You know well that crowd behaviour on St Patrick's Day is not indicative of the normal behaviour of Irish pedestrians. Are you suggesting that the presence of private cars in an urban space is a civilising force for humanity?
I don't believe the automobile in an urban space is a civilising force for humanity,... but certainly, that the presence of people on an automobile thoroughfare, could be a civilising force for the automobile. As to the 'quality of buildings' on Westmoreland Street,.. I think you will all find, that in urban design, the design of the road, has a major
effect on the kinds of buildings that 'appear' on the sites flanking the road - or for that matter, on the way they are perceived
, on the way in which they are used. Yet this simple observation, has managed to escape a large proportion of people now actively involved in spatial design. This is one of my major 'gripes' with the 'style police' here at Archiseek, and in the Irish scene in general,.. with all of this focus, upon the 'objects' either side of the road,... they have neglected
a debate which should
have happened, in relation to the spaces
that are left between
the objects. I regularly notice this problem, in quite new master plans and such here in Ireland, and abroad,... the whole discussion being largely stuck around matters of 'style' of what facadism we shall have along the thoroughfares,... with very little acknowledgement given, to the treatment of the thoroughfares themselves.
The demolition of the 3 original buildings and several others nearby to make way for the Westin Hotel (originally to be Hilton before they pulled out) was the major planning/conservation battle of the late â€˜90s, and went to the courts.
The mere fact alone, that this issue even managed
to tie up so many valuable resources of debate and discussion, through the 1990s,.. is suspicious to begin with,... and doesn't speak very highly of the intelligence of the discussion going on in the 1990s. This is indeed a sad fact, we are all paying for now. We haven't acquired the necessary 'tools' to disect and carefully examine, what a new scheme is proposing to do,... or rather not
doing. I notice the 'visualisation renderings' of many new developments, such as Stillorgan Shopping Centre, and the like,... have been very careful,... to make
the discussion, into a discussion about 'facadism',... because the Irish planner's vocabulary, in trying to envisage a new development,... is painfully limited,.. to just a word-play of 'Materials, Treatment, Expression, balconies',.. arranged in various orders,... often, it is like an infantile 'tape recording',... planners do not appear to have the necessary design and spatial vocabulary, or even perception
to understand what they are needed to look at,... in terms of complex urban sites. Which is all the more reason, I believe, that Architects
should be tasked with the responsible review of urban design, before and after, the building construction has occured. I think it is also worth linking this 'Monderman' stuff again I think,...
....one of the few European cultures to have become very 'people-behavioural-centric' in the post-war period, has been Holland, and it has managed to produced some of the most interesting debate, about people living and inhabiting spaces I think. It looks more at the social implications of good or bad design, rather than at the style. And from this very point of view,... the crowd behaviour of Temple Bar and Grafton Street has seriously deteriorated I believe,... All the 'pedestrianisation' of Westmoreland Street could hope to do really, is to JOIN
together, two rather poor examples of human social behaviour. As Herman Hertzberger points out in his talks,... the pursuit of architecture is not meant to give people 'what they want',.. but rather to 'raise' people. I don't think what is refered to as 'pedestrianisation',... has done an awful lot 'to raise' people,... and enough of evidence out there at the present, would even point to the opposite,.. that people have rather been lowered
,... by this completely artificial construct known as 'pedestrianisation'. The main brunt of pedestrianisation is a concessionary one,... because if the authority wants to 'ban' the people out of the equation on certain stretches,.. it offers 'pedestrianisation' as a peace pipe, on the other extreme,.. to demonstrate, what the authority is doing 'for'
pedestrians. With the results, that pedestrians choke a street such as Henry Street, while cars choke a street like Parnell Street. Walk along the route of Parnell Street any time you want, if you want to see 'pedestrians' taken out of the equation. This comes from the widespread popularity amongst design professionals of something called 'masterplanning',... pedestrianisation, is a term coined directly out of the practice of 'masterplanning',... and masterplanning in turn, itself, exists,... NOT
because it is the best way to go about the design and construction of major urban projects,.. but simply
because it presents the most convenient way possible
,.. for the few monopolistic dynasties around,... to take all of the money associated with urban design, out of the kitty, in one large chunk,... As opposed to building a piece, waiting to see how that works, building another piece,... and gradually over the space of time, knit something together, which takes most of the issues into serious consideration. Bear in mind, this is how the villages and towns of Ireland would have often developed anyhow,... as the resources of a community permitted development and expansion to take place. Of course the wonders of capitalism, has produced a 'breed of spatial planner',... who in order to facilitate, large sums of money, being put into a site quickly, and then being taken out
again almost as fast,... we have 'invented' this abomination known as the 'masterplan',... which is not really a masterplan, in spatial terms, but a masterplan in terms of Euro and profiteering. A necessary adjunct, to this 'masterplanning' practice,... is, yeah, you have guessed it,... a very exclusive, tightly-knit, monopolistic dynasty of spatial designers. But in going this route, the spatial designer, has in effect lost
most of their important skill base, and thereby ignored practically all of the major social issues associated with urban space and the people who inhabit that space. You are reduced to a very, very few nowadays, like Herman Hertzberger, who at least try to put, social aspects in spatial design, firmly back on the map,... or on the radar at least, where at least some bright, young aspiring spatial designers might stumble across that aspect of urban design.
But getting back again to Dublin City,... Parnell street is just one busy speedway used exclusively
by cars, dangerous queueing and swirfing into 'shoots' which carry them up to multi-storey shelves of parking lots. If 'Westmoreland' Street is being planned as a pedestrianised place,.. then you can bet your last euro,... that Dublin City Council is already 'thinking' about some parallel cunning scheme, to facilitate the massive influx of people in cars that are supposed to arrive in that area,.. the 'shoppers' and such, required to 'populate' the said newly created pedestrianised 'ZONE'. That is urban design, in a 'cause and effect', mathematical, machine-like format,... and one which presents a need amongst people in a position to execute these plans,.. to control everything down to the last tiny detail,... and displays a total lack of understanding in how cities work as places we can inhabit, grow and prosper. You need to look at the fourth dimension usually to see, what is going on, in urban design,... whenever you see a 'pedestrianised' street choc-full of people with loads of shopping bags, ask yourself the question, how did these people all get here, and usually the answer is a speedway like Parnell Street with loads of ramps and lay-by shoots leading to stacks of parking. It is worth looking at what 'Moore's Street' has become nowadays, it is worth looking at what the site, directly on the corner of Parnell Street and Moore Street is set to become nowadays,... and consider that Moore Street has been 'left out' of the picture totally, while Henry Street was being revamped. It is unnerving today, to walk between Parnell Street, dodging cars, and trying to manage on very crapped and dangerous sidewalks, then move along Moore Street and wonder where did you take a turn into war-torn Beiruit, and finally end up in Henry Street, and wonder what are all of these folks doing 'bunched' up together like sardines, and thinking this is an enjoyable, satisfying way to shop,... or something,... to realise, that we don't know
as yet how to do urban design in this country. We still don't seem to have the knack. In the face of that conclusion, the only strategy I can imagine, is to look to the young people we have, to offer the problems to them, by training them somehow in spatial design,... rather than the small, closely-knit, exclusive world that is spatial design nowadays,... just 'open' it up altogether to some fresh new ideas,... given, that the existing
system, is merely churning out the same old solutions, that didn't work before, and certainly don't work now.
Brian O' Hanlon.