Almost a full month since this plan went public and STILL no sign on the DCC website. One can only but draw their own conclusions. It is also remarkable that for a scheme as significant as this, a general public presentation has not been conducted by DCC officials other than those made to private business groups and traders on the street.
The above, coupled with what is apparent in the plan, confirms how this scheme seems to have plummeted down the priority list in DCC, where the repaving now appears to be being carried out with the minimum of fuss, design complexity and general public engagement. As much as these areas generally went OTT during the boom years, this is not a good thing and it is highly regrettable, not to mention disconcerting, that the reordering of the so-called premier street in the State is generating zero public or media comment. What's going on?
I imagine the above document is all that is on display in hard copy format, as Part 8 is a self-contained statutory document, in which case the plan is sorely thin on detail and virtually impossible to make an informed public comment on its specifics. Having studied it for half an hour or so, it is very difficult to get a sense of how the paving will work in reality, with no photomontages of a clear or relatively empty street. An enlarged plan section of paving is also required to accurately assess the mix of materials.
A few observations:
The most important of all: where is this granite being sourced? A very deliberate exclusion of this critical point from the plans is apparent, as nobody wants to talk about the giant Indian elephant sitting over in the corner. Having been exhaustively highlighted in the Historic Street Surfaces Workshop recently run by DCC, there is no excuse – either through procurement rules, ability to supply, or cost – for Irish stone to be discarded in favour of imported material. If we cannot pave our main shopping street in our own native materials, which we otherwise export by the bucketload, then might as well give up on a quality city here and now, and use the upcoming Public Realm Strategy as delightfully colourful lavatory paper.
The use of pink granite to denote street junctions is a tried and tested solution, but it is a predictable concept and far too similar to Henry Street in approach. The paving pattern at these junctions, comprised of square slabs, I also find repetitive and jarring, and evocative of cheap 1960s system cladding.
The complex, dense pattern of the proposed base granite is robust and elegant.
The 'wayfinding path' is much less prominent that people probably imagined - more like an irritating dribble than a full-on stain.
There is far too much street clutter by way of bollards, bins and lamps. While the bollards are essential to prevent incursions by vehicles into the cellar zones, the proposed litter bins should be capable of acting as bollards in themselves and be regularly spaced within the bollard sequence. The number of bins proposed is also ludicrous – a bin on both sides every three plot widths.
The single most hideous element that must be extracted from this plan are the ignorant lampposts proposed the length of the street, as pictured by Peter above. There are a few issues here:
The proposed design is plucked straight from 1950s central Bradford.
It is utterly anodyne.
It is catalogue-tastic.
The dual-height lamps look preposterous on a medium-sized standard of this kind. They also scream at their context, not because they’re ‘modrin’, but because in the hierarchy of street illumination the broad central artery of the street is being lit by the same lamp as the paltry walkway of the cellar zone. They therefore utterly fail to understand or acknowledge the design character and layout of the street.
Street lamps on an intimate pedestrian thoroughfare such as Grafton Street categorically require a high grade, custom designed, human scale solution. They demand design excellence, they should be graciously iconic, and they should stand out top of the pile in the hierarchy of Dublin street illumination. What is proposed shouts of a certain type of stereotype architect-led mediocrity, which is so obvious in its minimal architectonic discipline that it’s a wonder it wasn’t steered clear of in the avoidance of the inevitable guffaws. What is ironic about this robustly clinical design approach is that it actually avoids a confident design statement – it is, in effect, a cop-out on the singular greatest character-forming element on the thoroughfare. This is unacceptable and cannot go unchallenged.
Indeed, on the grounds of cost, it has to be questioned why existing street furniture cannot be retained and refurbished as part of this plan. This isn’t so much a hospital beds argument as a design and sustainability one – the existing lampposts and bollards are in good condition and surprisingly successful and minimal in form. The bollards are the classic Dublin Doric, which in spite of breeding like rabbits around the city, are a thoroughly elegant design. Likewise the lamp standards are a coherent mixture of historic Hammond Lane pillars, similar historic standards, and some 1980s reproductions. If all of this furniture was entirely reconditioned, with the gawky extension poles of the standards removed, everything stripped bare and given a robust factory coating in a striking matt olive green or perhaps deep rust shade, the lamps heads all unified with world-class, hand-crafted copper and glass lanterns based on a native Dublin design, fitted with sparkling white LEDs, and new contemporary bins purchased to complement, the cost would surely be a fraction of what is proposed. Statement pillars with declamatory heads, standing proud and upstanding on a bowling green of new paving would make a truly memorable and character-building statement. Why do we have to reinvent the wheel? Do designers not have confidence in their knowledge of the city to contextually redesign?
There is no mention of way-finding signage, or interpreting significant premises or sites on the street through the paving.
There is no mention of how flower sellers and stalls are to be incorporated into the plans.
Must wander over and see if there are more details at the planning desk.
Public submissions ‘welcome’ until June 20th.