Well after many years of dereliction, the three Georgian townhouses at 49-51 Parnell Square have finally been rebuilt, and are currently nearing completion.
A typical Dublin scene until recently, there was nothing here other than a weed-strewn site surrounded by palisade railings, a straggling remnant of an 18th century doorcase, and ubiquitous timber supports buttressing the neighbouring house; this photograph dates from as late as c.1998:
Designated a tax-incentiveised site in the O’Connell Street IAP as part of Site Cluster No. 2 which encompasses this whole western side of Parnell Square, the Plan stated: “This square was designed as an architectural entity, and the correct solution for this site is to build a facsimile of the previous design. The design should be a scholarly work, undertaken by an architect qualified in architectural conservation or with proven experience in conservation work.”
It is most satisfying to observe that this objective has been achieved in its entirety.
Here is the terrace today:
(apologies for the buses)
The difference the infill has made to the terrace is extraordinary; it immediately unifies it once again, replacing the missing tooth that for so long blemished this impressive sloping Georgian streetscape, also concealing the hideous side elevation of the opposing replica townhouse. No doubt this is what was proposed for this site originally – indeed when were these houses demolished, and by whom? No mention was ever made in The Destruction of Dublin, in contrast to all of the demo jobs highlighted on Cavendish Row.
Some views of the new ‘houses’ – currently being marketed as suitable for medical or office use.
The brick is a bit pink, but will tone down with time; most Dublin red brick was probably this colour originally.
As far as can be made out, they replicate the former houses pretty much exactly, including the different types of doorcase and window courses. Anyone got a pic of the original houses?
They seem to be late rather than mid-18th century in design; it’s hard to say, especially given the Gardiners' fondness for a lack of flights of steps which usually helps in identifying in other parts of the city. The brick courses of the far left house and the right-hand pair have been deliberately mismatched to separate the structures as originally built; the brick itself also seems to subtly differ in colour between the two.
The chimneys are eh, unusual in design. One slight objection perhaps is the use of red brick which is not very common either in colour or in being exposed in this part of the city – the rest of the terrace’s chimneys are pretty much all rendered over now, or of stock brick. These new ones do stand out a bit as a result, giving them something of a Zoe quality…
Still, they look well even if a bit false. Otherwise the attention to detail has been superb, even extending to shuttering for the windows that you can see in the above picture. The sashes are of course perfect – not a horn to be seen : )
They are also single-glazed by the looks of things, and individually paned to give them the traditional light-flashing quality.
Even the vents are decorative, if overly so for Georgian ironwork.
They also ought to be painted a more subtle colour – they stand out too regimentally on the facade:
As posted before, here’s what it all should look like including doorcases and railings:
A job exceedingly well done job. There’s a modern office buiulding inserted to the rear of the houses, and a stack of apartments going in in a semi-separate development further down the lane – the upper floors of the houses are probably apartments too. However I do think that these buildings have more integrity than most replicas by virtue of the domestically scaled interiors; this doesn’t appear to be a concrete office block with suspended ceilings covering the windows, all shrouded in red brick, but rather there’s a certain synergy taking place between the interiors and exterior - they credibly relate to each other with minimum, if any, contrivance in an attempt to make it work. Also the houses replicate as best as possible what was originally on the site – there is a connection to the location and wider context in this respect, and a relevance in design.
Unfortunately out of the nine designated site clusters identified in the IAP, this is the sole project to either have been started or successfully executed, with Parnell Street sites still lying idle, the Carlton Cinema in limbo, shopfronts and facades yet to be touched on O’Connell Street, Marlborough Street sites and terraces still a shambles, and the Eden Quay Laughter Lounge and to a lesser extent Schuh building developments hardly what the IAP drafters had in mind as sensitive regenerations.
The Parnell Square houses are encouraging progress however, especially if they were stimulated by the incentives. Parnell Street West is definitely next on the list – what a disaster zone.