It is my understanding that the vast amount of car parking provision is a 'temporary' measure, designed to ease the transition to a public transport-oriented patient throughput, and to fill the accessibility void in advance Metro coming on stream (ahem). It is intended that a significant amount of parking - perhaps the uppermost deck of the basement - will be subsumed back into the hospital as ancillary space within the short to medium term. The remaining quantum is apparently in line with 'international norms' regarding consultant and doctor on call access to the hospital as well as other emergency staff and visitor car parking.
In all of this discussion, there is a key issue that will raise its head in the An Bord Pleanála assessment. That is the recent award winning Phibsborough/Mountjoy Local Area Plan (LAP), drafted for Dublin City Council primarily to plan for the strategic insertion of a National Children’s Hospital there, as well as the development of the Mountjoy Prison site. Its expressly stated provisions and outline plans for the hospital frankly appear to be half the floor area and overall size of what is now being proposed. It never fails to amaze how public planning policy, paid for by public money for the public good, even in this reflective climate, is still being bulldozed through, contorted, twisted and sculpted to the needs of a developing class, and that includes the State.
A few lines from the LAP that specifically accommodate and plan for the requirements of this national facility:
Tall buildings should be appropriate in terms of proportion, composition and their visual impact; they should be slender and have a minimum height to width ratio (slenderness ratio) of 3:1, and generally should not exceed [16 floors] or 50m in height.
What is proposed is a vast heaving behemoth of an ungainly groundscraper, with a lumpen ratio of goodness only knows, and a height well in excess of 70m on the heightest point in the city. Welcome to Irish planning.
An overriding consideration will be whether the height proposed has any negative impact on the established amenity of existing buildings, especially homes and protected structures within the plan area. Privacy, daylighting and shadow analysis will also be required.
The very habitable nature, never mind amenity, of large tracts of low-scale terraced housing is being impacted by this proposal. This would never in a million years even get past concept stage on the south side, never mind in any civilised city.
In summary, all tall landmark building proposals will be assessed in accordance with the Dublin City Development Plan and the policies of this LAP, having full regard to the impact on the amenity of existing occupiers and buildings, including privacy, overshadowing and conservation considerations. Any proposal must also demonstrate that there is a strong urban design rationale and identify the architectural and planning gains to be delivered by the height proposed.
How are any of the above being catered for? By contrast, the draft images in the LAP take cognisance of nearly all of the above, based around courtyards and slim blocks ranging from 5 to a maximum of 12 storeys.
This hospital proposal has got to the same stage that we hit late last year with the financial crisis, where the figures are so off the scale, the entire vista presented is so bonkers, and the future prospects so ghastly, that nobody actually sees it anymore. It’s so completely nuts that it might actually get through in the blind ignorance of it all. When something approaches such echelons of barminess, sure what does an extra quantum leap in floorspace, storeys or facilities matter relative to context? Sure we're all on the happy pills now!
There is little doubt in my mind that this is Convention Centre Dublin Round II, only this version has the clout to impart its ignorance on large tracts of the city. It is such a crude, ungainly, incoherent, compromised and flawed building, both its design and its relationship with its setting, that it in no way whatever deserves to be a major civic building, and less still that public funds be directed towards such a damaging project for the city of Dublin.
Yet again our beleaguered city gets dumped on with a major mediocre building to serve a national interest, that neither respects, compliments or embellishes Dublin’s architectural repertoire, its urban structure, or its civic pride as a capital city. In the eyes of national government, it is a facility that is to be shovelled in at all costs, as has so sadly been the case over the past half century – a city to be carved up and dumped upon as required.
Without question, the National Children’s Hospital should be located in Dublin city, and without hesitation it should be a building of architectural excellence, distinction and potential landmark status. But the simple reality is that this site is not capable of accommodating the needs of this hospital without coming to a ghastly compromise - as the current proposal demonstrates.