It is of considerable concern that a development of this kind can still pass through the system unchecked, never mind that a site of such importance can be so disfigured by professional architects.
Reading through the planning files relating to this site (and a particularly convoluted history it is too), what strikes one above all is the backwards nature of the planning system, whereby the design of a facade - i.e. effectively an entire building in the case of an infill site - is deemed to be of such insufficient worth as to be amended simply by way of Additional Information, rather than the proposal being rejected outright and redesigned. This is extremely common, symptomatic of the planning system at large, and a practice which exhibits its ill-effects in spectacular fashion in cases such as this. Indeed, the system is such an ass that this proposal appears not to have even been caught at the first hurdle of a pre-planning consultation.
Proposals for the site varied from the use of bright Jura limestone and granite cladding with staggered fenestration, to the executed incarnation of a half-baked stone frame filled with proprietary windows. It was planners meanwhile, who suggested the use of 'sandstone or brick' as a cladding material, and insisted on the use of timber windows in place of the aluminium curtain wall. How these radical (if worthy) modifications could possibly translate into a coherent design simply by way of Additional Information (presumably with little or no further pre-decision consultations or thrashing out of ideas) is anyone's guess.
Indeed, this confused and conflicting manner of conducting affairs has directly led to the mess we have now - the architects’ initial justification for a starkly different cladding to the surrounding context being: “In our choice of materials we have deliberately avoided colour tones close to those of the surrounding brick buildings in order that the new infill will read distinctly.” Whatever one’s opinion on the doctrine of compare-and-contrast, at least this option would have led to a legible streetscape. What we now have is a diluted concoction that is about as satisfying as navy on black, directly as the result of planners' intervention.
The choice of red sandstone cladding is crass, uncomfortably luxurious and historically incongruous on a modest brick street, and clashes in the worst way possible with its immediate neighbours: effete dusty pink layered on robust claret red. Eye-watering. The building screams compromised gap-filler and exhibits nothing of the weight required to confidently sustain the cliff-like massing in a sensitive fashion. The overlap on the right-hand house at parapet level is jarring, while the vertical band of white render below, transplanted from a developer estate in a field in Tullamore – even if possibly yet to be finished – is arbitrary and ham-fisted beyond belief.
But nothing, nothing, compares to the window system employed. Words simply defy the ignorance of such a nasty piece of work, disregarding the arrogance of the wider framed concept in the first instance. The vista of visually polluting sticky-out windows – not even casements to ease the pain – when approaching from the Green is grotesque. Their use by any architects in any
principal elevation in this day and age, never mind on a city centre commercial building, on one of the most challenging infill sites in the city, in an historic context, on a Georgian street, on a curved
Georgian street where the entire gracious effect is dependent on the semi-profiled vista, and on a building forming the important introductory stretch of one of Dublin’s most elegant thoroughfares, simply beggars belief. Just astounding.
Even the very last planning exchange, from as late as August 2008, expressly stated:
c) The powder coated aluminium windows shall be omitted and replaced with timber joinery as shall the stainless steel channel proposed by way of additional information on the 24/10/07.
Ivy Exchange eat your heart out.