[INDENT]The Irish Times - Saturday, December 12, 2009:
Moving Abbey to GPO would save millions, claims Cullen
[I]from Deidre Falvey, Arts Editor
THE PLAN to move the Abbey to the GPO will cost about half what moving to the docklands would have done, and will help rejuvenate Oâ€™Connell Street, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has said.
Martin Cullen said he planned to take a decision on whether to move the Abbey to Oâ€™Connell Street soon and estimates that relocating it in time for 2016 would cost â‚¬80 to â‚¬90 million, much less than the expected cost at Georgeâ€™s Dock (â‚¬150 million to â‚¬170 million), which had progressed almost to architectural competition before problems arose.[/INDENT][/I]
That's probably the thinking in a nutshell; pick the option that costs the least amount of money.
[INDENT]On the GPOâ€™s future, he said: â€œI donâ€™t want another museum there, open nine to five, then the whole bloody thing is dead. Think of the wider context of Oâ€™Connell Street and try to rejuvenate it,â€ he said.[/INDENT]
I'm having difficulty with the concept that the Abbey could bring life to anywhere, but leaving my baggage aside for a moment, how will any theatre-transplant remotely improve the footfall in a building that is routinely teeming with people and which would presumably attract multiples of the current visitor numbers, if it incorporated a museum content illustrating the building's pivotal position in the history of the country? How would any theatre-transplant advertise it's presence in a such an iconic building with such an iconic name, . . . . perhaps in the way that the National Gallery of Scotland recently advertised an Andy Warhol exhibition:
. . . . this will send Graham over the edge
[INDENT]Mr Cullen said the conference of business people in Farmleigh earlier this year was â€œa turning pointâ€ in making the case for arts funding. â€œA lot of people who were expected at the economics session turned up at the cultural forum, and the place was packed out. And that made everyone sit up and start to think differently about the arts.â€
The whole arts sector is â€œworth â‚¬10-11 billion in broadest terms to the Irish economy,â€ he said, and research shows half of visitors â€œcome specifically for cultural tourism, and 18 per cent of people come to Ireland because of something they saw in a filmâ€.[/INDENT]
So the penny has finally dropped, . . . the Arts
matter - economically, . . . . Culture
counts - economically, . . . . who would have even dreamt?
Now if we only had some old buildings . . .
It takes a politician to almost simultaneously . . . . . finally get the right message . . . . and then head off in the wrong direction
The Abbey moving into the GPO may have started out as a well intentioned notion, but it should be starting to become apparent, on deeper reflection, that it is a hopelessly inappropriate idea that will never escape the impression that it was done to borrow stature and gravitas that doesn't belong to it, or to find a new use for a building that already has the best possible use:- it's design use.
The board of the Abbey itself should come out with a clear statement that stops this nonsense now before scarce public money is wasted on it.
OK, coming up with new ideas fosters interest in the urban debate, public engagement with architecture and bar-stool discussions on heritage etc. all of which is good, but ministers coming out with apparently quassi-official positions on loosly grasped proposals like this and then watching them slowly die over the course of years, as critical judgement is slowly brought to bear, gradually revealing the flaws in the concept, is ultimately a debilitating process that saps the energy out of the urban debate.
Why can't we have some critical judgement up-front?
We've got all these official bodies and academic institutes with supposed expertise in matters like this, why don't we ever hear from them? . . . . . outfits like the Heritage Council, the Urban Institute, the RIAI etc. etc.?