were opened. But the pier lasted less than 40 years, being demolished in 1920 after its condition deteriorated.
Sandymount Strand, a favourite spot of James Joyce, was considered in the 1930s as a possible location for Dublin airport, and in the 1960s as an industrial base.
In the 1990s planners proposed building a tunnel under the strand for the cityâ€™s eastern bypass but this idea seems to have been dropped.
â€œIf this development is to work it would need an income,â€ Barrett stressed. â€œIt would need a restaurant or something like that. The council owns the land and would have a right to build this, but might need to do a deal with a developer to make it feasible.â€
Similar projects likely to be studied by council planners include Yokohama pier in Japan, the competition to rebuild Brighton pier and timberwork structures on the west coast of America.
If the pier is rebuilt, the council is likely to incorporate the strandâ€™s Sebastian sculpture, Awaiting the Mariner, which was unveiled by Vicente Fox, the Mexican president.
Claire Wheeler, a local Green party councillor, is worried by the proposals and feels there is no local demand for a pier. â€œA montage of drawings that councillors were shown last week had a pier which looked quite big, going well beyond the baths, and with a large plinth,â€ she said.
â€œThere was talk about maybe there being a restaurant. I wonder if this is developer-led.â€
Wheeler said the derelict baths were not an eyesore and her preference would be for them to be restored as outdoor swimming pools.
â€œThe current proposal has nothing to do with restoring the baths; theyâ€™re just going to build over them,â€ she said.
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The sculpture is the least offensive structure in the area (whether you are a fan of it or not), the objectors should be ashamed of their reation to this gift, I just hope that Mexicans were not too insulted.
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