National Children's Hospital design

Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby gunter » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:37 am

I support the choice of the Mater site for all the reasons that other commentators seem to think it unsuitable:

The building [that we’re going to put 640m euro into] will be visible from many vantage points in the city.

Future haphazard expansion of the National Children’s Hospital [via stacks of port-a-cabins] will not be possible on this site.

Getting there [and parking] via private car is likely to take longer than travelling on public transport.


I don’t buy that the scheme impacts negatively on O’Connell Street, or the north Georgian core, I think the impact is more likely to be positive, assuming the proposed dramatic step-up in scale is carried off with conviction and not dumbed down now and emasculated in the impending review process.

Lest there be any misunderstanding here, none of this would apply to a speculative office block of the same scale in the same location. It is the particular combination of a unique, one-off, public child-care function with the design response to both that and the considerable design challenge presented by the confined urban context that I believe deserves much more credit than it has been getting from people who should know better.

I should also say that I don’t doubt the integrity of Bord Pleanala and I do acknowledge that we’ve had good reason to be grateful to them on numerous occasions in the past when the City Council and other local authority planning departments lost the plot more often than not, seemingly dazzled by all the bright lights of the building boom.

I understand the reasons for the Board’s decision and Graham’s support for that decision, but slapping a refusal on this proposal does not, in my opinion, do justice to the quality of the scheme proposed, or the importance of the undertaking.

Bord Pleanala had other options and in the circumstances they should have exercised those options, especially if they were uncertain of their own expertise to make the critical aesthetic judgements required of them in this particular case.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby Frank Taylor » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:35 pm

I agree with Gunter.

GrahamH wrote:Frank, you are justifying bad planning with bad planning. Also, to couch this decision as an 'aesthetic' argument is simplistic and ill-informed. Read the 130-page plus report before drawing conclusions.
The board direction is 2 pages long. http://www.pleanala.ie/news/PA0024/SPA0024.pdf
the board chose to disagree with 2 of the inspector's reasons for rejection: lack of parking and contravention of LAP, but to uphold the other two reasons for rejection, both of which were aesthetic.

in the board's own succinct words, the sole reason is visual:
it is considered that the proposed development, by reason of its height, scale, form and mass, located on this elevated site, would result in a dominant, visually incongruous structure and would have a profound negative impact on the appearance and visual amenity of the city skyline. The proposed development would contravene policy SC18 of the Dublin City Development Plan, 2011-2017, which seeks to protect and enhance the skyline of the inner city and to ensure that all proposals for mid-rise and taller buildings make a positive contribution to the urban character of the city.
Furthermore, the development as proposed, notwithstanding the quality of the design, would be inconsistent with and adversely affect the existing scale and character of the historic city and the established character of the local area and would seriously detract from the setting and character of protected structures, streetscapes and areas of conservation value, and in particular, the vistas of O’Connell Street and North Great George’s Street.
Having regard to the site masterplan for the Mater Campus submitted with this application, it is also considered that the proposed development as configured, would constitute overdevelopment of the site.

...enhance the skyline...
...adversely affect the existing scale and character of the historic city...
...overdevelopment of the site...


These concepts are arbitrary.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby Service charge » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:30 pm

ABP weighed up this project and, without offering an alternative, they cancelled it as if they were cancelling a supermarket or a housing development.


I think you will find it was the application itself that failed to provide alternatives as part of the EIS.

We all know the area around the mater is in desperate need of renewal and I would like to see the hospital in the city as it could be a great incentive for renewal of the area. However, that won't be achieved by the current proposal.

Some outside the box thinking is required. Frank points to Hardwicke st which I mentioned before that, surely the building could be split in two. The carpark and possibly labs or technical departments such as HR, IT, filing etc could be put onto Hardwicke St (with the flats knocked to the benefit of the residents) and the actual essential medical units using the mater site. The carpark alone would free up four floors. A tunnel could then link both sites, or perhaps a well designed walkway over ground.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby corkblow-in » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:03 pm

gunter wrote: ....... none of this would apply to a speculative office block of the same scale in the same location. It is the particular combination of a unique, one-off, public child-care function with the design response to both that and the considerable design challenge presented by the confined urban context that I believe deserves much more credit than it has been getting from people who should know better.


Leaving aside the architectural critique, the basic argument that is being presented by many is that the building should have been granted permission and all the relevant plans ignored because it is 'worthy'.

I would be very much against that as it takes the legitimacy of the process by which these development plans were created and throws it aside. I believe that once we do that with one project there will be many other 'unique, one-off' situations and we can just forget about the planning system. Yes it was abused in the past, but that doesn't mean it has to continue in the future.

As for being worthy - what if it was a cancer hospital rather than a childrens one? How about a private hospital? A public body proposing the building for their occupation? A private company creating thousands of jobs in the north inner city? Where would we draw the line once we've stepped over it?
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby StephenC » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:10 pm

Very good point. But that's not the Irish way - here we like to moan that we need proper planning but we are quite prepared to dispense with it when it suits us.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby corkblow-in » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:11 pm

Incidently I would also be against the solution being mooted of reducing the buildings size and transferring some functions to other hospitals. If the space is needed then its needed. And if such a height building is acceptable then why not at St James?

Major teaching hospital, Luas already in place, close to Heustons mainline and commuter rail,, people arriving at Connolly/busaras have no need to make a change at O'Connell St. (whenever bxd or metro built), accessible to the dart if interconnector constructed (about same chance as metro north at this point), and closer to the M50 for the car lovers.

I must see how this alternative scored in the EIS.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby gunter » Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:02 am

corkblow-in wrote:Leaving aside the architectural critique, the basic argument that is being presented by many is that the building should have been granted permission and all the relevant plans ignored because it is 'worthy'.


I haven’t heard that argument presented by any one.

'Leaving aside the architectural critique' makes the discussion meaningless.

This is a question of whether the proposed building is an appropriate architectural response to a challenging site and a worthy brief. In determining that it isn’t, on specific scale and aesthetic grounds, An Bord Pleanala have painted themselves into a corner that it won’t be easy to get out of.

corkblow-in wrote:As for being worthy - what if it was a cancer hospital rather than a childrens one? How about a private hospital? A public body proposing the building for their occupation? A private company creating thousands of jobs in the north inner city? Where would we draw the line once we've stepped over it?


Where do you draw the line? Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp? If it’s a public building of ambitious design . . . . that’s on one side of the line, if it’s a speculative building of stock design . . . . that’s on the other side of the line.

The basic argument is not that the building should be somehow excused from complying with ordinary development standards because its function is deemed ‘worthy’, the basic argument is that, as a public building of ambitious architectural intention, it should absolutely not be constrained by standards that are set to control ordinary development.

You’d have had to rewrite the whole history of urbanism if public buildings had been forbidden from rising above ordinary buildings. That we even have to remind ourselves of this, demonstrates how far we’ve allowed our understanding of urbanism to become diluted and contaminated by sub-urban values.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby SeamusOG » Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:32 am

Despite the glaring discrepancies in the presentations to ABP from the RPA and Irish Rail, respectively, about the metro and DART underground projects - for example, the RPA believed that a number of locations in the city would be suitable for an underground interchange, while Irish Rail, after years of discussion with the RPA, were able to find only one - ABP found themselves able to approve both projects.

The total amount of outlay on the metro and DART projects was to be a number of billion.

ABP made a point of stating, in their approval of the DART underground project, that it was a "national transport policy objective" that this line be built through St. Stephen's Green. Previously, it had only ever been presented as the "Heuston-Docklands" line.

(News to many people, of course, but apparently it was based on the drawings of the now defunct Dublin Transportation Office and the whims of the former minister, Martin Cullen). In such a way is national policy formulated, apparently).

There has, over the years, been plenty of discussion about the best location for the National Children's Hospital, and if ever a location was part of "the National Health Policy Objective", the Mater Hospital was it. After all the reports, etc., this was the one.

And now it has been rejected.

I don't wish to get into the debate about the Mater Hospital proposal, as I don't know enough to make useful commentary, but I think there is an obvious discrepancy.

With the metro and DART underground projects, ABP introduces a reason why these projects need to be built through a specific location. With the Children's Hospital, a specific location has been identified, but ABP don't approve of it.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby SeamusOG » Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:41 am

In a nutshell, from afar (and as a Dubliner), I can't understand Irish planning.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:17 pm

gunter wrote:The basic argument is not that the building should be somehow excused from complying with ordinary development standards because its function is deemed ‘worthy’, the basic argument is that, as a public building of ambitious architectural intention, it should absolutely not be constrained by standards that are set to control ordinary development.


But that’s the point – anything but ordinary development standards were applied to the planning of this project in order to accommodate it. The Local Area Plan made express provision for a large national paediatric hospital at this location of a scale far in excess of what would normally be permitted for commercial and indeed civic building at this location. In addition, it set out clear parameters on height, massing, layout and integration with the surrounding area, as all proper planning facilitates. Otherwise, the future architects working with this brief were given a free hand to execute the development within this guidance, as should be the case for a project of this importance. No constraints were set out by way of aesthetics other than the building should be of architectural excellence.

However, the development as proposed, in almost every facet of the above, categorically ignored the plan, and therefore it was rejected. Plain and simple. In spite of the obvious desire to see architectural ambition emerge with a civic building of this kind, I have no problem whatever with this project being rejected given that it failed to meet the provisions of a tailor-made LAP – one that was drawn up by leading planners, architects, conservation architects, consulting engineers, a multi-disciplinary environmental consultancy and the planning authority itself, and one that supported the establishment of a major civic building at this location.

I admire the project architects for their handling of the challenging clinical and operational brief on what is a highly constrained site, but the result, from an architectural perspective, is still akin to the Clarence Hotel proposal – a signature building shoehorned into a site where it shouldn’t be in the first place, negatively impacting its environment and in the process depriving the city of a decent civic statement elsewhere.

Let it be absolutely clear: the ABP decision has nothing got to do with Irish planning and its processes. The fault of this rejection lies entirely at the feet of government and the HSE, i.e. the client. The question, time and again, must come back to the central issue – who in the HSE supplied the guidance to the consultants of the LAP on what was required for a national paediatric facility, and in turn, who in the HSE was advising government on the scale of the project and if it could be accommodated on the Mater site? In particular, who is the properties manager or head architect in the HSE and where were they when all of this was happening two or three years ago?

For once, it is not the planners or the architects who messed up on this one. The fault is entirely the client’s, where the €37 million partially expended down the drain is their little problem. The fact that the client is effectively us makes it a bitter pill to swallow, but hardly the first time we have encountered government incompetency.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby thebig C » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:05 pm

StephenC wrote:Its important to remember that while the Board at present comprises 4 officers including a very experienced planner, the vast majority of staff in ABP, ie the inspectors are all qualified and very experienced planners. Thats the whole point of the organisation, that you have a cohort of planners separate from local authorities (ie local agendas) and central government (ie national agendas) who can give an unbiased and objective view of development within the confines of the law - that is Irish planning and development law and European law. I know that the law is a very subjective concept in this tinpot democracy of ours...very important until it needs to be ignored or dismissed.

As a planner BigC I find your tone to be quite offensive. This proposal has been considered under all its various aspects by different groups; planning and environmental concerns are just one element, albeit a very important element and I would warrant that proper planning was not taken seriously until the decision of the Board came out. I certainly know from pre-planning discussions I had with the architects that the "think about the children" defence was considered enough to justify whatever needed to be built here.

I would argue that the ABP process has been one of the more transparent aspects of this whole process. The views of everyone were aired at a public oral hearing. The submissions of everyone in relation to the project are available to view from the planning file. The decision is transparent and certainly free of Bertie Ahern's grubby hands, unlike the original decision to locate here by all accounts.



Hey Stephen

I know you are a quality poster and as such I an sure you try to do a very professional job in your position as a planner. I meant no personal disrespect to you but I will not shy from my valid critique of ABP.

I am rather glad you brought up the issue of Law, because in a previous deleted draft of my offending post I had drawn a parallel between planners and the Legal Profession. Personally, I feel its rather apt. Both groups are more or less self regulating, and both have the ability to shape most aspects of their sphere of influence regardless of National policy. For example, Politicians make laws but lawers shape laws. So, through precedent and judgements a Law can end up being diametrically different then when it was first enacted. Needless to say, drawing attention to this fact is always met with the old chesnut about the letter of the law!

Likewise, planners can put their own interpretation on what are supposed to be National planning objectives and Local area plans. ABP, are particularly influential in this area. For example, since at least the late 1990s it has been policy to allow increased densities of both commercial and residential development close to public transport nodes and designated town centres. Whilst this has taken place at some locations it has been noticably absent in others.

A case in point was the various highrise developments refused for Dun Laoghaire., despite the fact that it is a focal point for multiple types of public transport and is designated a County Town. Most developments were arbitrarily refused by ABP based on their opinion that the proposals constituted over development. There was of course the Save Our Seafront campaign which provided nominal populist support, but was in effect NIMBYism of the highest order. Likewise, a journey on the redline LUAS will reveal numerous derelict sites between Heuston and Jervis where ABP despite nominal stated policy have issued refusals based on height and proximity of "historic" buildings! This is to mention but two examples but you can see my point, despite....or in spite of local and national policy, ABP make decisions based on their opinion on what constitutes proper scale and planning. And that opinion is literally just an opinion when you consider that in many cases the said developments had already been processed through the Local Authorities own planning department, and had been passed.

So you see, to hark back to my original point, ABP can hide behind "proper planning" but more often they and they alone decide what proper planning is regardless of policy!

C
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby teak » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:08 pm

And no one even mentions the elephant in the sitting-room -- even when he's just shat all over the piano :crazy: . . . .

I'm talking about that firm of architects who knowingly tried to stonewall the planning guidelines and pushed this wildly unacceptable design throughout the past few years.

Of course, they were well-paid for spending loads of man-hours on the job so far.
And this present failure will not in any way mean their disengagement from this project.

Hundreds of small architect offices up and down the country who point out the folly of vain planning applications to their clients, and who walk away from inducements to proceed with them, have to live with the public's image of architects based on carry-on like O'Connell Mahon's.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby gunter » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:42 am

teak wrote:I'm talking about that firm of architects who knowingly tried to stonewall the planning guidelines and pushed this wildly unacceptable design throughout the past few years.

. . . small architect offices up and down the country . . . . have to live with the public's image of architects based on carry-on like O'Connell Mahon's.


Sean Mahon of O'Connell Mahon / NBBJ Architects mounted a stout defence of this project, and their design of it, in this month's RIAI Journal. Do you want to read it teak and tell us where they're wrong?

GrahamH wrote: – anything but ordinary development standards were applied to the planning of this project in order to accommodate it. The Local Area Plan made express provision for a large national paediatric hospital at this location of a scale far in excess of what would normally be permitted for commercial and indeed civic building at this location. In addition, it set out clear parameters on height, massing, layout and integration with the surrounding area, as all proper planning facilitates.


LAPs are useful planning tools, much of the time, but you cannot design a building by 'setting out parameters'.

Wren's St. Paul's would be an example of a vast public building that dominated the skyline of London when it was built . . . . on an elevated site.

After the rejection of his first great design for the re-building of the cathedral, for being too grandiose and novel in form, the committee in charge of the re-building set out clear parameters for Wren to work within in order to achive the result that they wanted, the result was the so-called 'Warrant Design' and although - or more likely because - it ticked all the boxes, the Warrant Design was an artless piece of crud, that Wren had to spend the next thirty years unpicking.

A national children's hospital may not be a cathedral and O'Connell Mahon may not be Wren, but there are still lessons in this.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby BTH » Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:53 pm

I've read the so called "stout defense" (more likeself aggrandizing publicity blurb) of the scheme in Architecture Ireland. It only proves to me that the designers are clearly very good at creating organizational diagrams and densely stacking layer upon layer of functions into a constricted site. There are some good ideas, particularly the green roof "Therapy Park" between the treatment zone and the wards or "sleepover zone" as it is called.

However by no means does this make for good architecture or urbanism or make any positive contribution to the cityscape. They have the nerve to claim that it would "become a positive public landmark building for the city" and to compare the proposal with the Four Courts, Custom House, BOI College Green, even the new Criminal Courts or the Aviva. It unfortunately smacks of utter delusion.

The proposal, thankfully scuppered by ABP, was ugly in the extreme, the equivalent of almost FIVE Belfast city hospitals lined up in a row (with even tacky yellow highlights in a clear "homage" to that early 1980s architectural delight). How anyone can justify or support the construction of such a monstrosity is beyond me, no matter how well its design may work practically or how suitable or unsuitable its location may be. Thank god someone has called a halt to this madness at long last.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby StephenC » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:04 pm

I'm going to do a missarchi...

http://archiseek.com/2012/1977-central- ... ar-dublin/

Shades of an early extremely important strategic infrastructure.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby BTH » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:17 pm

Image

Anyone who knows Belfast knows how dominant and ugly the City Hospital is on the skyline. The proposal for the National Childrens Hospital was just about the same height and almost 5 times wider. Something (very roughly) like this:

Image

No amount of curves or shiny glass or brises soleil could possibly mitigate the terrible impact that the proposal would have had on Dublin.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby Paul Clerkin » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:41 pm

Hospital expert group to report within 56 days
http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0306/hospital.html
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby missarchi » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:43 am

Dont they own to the centre of the earth might be a way to half of it underground...
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby wearnicehats » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:41 pm

StephenC wrote:Its important to remember that while the Board at present comprises 4 officers including a very experienced planner, the vast majority of staff in ABP, ie the inspectors are all qualified and very experienced planners. Thats the whole point of the organisation, that you have a cohort of planners separate from local authorities (ie local agendas) and central government (ie national agendas) who can give an unbiased and objective view of development within the confines of the law.


how many of the decisions of these qualified and experienced planners are overturned by the panel? without recourse, of course
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby StephenC » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:42 pm

The decisions in ABP are made by the Board..the inspector only undertakes the appeal assessment and makes a recommendation (and it should be noted that in a local authority the executive makes the decision while the planner recommends - in fact under the law the City/County Manager is the ultimate grantor of a permission).
I'm not sure on the statistics of how instances when the Board disagrees with the recommendation of its inspectors..possibly available in ABP's Annual Report. I'm sure it is the exception rather than the rule.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby teak » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:00 am

Can anyone get the O'Connell Mahon "stout defence" paper from Architecture Ireland up online so that all can see it ?

Buying this AI journal would cost €10 -- about the cost of 3 Paris Matches, which generally has better photography and reading.
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby gunter » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:05 am

missarchi wrote:Dont they own to the centre of the earth might be a way to half of it underground...


The Fritzl solution . . . for a children’s hospital . . . you sure about this?

Here’s a scan of the article teak, hope it’s legible.

Image
Image

BTH wrote:I've read the so called "stout defense" (more likeself aggrandizing publicity blurb) of the scheme in Architecture Ireland. It only proves to me that the designers are clearly very good at creating organizational diagrams and densely stacking layer upon layer of functions into a constricted site. There are some good ideas, particularly the green roof "Therapy Park" between the treatment zone and the wards or "sleepover zone" as it is called.


Quite a lot of 'good ideas' in it I think and some really clear internal planning, which is very refreshing. For an architect’s account - in this particular publication – I found the article remarkably free from both jargon and self-aggrandizement and they get points for not using the word ‘iconic’, but I guess if you see nothing good in this proposal, a statement explaining its design rational is not going to move you.

BTH wrote:However by no means does this [very good organizational diagrams and some good ideas] make for good architecture or urbanism or make any positive contribution to the cityscape.


Well it’s a start - and they follow through on that start with a pretty well thought out design strategy based on a hierarchy of elements that culminates in the distinctive curvilinear layer.

BTH wrote:They have the nerve to claim that it would "become a positive public landmark building for the city" . . . smacks of utter delusion.


They are proud of the design and they express the hope that it may become a positive public landmark building for the city, that is true. I don’t know for sure if they’re right, but to me, the scheme displays a level of skill and architectural judgement that exceeds the level prevailing in ABP at the moment, so I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more positive comment from the architectural community [if there is such a thing] and the usually reliable ‘Urbanism’ advocates have either stayed out of it completely, or gone over to the other side.

BTH wrote:The proposal, thankfully scuppered by ABP, was ugly in the extreme, the equivalent of almost FIVE Belfast city hospitals lined up in a row (with even tacky yellow highlights in a clear "homage" to that early 1980s architectural delight).


ImageImageImage

Unlike the proposed Children’s Hospital, the City Hospital in Belfast makes absolutely no pretence at elegance, but it is a distinctive landmark on the Belfast skyline which is not, in my opinion, inappropriate, given its function and, notwithstanding BTH's scathing assessment, I suspect it's a building that may be well on its way to becoming a List II protected structure in the not too distant future.

BTH wrote:How anyone can justify or support the construction of such a monstrosity is beyond me.


Clearly
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby teak » Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:14 pm

Thanks for the scanned images, Gunter.
I expected a much longer and more professionally written paper.
But we can only review what we are given.

I attach the last 2 salient paragraphs below for the benefit of others who haven't the AI journal issue at hand.

Urban Design And Impact On The City

The scale of development required to provide for the National Children’s Hospital on this site will have some impact on architectural heritage and conservation of the city. These impacts were reviewed and assessed in a wide-ranging 3-D study prepared to assess the impact across the entire city and to understand exactly from where, and to what extent, the building would be visible. The result of this study was that, in respect of the majority of the historic city, and indeed practically the entire south historic core, the building is not visible at all. In fact O’Connell Street stands out as one f the key areas from which the building is clearly viewed, together with many areas local to the site.
There amy be some who have reservations on these issues. Our view is that the national Children’s Hospital is a symbol of what we as a public value in our society and, in that sense, [sic] is entirely appropriate that it is visible from the main street in the city, as a public landmark, and a public acknowledgement of investment in our children’s health in the 21st century.


Our City

While the shape, structure and form of our city is primarily defined by the Georgian period, many of the finest landmarks from that period are larger public buildings such as the Four Courts or the Custom House and the Old Parliament at the Bank of Ireland on College Green. When one thinks about such landmark buildings in Dublin of the 20th century, one thinks of structures such as Liberty Hall, the Bank of Ireland on Baggot Street or the Pidgeon House at Poolbeg. It was, however, for the most part a city in decline as the suburbs expanded rapidly and population shrank within the city. More recently the addition of buildings such as the Criminal Courts, The Spire and the Aviva Stadium have challenged us to view our city as a live and growing city. These recent additions have coincided with a systematic and planned public policy to regenerate the core of the city, the urban centre, into a more dense, vibrant and sustainable core; with greater numbers living and working in the centre; supported by a more developed public transport and infrastructure network; and through a planning policy that allows for more focused landmarks to provide for defined developments within designated areas of the city.
The new children’s hospital is one such development. It represents a challenge but also an opportunity to create something unique not just for health and well-being of the children of the state but also as a major pieceof public infrastructure for the city and the country. Such a building must be of the highest quality. In this case, the overall design has been thought through and developed in rigorous detail, the impacts have been considered and understood from the outset of the design and the overall form massing strategy has been designed precisely to ensure that it will become a positive public landmark building for the city in the 21st century.


Look, as an architect's solution to a state imposed brief, I would not say that it was a bad effort.
And, in a human way, I reckon most people would relate strongly to the situation that O'Connell Mahon found themselves in with this job. There they are, the foremost architects of medical care facilities in the country, with decades of experience designing Ireland's public care facilities. In comes the latest design tender from their super-major client. The site is small, congested and not the ideal location where a parent would want their seriously ill child to spend a difficult (perhaps, for some, even final) part of their life. Yet this is the very task that these architects are all about. In theory, they could pass it up. But, in practice, passing on this task would cause them to be washed up as far as further state work would be concerned. And if they do pass it up, for sure some other firm will be prepared to take on the job. Most likely a firm with far less skill and experience in this type of design.
So they take it and try to make the most of it.
Today this dilemma is no longer the preserve of the odd Duke of Albany or even those decent Northeasterners of Richard Yates' post war stories : it's the sort of dilemma faced by almost every person who takes pride in their work and who tries to include some social ethics into their profession. They can exercise their full professional standards only where these are unrestrained by the demands of their clients. Those who try to keep all their professional principles together can spend most of their time on unchallenging work.

To me the essential design of the NCH was dictated by the insistence of building on the Mater Hospital site. No one could have really made this a comprehensive children's hospital with a 50 year lifespan and not tore into the Dublin city skyline.
Beyond this the role of the architect was simply -- and quite hopelessly, as is evident between the lines of the paper's awkward syntaxt -- to try to ameliorate the worst aspects of the building's scale : rounding the ward zone tower, maximising glazing, placing the therapy zone in the set-back between upper part and lower parts, maximising the footprint of the treatment zone as that would not impact adversely over existing skylines, etc.

This whole thing was to be about giving good healthcare to all the state's children.
Yet throughout the process, individuals -- politicians with agendas, civil servants with hobby horses, media people with biases, professional people with ambitions and citizens like all of us with no determination to insist on proper standards at work -- have all put their own personal and family needs first.

I thnk that An Bórd Pleanála's decision is for the best.
A cheaper, roomier site, more accessible by those from outside Dublin, ideally in a greenfield area, would allow far better positioning of all the important component parts of this hospital. Not least the therapy zones where seriously ill children could see some bit of beauty and wonder out the window of their infirmary as they try to recover.
teak
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby BTH » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:06 pm

gunter wrote:Quite a lot of 'good ideas' in it I think and some really clear internal planning, which is very refreshing. For an architect’s account - in this particular publication – I found the article remarkably free from both jargon and self-aggrandizement and they get points for not using the word ‘iconic’, but I guess if you see nothing good in this proposal, a statement explaining its design rational is not going to move you.


As I said there is plenty of skill demonstrated in the proposal, in terms of organization and layout and in managing to cram the functions of the hospital onto a site that is clearly too small for it. With the roof gardens it may even have been a reasonably pleasant environment for sick children to recuperate. Aside from that, is it so hard to accept that a good concept and organizational diagram doesn't automatically mean that context and proportionality can be almost completely ignored in the way that this proposal manages to?

gunter wrote:They are proud of the design and they express the hope that it may become a positive public landmark building for the city, that is true. I don’t know for sure if they’re right, but to me, the scheme displays a level of skill and architectural judgement that exceeds the level prevailing in ABP at the moment, so I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.


Where is the architectural judgement in proposing a building that viewed from north or south would be over twice the height of Croke Park and considerably longer? The tallest building in Dublin by some distance being over twice as wide as it is high? It breaks all the rules of what a tall building should be (tall being a relative term in the context of Dublins cityscape) and for this reason alone it should have been ruled out as an option at sketch design stage. No amount of skill or detailed design or adding nice curvy cladding can disguise the utter wrongness of the massing.

gunter wrote:I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more positive comment from the architectural community [if there is such a thing] and the usually reliable ‘Urbanism’ advocates have either stayed out of it completely, or gone over to the other side.


I believe its because most realize that its very difficult to defend the indefensible.

gunter wrote:Unlike the proposed Children’s Hospital, the City Hospital in Belfast makes absolutely no pretence at elegance, but it is a distinctive landmark on the Belfast skyline which is not, in my opinion, inappropriate, given its function and, notwithstanding BTH's scathing assessment, I suspect it's a building that may be well on its way to becoming a List II protected structure in the not too distant future.


A number of things. So the proposed Childrens hospital makes a pretence at elegance? How can you possibly claim this when, as already mentioned, it breaks all the rules of building high, being much much wider than it is tall, creating a slab effect reminiscent of the worst of Soviet era "commieblocks". For all the Belfast City Hospitals faults, at least it is a proper tower (albeit a stubby one). Does distinctiveness automatically equate with visual acceptability? And really, Belfast City Hospital being listed? I seriously doubt it.
BTH
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Re: National Children's Hospital design

Postby BTH » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:19 pm

Image

How about consolidating the wards into a tower, 32 storeys high, similar in height to Guys Hospital in London. Probably ridiculous but what the hell, it can't be worse than a 16 storey groundscraper.

Image

Obviously this would be even more controversial but at least a proposal like this could in itself have been a true landmark with some elegance and a decent slenderness ratio. I'm in no way against building tall, I just feel that if we are going to build something so enormous it should have some grace, proportion and beauty. Unfortunately I feel that the proposal rejected by ABP was sorely lacking in those qualities.
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