GrahamH wrote:So I think it is agreed amongst pretty much everyone - and from all ends of the architecture and planning spectrum on this website - that this is categorically not what O'Connell Street and this new city quarter warrants or deserves in design terms. Therefore a systems failure has to be identified, either in our planning process or in the architectural profession, or both.
Developers and some architects have often been heard in recent years waxing on about overly-prescriptive planning laws, yet surely the outcome of the above is precisely the result of a lack of clout and clarity in planning policy? Or more pointedly, the erroneous interpretation of planning policy? Alternatively, one can argue that the relative 'freedom' offered by planners in this case was to enable architects to come up with imaginative and creative design solutions in accordance with best design practice. Architects, after all, know best when it comes to design - right? Why shouldn't they be given the rudder on this one? Logic would dictate that they should.
The reality is that we see both professions culpable in this:
In spite of some worthy Additional Information modifications made by Dubln City Council, an effectively illegal interpretation of the O'Connell Street ACA under the 2000 Planning Act led to the initial grant for the scheme by DCC: -1 for planners.
The initial proposal was over-scaled, crudely integrated with its host environment and ignorant of existing building grain and street patterns: -1 to architects, and -1 to planners for granting it.
An Bord PleanÃ¡la then gets called in to clean up the mess as usual. They enforce planning policy and civic design character by decree - hardly the best method of producing creative design solutions: both +1 and -1 to the planning system.
Architects come back with a thoroughly dismal redesign that could not express in bricks and mortar the concept of a mean-spirited, begrudging sulk any more if it tried. The O'Connell Street frontage attempts little distinguished sense of urbanity or clarity of expression, never mind anything that approaches a civic-minded outlook for the first major intervention on the capital's main throughfare in nearly a century: -1 to architects
An Bord PleanÃ¡la now reassesses, and grants permission on the basis of a raft of conditional redesign measures that attempt to address the refusal of the promoters to engage in a meaningful manner with the critical planning and design issues at stake. The result is a compromise that does nobody any favours, and where the energy that is expended in the whole arduous process would have been immeasurably better spent concentrated on a thoughtful and engaging urban design proposal - critically, had the guidance been there from the outset.
Well this is hardly only being identified now. It's a common motif with big projects - something ambitious but crude is rejected, but then something less crude and infinitely more bland is accepted, thus making most stuff built in Dublin bland.
These are some of the problems:
-There is inconsistency in deciding what is appropriate for Dublin's streetscapes. An Bord Pleanala and DCC are not on the same page, and the latter do not even adhere to their own guidelines.
-Dublin City Council seem content to grant permission to crude projects if they're exciting enough.
-An Bord Pleanala gets the final say, and it's more concerned with maintaining the blandness of Dublin, than with ensuring innovative and exciting architecture.
The system doesn't work. Nobody is ensuring the architectural quality of the buildings granted permission. An Bord Pleanala operates like a damage limitation team, trying desperately to hold on to the limited heritage left in Dublin, rather than creating an innovative fusion of old and new. In my view, the guidelines about building in areas like O'Connell St. need to be less restrictive, both for ABP and DCC, and the counterbalance needs to be that the whole process is overseen by some sort of architectural quality board, which will have a coherent and forward-thinking vision for Dublin. It is, after all, the capital.