What is the Pav development notjim?
Just as I pass every evening, it never fails to baffle how an educational institute with its own pioneering engineering faculty, hosting a number of noted lecturers and professors in the field of energy conservation, coupled with one of the finest art history departments in the state, can preside over the shambolic state of affairs that is the presentation of the iconic public face of Trinity College Dublin, namely the ever-decaying West Front on College Green.
We shall leave manicured turf and other contentious suburban-related issues outside the classroom for the moment, but the three issues currently facing the West Front are:
1) The despicable state of its windows, the lack of maintenance of which is a growing embarrassment in the heart of the city. For the flagship institution in the city and arguably its number one visited attraction (what visitor to Dublin does not pass through Trinity or College Green?) to have its fenestration-heavy facade compromised by windows in an advanced state of deterioration, and in some cases decay, is simply unacceptable. Even windows that were recently restored before the wider project ground to a halt are already grubby, having benefited from zero maintenance since the work was carried out. The entire array of windows on this prominent public face urgently needs restoration, and subsequent on-going maintenance. Cash is of course the accepted big stumbling block. If we had a lottery fund that actually worked, it would be the classic source of funding for a major project such as this.
2) Policy regarding the presentation of rooms fronting the West Front needs to be established. The facade is increasingly taking on the appearance of the city's most pretentious tenement block, with ragged curtains, old battered blinds and shutters, and various types of temporary coverings and secondary glazing cluttering the window opes. Likewise, while signs of academic life are interesting and animating for the passer-by, stacks of administrative junk and general abandoned materials, that nobody has a notion what to do with or knows who dumped there in the first place, most certainly are not. All of this unsightly rubbish needs to be cleared and consistently monitored. The presentation of the Grafton Street end pavilion is a particular disgrace.
3) The floodlighting (yes I know, off he goes again) of the West Front is simply shambolic and has been for years. Indeed it would appear that no routine maintenance of the lighting installation has been conducted since it was probably installed in the mid-1990s for the college's 500th anniversary, as part of the wider conservation works to the College Green facade undertaken at that time. What few and inadequate floods that there are mounted to the rear of the railing plinth wall are either blown, broken, or due to failed hinges misdirected at anything from the lawn to plinth the flood is attached to. As manicured as the grass may be, 800 watt-plus just might be better expended on highlighting the 18th century facade than exposing the nocturnal occupations of urban snails. Even more preposterously, a white flood was recently replaced with an orange sodium Phillips equivalent, with complete disregard for the existing (if barely) ensemble’s agreed colour temperature. The effect, on the few occasions the floods are even turned on at all, could not be more horrific. The engineering faculty should join forces with Phillips or the ESB or whoever to install the most energy efficient floodlighting system of any major building in the capital. The site, with its wide protected lawn and railing boundary, is the ideal arrangement for any floodlighting scheme, and also offers simple access for installation and maintenance. The type of aesthetic required – a simple ethereal glow of upward-cast white light from a hidden source - has long been the most effective solution for the expansive gracious West Front, making matters all the easier to implement if the will was there. Finally, those shocking grubby wonky 80s lanterns clinging for dear life to the piers of the entrance gates sorely need replacement. Two charming, well detailed reproduction lamps with glittering clear bulbs would be the icing on the cake of a newly invigorated West Front.
These issues just have to be sorted. As with many Irish institutions, Trinity for some reason doesn’t appear to hold an overt pride in dignity of appearance, or graciousness in its presentation to the world. The current misuse of Regent House, as mentioned by notjim earlier, is the classic example of such an attitude – a facility which could be a prestigious showcase for the college, ideally positioned on the interface between the institution and the city as host to innumerable public events.