what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby missarchi » Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:55 pm

Irishtimes leasing or owner occ?
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby gunter » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:32 pm

Agree completely with other posters - not for the first time Graham has provided a critical analysis of a significant city centre development that expertly reviews the positives and the negatives in the development in a lucid and illuminating way. This service is not being provided by anyone else. The newspapers don't do architectural analysis, Architecture Ireland [the journal of the RIAI] don't do architectural analysis, the Irish Architecture Foundation don't do architectural analysis. The AAI do architectural analysis, but only once a year and with a strong predisposition towards the gushingly positive.

In the absence of critical analysis there's nothing to stop the authors of this or any other major development believing everything is fine and they've done a fantastic job, a view which in due course will very likely be confirmed by a light-weight, blue-sky, review in one or more of the media listed above.

The elements of the 'Irish Times' building development that appear to be ill-judged, or poorly executed, are not huge. If there had been a culture of architectural criticism and of open debate, there's every possibility that many of the more obvious flaws might well have been ironed out, just by the sheer weight of informed opinion.
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby GrahamH » Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:49 am

Thanks everyone for your comments - more opinion on the development in hand would be welcome!

I think you have a point there gunter that's worth reiterating: that most of the elements which went wrong here are indeed not huge, but the cumulative effect is what is damaging - and what is most frustrating. But ultimately with a project of this kind, with a group of buildings of such significance, the devil is in the detail. It's everything. Without it there is no soul, no interest, no point. Nearly everything that has been done here lacks even a passing interest in the special character of this terrace, never mind the healthy glow of an all-consuming love affair one expects of a critical group of buildings like this after works of this kind.

It all stands in stark contrast to the gushing, enthusing, velvety words submitted as part of the planning application, extolling the unique significance of The Irish Times terrace as the last example of a relatively intact Wide Streets Commissioners terrace. What has come of this? How has this recognition manifested itself on the ground? In any way? Painting the windows? Converting old offices into new offices? If maintaining the function of a building is considered the optimum result of restoring an historic structure, then we have a long, long road to walk.

Sadly, amongst many professionals, this is indeed the ultimate goal, or as far as the vision extends. To a certain degree it is the purpose of conservation staff to inform and to educate in this respect, but a dismal absence of influence is clearly apparent, and has been for some time. Dublin City Council, as the pre-eminent planning authority in the State, demands a major Conservation Unit, with policy, planning, architectural, advisory, research and administrative staff, all based in the Planning Department, not in the Architectural division as at present. And this is a minimum requirement, never mind a major grant aid budget and wider links within the Council. We are still in the 1990s in terms of infrastructure and this has to change. I think rather than constantly blaming the planning division, as with countless cases throughout the boom years, efforts need to be concentrated on bolstering conservation and its influence within the planning process. This is the key to effecting change.
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby gunter » Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:59 am

That corner with Fleet Street is one of the most elegant in Dublin, even the back, and it has cleaned up quite well, irrespective of whatever was going through their minds with that blocked opening treatment.

Image

For me, the two biggest reservations I'd have with the project is with the quality of the extra storey that pops up in the distant views from Pearse St. and particularly from O'Connell Bridge, and the treatment of the 1940s infill block on the D'Olier St. elevation.

Whether it was just decades of grime that had toned down this infill block to nearly match the adjoining structures, or some application over the red brickwork, or whether it was a fading of an original red wash or coloured pointing on the adjoining original sections, surely maintaining and enhancing the uniformity of the D'Olier Street elevation was the primary consideration in this case. Instead, following the redevelopment, the 1940s block now jumps out as a discordant note, as shown in Graham's pictures.

Image

Two views of the D'Olier St. elevation during demolition with the elevation of 1940s block [the four bays with plywood sheeting in the window opes] almost indistinguishable from the original WSC structures on either side.

Image
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby GrahamH » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:15 pm

gunter wrote:or whether it was a fading of an original red wash or coloured pointing on the adjoining original sections


Heh, you're not starting that one again!

Fantastic aerial view showing the nature of the fake attic storey there, with all but the three bays of the curved end hosting their roofs behind the windows. In the case of the final house, this was the last to be built, probably c. 1815, when presumably there was more money around to go the whole hog.

The lack of uniformity amongst the restored chimneystacks is also unfortunate, particularly when seen from O'Connell Street.

The scale and character of the Westin is mind boggling. If ever there was a development that was patently unsuited to its location, this was it. Shovelled in.
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby StephenC » Wed Sep 08, 2010 4:09 pm

For me, what this development so awfully highlights is the failure of the "one type fits all" planning process we have in Ireland. Arguably a UK-type process requiring Listing Building Consent separate to planning permission would force greater scrutiny of applications involving protected structures. It would require much more engagement than currently exists from Conservation Officers and indeed might even encourage Conservation Planners with a greater eye for the detail and intricacies of these buildings. It is obvious from this shameful case that the Conservation Officer was either disengaged, asleep, dead or on holliers while all the work was being done.

An excerpt from the Planner Reports states:

Interdepartmental Reports:
Conservation - No objection in principle however the appropriateness of the proposed
walkways running along the rear facades of the protected structures is questioned. These
should be omitted from the proposed development.

City Archaeologist - No objections subject to conditions.
Drainage - No report available as at the date of writing this report.
Roads - Discussed by phone with Roads and Traffic Planning Division and no objection in
principle.

Quite obviously there was no follow up from anyone while the works were taking place (presumably under the direction of a Conservation Architect as per the standard conditions/requirement).
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby thebig C » Wed Sep 08, 2010 5:00 pm

Hey

GrahamH once again, excellent post!

My observations are as follows, the new addition itself is quite a good building. The architecture is sharp, interesting and yet restrained. As a stand-alone construction, it would be great. Its certainly far superior to much of the dross in the docklands. However, it is grossly out of context. Dare I say it, a high-rise building would have less of an impact then this additional example of looming bulky low-rise structres which try to conform by having stories lopped off, yet still impact horribly on the skyline and historic buildings!

In a world of fibreoptics and LED lighting, the imposition of those spotlight bars worthy of a suburban shopping centre are an absolute disgrace and in many other Cities would simply not be permitted. Given the lighting its then hardly surprising that the developer chose hanging baskets which were obviously in the end of season bargin bin at B&Q!

Honestly, the best I can say is that they cleaned up the face a bit.

Sigh!

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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby StephenC » Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:55 pm

The nighttime view o the D'Olier Street facade is awful. The floodlighting is completely pointless. It neither highlights the architecture of the terrace nor does it provide any prominence to the building in the streetscape.
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby hutton » Thu Sep 09, 2010 12:59 pm

Insightful and incite-full analysis there Graham.

A few of my own thoughts, some of which have been touched on already so I'll avoid repetition:

The 'top up' roof extension is an absolute disaster. Not only are the Irish incapable of creating vista closers, in this instance one of the city's most important vistas, looking south down O'Connell Street, has been mauled beyond belief. If its possible for the RIAI to award a negative prize, the 'Wibbiley Wobbley Blunder' should get it.

It is all the more remarkable that the roof extension was permitted, while the faux attic storeys were seemingly wastefully left alone and empty. 6 houses would have yielded about 500 square metres in additional space, had the space been harnessed. Was this option even looked at by the City Council? If not, why not?

It seems the worst outcome was achieved, whereby a 'lets-pretend-we-don't-see-it-as-it-camouflages-against-sky-loike-really' was opted for. It does not. Nor is it a contemporary foil to historic buildings. What it is however, as has already been noted, is a symptom of a failed city council who are seemingly either unwilling or unable to protect the core fulcrum triangle at the heart of the city. What was the primary motivation of this? Was it so that a corporate roof top office with 'spectacular views' could be advertised for let at a higher price? If so, particularly in view of the visually blocked photomontages provided, the planners should have smelled a rat - and realised it would inevitably stick up as a visual one finger salute on the skyline, representing perhaps a private gain to one developer at the cost to the wider civic appearance and the greater community.

It is also all the remarkable given the previous row as to the adjacent Treasury development of Westin Hotel 10 years ago, which Lancefort Ltd tried to block by way of a Supreme Court case - yet this new addition actually achieves making that rooftop scheme look admirable as a scheme that fitted in. And there in lies an interesting downward trajectory:

  1. The 1950's replica in-fill took advantage of the previously faux attic storey, and gleaned an extra circa 170 sq metres at roof level, without any visual imposition.
  2. The 1990's Treasury Westin scheme got through amidst much controversy, yet ultimately did not destroy the vista looking south from O'Connell Street.
  3. This 'Celtic Tiger' scheme utterly screws the vista closure looking south from O'Connell Street.
  4. If another scheme occurs in another ten years, what are we to expect? :eek:

> DCC Planning Dept / Fail :mad:


Finally regarding the lights, I fully agree the new suburban shopping mall style strip lighting is an absolute failure. I passed the other night, expecting that as the new units were at such an aesthetic cost during daylight, the night time result must be that the lighting would be to great dramatic effect. It is not. Perhaps an attempt at an under statement, the lighting is a failure and achieves sweet F.A. in terms of any effect. Utterly pointless.

I also note the elegant mid-twentieth century dual globe street lamps unit that used to stand on the street has been removed - with nothing put in its place. Daft - that is unless the council is actively trying to create dark no-go areas in the city at street level, which I am actually beginning to suspect they are trying to do!

At least the brickwork has washed up well, with of course the most unfortunate exception of returning the replica in-fill to a colour different in appearance to the rest of the street. The hanging baskets don't bother me at all, though I do find it perhaps unintentionally most appropriate that the icing on the cake is, well, hanging baskets on a basket case block.

Aside from this scheme itself, there is one key lesson that contributers should learn from all of this: while a postmortem is all very well after the fact, for those that actually care about the city, it would be far better to get involved and take an active interest at planning stage so as to avoid such monstrosities happening. We certainly can't rely on those authorities that are supposedly charged and paid to do such a task if this is the best they can achieve. "Premortems" folks, would perhaps be to far better effect than postmortems - and also active participation in the planning process, be it as individuals or by way of NGOs such as An Taisce.

Will we read any criticism regarding this scheme in the media publication previously housed here? Somehow I doubt it... unless that is, someone is writing a book and wants to raise their profile before book launch :rolleyes:
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby hutton » Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:58 pm

On a slightly more humorous if waspish note, the new rooftop disaster scheme needs an appropriate name in the well established Dublin tradition, as in 'Robo-block' or the 'Yoke on the Oak'...

I know I've already used the term 'Wibbiley Wobbley Blunder' above, but may I also suggest:

'Prefab Sprout'

:D
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby GrahamH » Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:49 pm

Fully agreed hutton with every word of your post. You sum a number of matters succinctly. The impact of the additional storeys on the city for the rest of us to look at for the next century, simply for minimal private gain, is something that deeply grates, perhaps above all else, and a theme that was sadly replicated in many developments during the boom years.

On your last point about active participation, I was surprised and disappointed that An Taisce did not appeal this. Of course it has a giant workload for a voluntary organisation, and the turnaround it effected with so many developments during the boom years is a positive and enduring legacy for the city. But in this particular case, the sole reason I did not appeal it to the Board was on the basis of its initial submission to DCC and the critical importance of the subject, I was certain AT would. All of the above would have been clearly spelled out to the Board in such a case. In honesty, I'm fuming about it. But a collective blunder it is fair to say - not that it should be our job to police such baseline matters as the redevelopment of the iconic street triangle in the heart of the ceremonial core of the city.
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby gunter » Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:33 pm

Image

The D'Olier Street elevation, as it appears on Daft.ie :rolleyes:

I think they prefer the 'proposed' to the 'as built'
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby missarchi » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:07 am

I don't think you can blame architects they serve clients...

You can blame planners and our econmic systems of so called "competition"
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby StephenC » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:48 am

Of course you can blame architects! What a stupid thing to say. The architect is ultimately responsible for the design of the building. Not the developer (though he/she will have their requirements for a building such as maximising space, costs, profile etc), not the planner who has only a limited scope for involvement in the design of the project, and not the economic system which has delivered as much good quality architecture as it has bad!
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby missarchi » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:45 pm

Architects are in competition before projects and fee agreements are negotiated...
What do you expect? I'm not saying I agree with the result I have seen all the renders including internals but its beside the point...

IT should refuse to occupy it if they are not happy with it otherwise they are supporting the scheme...

oh wait they might have a contract...

If the architect was the client I would blame the architect they have no power to tell the client what to do...
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby StephenC » Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:46 am

Firstly the Irish Times (IT?) have nothing to do with this building. They sold up and moved on. The major tenant for the building at the moment is the Irish Aviation Authority.

You're right in that Architects are in competition for jobs and competition was fierce is the boom times. However from my experience, the architects of this scheme could quite easily have put forward an well designed and less intrusive new building and the client would quite easily have gone along with it. Most developers care nothing for the intricacies of the design, they are more interested in the overall look of the building and obviously the degree to which it maximises the floor space they will gain, or meets the profile requirements of clients etc.

Developers also always seek surety in the planning process. If it will get them a grant then they'll do it. Certainly, if DCC staff had been more considered in their appraisal of the scheme (particular the aforementioned "dead as a dodo" Conservation Officer), then perhaps they could have gained a much improved design from HKR and P Elliotts.

I would also vouch that the Compliance system has failed miserably in this instance particularly in relation to the details which Graham critiques above, the poor stone masonry, fenestration etc. I would suggest that they maybe promised one thing but delivered something else.
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Re: what now for Irish Times D'olier Street buildings?

Postby GrahamH » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:43 pm

5/12/2012

Well like clockwork, and within a hair's breadth of the deadline, a planning application has just been lodged for retention of the ghastly LED lighting scheme erected on the former Irish Times offices in 2009. At the time, a four-year permission only was granted for the lighting to 'allow time to assess its impact', before the expiry of which a new planning application had to be lodged for retention of the scheme or else it be taken down. I was hoping they'd forget the deadline of December 2012, but alas the agents have little to be absent-minded about as they tap their pens in their empty offices and shop units. Following an invalidation two weeks ago, a very hastily resubmitted application has just been lodged.

http://www.dublincity.ie/swiftlg/apas/r ... 1&backURL=<a href=wphappcriteria.display?paSearchKey=1827233>Search Criteria</a> > <a href='wphappsearchres.displayResultsURL?ResultID=2251513%26StartIndex=1%26SortOrder=APNID:asc%26DispResultsAs=WPHAPPSEARCHRES%26BackURL=<a href=wphappcriteria.display?paSearchKey=1827233>Search Criteria</a>'>Search Results</a>

The details have yet to go up online, but one can only imagine the velvety words on improved de saf-ety and secur-ity of D'Olier Street, and the gushingly positive impact this crude outbreak of linear measles has on the facade of one of the most carefully contrived streetscapes in the city.

All objections welcome by January 11th 2013. Here's hoping we can claw something back from this hopelessly crass cub of the Celtic Tiger.
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