St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby GrahamH » Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:45 am

Given St. Augustine’s distaste for all matters lustful, to put it mildly, one can safely assume that his view of the newly completed apartment scheme by Danninger Ltd on St. Augustine Street, just off Thomas Street in Dublin 8, in all its perverted, gluttonous, dribbling desire for fistfuls of hard cash, would not exactly be his cup of lightly flavoured lemon tea.

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I first passed this development about two years ago when construction was underway. At that early stage, to all external appearances this seemed to be one of the most exciting developments taking place in the historic centre of Dublin for many years. It appeared to involve the creation of a brand new residential street layered over an existing historic route: graciously curved, of good density, attractive design, with a solid use of materials and a considered approach to the public realm.

Nothing could prepare me for the sight that greeted my eyes two years on, today. Words cannot in any way impart the horror of what has transpired at this location, nor can they on grounds of libel alone. Truly, the anger that wells up inside any decent-minded person standing on this so-called street is enough to shatter every expressionless double-glazed pane in the development.

What on earth is going on here? This is supposed to be a street?

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The entire terraced frontage is barricaded in by jazzed-up palisade fencing.

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The imprisoned frontage of each property.

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Just criminal.

The soffits are, well, unadorned, screwed-up (in every sense) slabs.

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More of the same scandalous treatment at the Liffey end of the street, with straggling remnants of old decency that Carroll couldn't get his hands on.

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It’s so horrific, one might even confer praise on the rubbish forming the other side of the street – presumably also by Danninger – which at least gives some sense of own-door access and hospitable windows, if also barricaded, directly addressing the street.

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This new development generated no less than €127,200 for Dublin City Council in development levies. This is actually a modest figure in the wider frenzied context of the height of the boom years, and is likely to be tied to one of the older planning permissions connected to the site. In any event, none of this has been reinvested in the public domain.

The public face of the street is comprised of a shockingly relaid setted road surface, poured concrete pavements - already pock-marked with splodges of tarmac - utilitarian, galvanised steel lampposts, not a stick of a tree or soft landscaping of any kind, and industrial crash barriers to prevent children and buggies rolling out off the insanely high pavements into the road – as Danninger also employed in their Hanbury Lane scheme nearby.

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All professional bodies, from architects to planners to road engineers, are damningly indicted by this development. What could have been the most desirable new street in Dublin, lined with a mixture of own-door townhouses and shared entrance apartments, creatively designed with stimulating architectural solutions, a beautifully pedestrianised public realm with clever references to its historic past, and all directly adjacent to the Liffey, has instead resulted in one of the worst possible planning and design outcomes.

There’s little point waxing on endlessly about this scheme – parts of which actually aren’t bad in terms of choice of material and detailing – as the pictures speak for themselves. Rather, this is just to note that the shameful practices of Ireland’s construction and planning sectors, that we are generally perceiving to be behind us at this point, are still happening.

Finally, just to say that anybody who contributed to the Tribute to Liam Carroll thread truly needs to get a handle on reality. He and his myriad companies have almost single-handedly blighted this sector of the city – north and south of the Liffey – for decades to come, committing generations of city dwellers to what Dublin City Council itself has publically stated to be substandard forms of development, and thus a substandard quality of living. It is not all-giving philanthropy we are looking for, or were ever looking for, from these guys - it's a basic, human, social conscience. The above merely confirms that their despicable practices, however cloaked in token architectural gestures in latter years, continued until the bitter end wherever they could get away with it.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby gunter » Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:24 am

Nail on the head stuff there Graham :)

They've tried to modulate the facade, break up the scale etc. etc., but if anything the way they've done it just emphasises what a lumpen block the whole thing is.

Part of why this just doesn't work has to be the [slightly] recessed 'you can't see me I'm glass' curtain walled penthouse levels which defeat the clumsy break down of scale that the ignorant, blocky, streetscape projections attempt to achieve.

The scary thing is that probably half the people in the Planning Dept.will see absolutely nothing wrong with this.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby goneill » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:56 am

At least, in my opinion, "Can't see me, I'm glass" is a step forward from "Can't see me I'm a (mansard) roof".
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby Global Citizen » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:04 am

Those railings scream "NO GO AREA". Their size alone puts the entire street on the defensive. Any sense of community that might have been fostered here is shattered by their presence. Do potential buyers of the ground floor flats not question the need for them. If the developers feel the need for such overtly secure measures, what does that tell us about their opinion of the neighbourhood ?
Who would want to live behind such cages? Thornton Hall town house is an apt description of the block.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby alonso » Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:15 pm

the contrast with the red brick terrace is fascinating. The "progress" in Irish Urbanism summed up in one pic
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby lostexpectation » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:24 pm

what should have been done? build them back from the road more? re do and widen the whole road? any examples
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby GregF » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:09 am

The views from the balconies are breathtaking I'm sure.

So what mug would buy one of these?
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby alonso » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:19 am

lostexpectation wrote:what should have been done? build them back from the road more? re do and widen the whole road? any examples


direct frontage. Like the red brick terrace next door and a million other houses in the City
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby tommyt » Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:20 am

alonso wrote:direct frontage. Like the red brick terrace next door and a million other houses in the City


What you see here is a clumsy interpretation by Danninger of the corpo's refusal to have direct frontage.

I remember a DCC SP at a college lecture a few years back insisting that people shouldn't have to put up with drunks pissing on their doorstep etc. I vaguely challenged him on it, but this was c.2004 and the coropo seemed to think there would be endless demand for ground floor non-resi units I presume now that's why you see the endless empty ground floor retail units in new build in peripheral inner city locations.
Always struck me as a bit silly, there's so many design solutions to creating a residential urban street going back centuries I can only think it's disbility-focused building regs that don't allow for 'stoops' anymore either:confused:
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby wearnicehats » Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:41 am

Few apartment schemes successfully address the street but there are many factors preventing them doing so:

• the nature of the building type
• the local authority
• the development plan

With regard to the building type the difficulty here is the inherent difference between the apartment and the house. Houses directly off the street work because you have a door and some windows. You close your door behind you and you close the curtains if necessary. Also, you'd have to be a pretty nasty drunk to piss against someone's front door. Most drunks - I'm told - will find an alleyway or the like. Or simply stand in the middle of the road itself.

The same applies to old terraces that just have a small fenced off area in front of them with the house set back by about 2 metres. This house form is kind of the one to which the apartment aspires but there are fundamental problems that prevents it from doing so.

DCC insist that apartments have private open space. Apartments at ground floor, therefore, have what is essentially a balcony. Because of the size nature of most apartments – especially Danninger’s – people utilise the balcony for all manner of things. The terrace house has a back yard for such things. A ground floor balcony that isn’t “secure”, therefore, is useless and won’t sell. Ground floor apartments without balconies would approach the house type but would contravene the DP.

The ground floor apartment could be omitted of course. Most development plans will encourage a mix of uses at ground level, depending on the zoning. Some will only want residential. Simple economics may suggest, however, that anything other than residential use is pointless in many areas close to established retail zones. Again, the LA have a part to play here.

The difficulty with direct access from the street to an apartment is not just security – it is more how you deal with the basement parking access etc. Going inside to go outside to go back inside doesn’t sit well with estate agents. Also it causes problems with management fees and common area responsibility. From a security standpoint again the design of the apartment, being onesided, means that large areas of glazing are required. The mindset of a buyer isn’t great in that instance.

Essentially the apartment development can only address the street successfully if it can morph into more of a housing form at that level – for example:

Areas to the rear specific to those apartments and a more direct relationship with the street or Basement storage areas specific to those apartments to compensate
Occasional non-residential usage
Use of Duplex apartments where some private space can be provided at first floor level – these can be very successful but are expensive to build and hard to sell in certain areas.

In short, a developer can be pro-active and beneficial if they choose to be or they can be Danninger
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby wearnicehats » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:06 pm

.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby foremanjoe » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:14 pm

I'm sure St. Augustine, wherever he is, doesn't give a toss about this development.
Nor do I.

Is this how bad things have gotten in Ireland that we're reduced to discussing developments like this and their LACK of architectural merit?

This kind of building will continue to be built regardless of its historic location, the planning authority or even powerful fora such as this one.

Build a bridge everyone...
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby foremanjoe » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:15 pm

...and get over it.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby spoil_sport » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:08 pm

Well, no foremanjoe, I don't think we should get over it, it is this type of development that defines the urban fabric, not the signature buildings and "iconic" A-rchitecture which merely punctuate it, it is the merits, or lack of, of these developments that is probably most important in the discourse of architecture and urban planning, and it is only fair to highlight it's flaws and where improvement is to be made.
It is probably worth bringing up O'Donnell+Tuomey's scheme on Cork St in this context, like it or love -I know it was previously had a brush with "Dublin's ugliest building's" thread- O'D+T convinced DCC to forgo the requirement for GF retail. They broke the line of the street to make a new courtyard, novel in that it is visible and accessible to passers-by and not buried in the middle of the block, and from this space most of the GF apartments are accessed and external stairs access 1st floor level. On the street edge, the apartments are set back and sunk slightly from footpath level and guarded by trees, etc. Whether this provides sufficient privacy remains to be seen, I haven't been down there since they were finished, but it is perhaps a more successful version of what was being alluded to in the above scheme.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby foremanjoe » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:15 pm

You've kind of hit upon the futility of this thread right there.
The Timberyard housing scheme is worthy of discussion as it actively posites an interesting way of thinking about the urban fabric.
The development that this thread refers to does not.

As my father would say; 'A dog with a mallet up its hole' could have designed that building.

No offence intended towards either the dog or the mallet.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby Praxiteles » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:15 pm

Graham!

Here you are: San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, in Pavia

http://www.santagostinopavia.it/info_en.asp
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby damproof » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:58 pm

wearnicehats wrote: Also, you'd have to be a pretty nasty drunk to piss against someone's front door. Most drunks - I'm told - will find an alleyway or the like. Or simply stand in the middle of the road itself.


I lmaorolfed at that one, or whatever the kids are saying now - either way i'm convinced.

Joe, i think this is a really important debate that is worth having simply because we haven't reached any sort of satisfactory conclusions yet, we have decided we want higher densities in urban areas, all urban areas - even provincial towns but i don't think we have achieved many satisfactory developments of lower to mid price range homes. I think it is fair to discuss this in the context of Danninger's offering.

wearnicehats raises a few pertinent points including car parking, access and private open space. I'm not sure own door access is the definitive answer - surely in a development such as Danningers this would apply to only about 15% of the units - do the occupant of these units then have a responsibility to develop community relations for the remainder of the development? But i accept that the street would be a more attractive place. Which would potential occupants choose - the own door access directly onto the street?

I have only questions, no real answers, but i would hope that DCC would be more open to different approaches provided that some thought was put into it and there was justification put forward.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby jdivision » Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:33 pm

I think the debate is worth having. And it's probably also worth pointing out that the "balcony" ground floor space isn't wide enough to stop somebody pissing through the railings onto your window. So the whole not having somebody piss against your door argument doesn't stand up I'm afriad.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby GrahamH » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:43 am

Ah I knew Praxiteles would stroll in eventually!

The issue of how we design residential buildings in urban contexts is a critically important one. Indeed, it could be argued that simply the manner in which a townhouse or apartment addresses the street plays a fundamental role in people’s perception of a place, and their decision-making process about where they want to live – not just in terms of this street over that street, but in the wider arena of urban versus suburban. In that sense, this issue must be grappled with in Dublin. It’s not as if this is a problem unique to this city – it’s an issue faced all over the world, and has been dealt with successfully.

The problem with the above Danninger scheme is not so much the architecture, which I think we all agree is largely inoffensive, if entirely devoid of interest, but how the complex interacts with the public realm. There are other amenity issues too, including the balconies being smaller than the minimum size standards set in the Development Plan, fit for little other than squeezing on a couple for a quick smoke and a grope, while many of the apartments are also single aspect. Sadly, it would appear that as a result of a recently refused application for updating the scheme to modern apartment guidelines, Danninger went ahead with the 2003 planning permission instead - if there is any consolation to be had from this sorry mess.

There would be little or no privacy problems with this development if was designed in the right way. For a start, this is an exclusively residential street. If access was closed off to vehicular traffic at one end, with provision for the car parks of the apartment schemes on both sides of the street provided at the other, half of the street could have been entirely pedestrianised. All rat run traffic is immediately eliminated, while a determinedly residential air immediately precludes loitering as generally associated with mixed use streets. Then the process of actually designing a building can get underway, now that an appropriate context has been established. As such, this site and street required a masterplan by the planning authority, to which it was up to the developer – whoever it may be – to generate a scheme that met the demands of that plan. This is what is commonly done across the Continent, where the planning authority sets the standard for what is required, and it is up to the developer to realise this – by all accounts in any manner they wish, as long as it is part of a shared vision with the authority.

As for residential street frontage, there are countless examples in other cities of how townhouses and duplexes can successfully address a street. In terms of architectural language, please bear with me on the first example of eye-watering po-mo, but the planning principles at work are quite successful. A semi-private buffer zone has been created through the simple use of a shallow loggia that keeps passing pedestrian traffic away from the immediate environs of the front doors and windows, but doesn’t require a barrier of any description to achieve this. It’s more about perception than actuality. Note how the gradation of paving also works to this end.

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An elegant transparent boundary does wonders for delineating public and private space in a manner than is barely noticeable. It is also virtually zero maintenance.

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In any event, this forms part of the curtilage of a development that would be taken in hand by the management company if desired.


The same applies to be below, albeit in a more suburban context. But again, a simple buffer of foliage – in the St. Augustine Street case it could have taken the form of widely spaced vertical trees interspersed with chains or railings – generates that critical but subtle delineation between public and private space.

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Another model popular on the Continent, especially in older buildings, is the raising of the entrance over a half-storey basement. In this way, domestic goings-on are removed entirely from the public realm, while still giving that all-important passive surveillance and animation required of a street.

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Steps of course provide further visual interest, not to mention a sense of status and pride in one’s home.

A contemporary example can be seen here – again somewhat suburban, but there’s no reason why the principle cannot work in a quiet, secondary area like St. Augustine Street.

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Also, in terms of design, clustering a window adjacent to a front door, and at a human level, makes all the difference in relieving the sense of anonymity often associated with direct street frontage, as seen across the road in the old Danninger development. Immediately a sense of legibility is injected into the streetscape and that hostile atmosphere generated by high, disconnected windows removed.

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Here is an aerial view of the apartments as completed, with sterile rear courtyards that are unlikely to receive much sun for most of the day.

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When one sees models such as the above, some of course more appropriate than others, it is exasperating to think what could have been with the redevelopment of St. Augustine Street. A picturesque curved, sloped, historic street, with its northward vista terminated with the marvelous spire of SS. Augustine and John at one end, approaching the Liffey at the other, and in exclusively residential use - it is any decent architect’s and planner’s dream. What has transpired here is a scandal. It is a crime against the city of Dublin and anyone who wishes to live decently in the city they belong to.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby Global Citizen » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:50 am

foremanjoe wrote:I'm sure St. Augustine, wherever he is, doesn't give a toss about this development.
Nor do I.

Is this how bad things have gotten in Ireland that we're reduced to discussing developments like this and their LACK of architectural merit?

This kind of building will continue to be built regardless of its historic location, the planning authority or even powerful fora such as this one.

Build a bridge everyone...


Stop trying to stir the shit.

You know.

I know.

(Almost) everyone knows -

What happenned here is wrong.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby gunter » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:57 am

There is an argument that the 'block' itself is the wrong unit of regeneration for sites like this that are part of the inner city network of narrow streets and lanes.

I'm convinced that you can achieve the same density of development in a system of courts and laneways as you can with mega-blocks like this.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby GrahamH » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:05 am

Yep.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby wearnicehats » Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:39 am

some nice examples of what I was talking about there Graham. I forgot to include Building Regs in my list of factors, however. The steps are nice but a no-no here unless the other side has a 20m tranche of ramps. In fact, the front door step is anathema in even the humble terrace these days
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby tommyt » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:54 pm

Grahan thanks for ferreting otu the dutch examples. was exactly what i was thinking of but couldn't get time to google.
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Re: St. Augustine rolling in his grave...

Postby johnglas » Thu Nov 12, 2009 8:13 pm

mistake, folks...
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