D'Olier & Westmoreland St.

Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby PVC King » Sat Aug 13, 2005 9:01 pm

If one were to attempt to convert any building built as mixed use low intensity retail/living over the shop to 5 star hotel lined up for a major franchise operator very little other than the facade will be of use; with the ground floor dimensions being particularly important in this regard. In contrast it was possible to retain and restore to a very high standard the Victorian banking halls. Facadism is a different issue and probably more related to many of the second generation offices that were badly done on Lower Leeson St in the late 80's/early 90's.

The question here is not architectural but relates more to developer perception of what they feel constitutes a realistic re-development opportunity within the accepted rules. No doubt Treasury were not advised that there would be so much opposition to this scheme at that particular time and there is little doubt that this case is one of the reasons why Part iv of the act is so comprehensive.
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Sat Aug 13, 2005 9:11 pm

... delete ...
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Sun Aug 14, 2005 2:39 pm

If one were to attempt to convert any building built as mixed use low intensity retail/living over the shop to 5 star hotel lined up for a major franchise operator very little other than the facade will be of use; with the ground floor dimensions being particularly important in this regard. In contrast it was possible to retain and restore to a very high standard the Victorian banking halls. Facadism is a different issue and probably more related to many of the second generation offices that were badly done on Lower Leeson St in the late 80's/early 90's.

The question here is not architectural but relates more to developer perception of what they feel constitutes a realistic re-development opportunity within the accepted rules. No doubt Treasury were not advised that there would be so much opposition to this scheme at that particular time and there is little doubt that this case is one of the reasons why Part iv of the act is so comprehensive.


'Part IV' of the act is so comprehensive,... well now, that should be a source of comfort to us all. You cannot expect, anything spontaneious to arise, out of the overly 'constrained' system, whereby the architect is 'involved' in the project, for the duration of it's construction, and the planners take over the 'handling' of crucial sites before and after a project's construction - without any input from a designer. It is like an infant trying to learn to walk, without any coordination between their legs and their brain. Taoiseach, Mr. Ahern, hit at the problem of segregation between architects and planners - when he called for a 'fast-tracking' of the process. In effect, what he was feeling his way towards, was an 'enabling' of the process. But it took something as monumental as a road infrastructural project, to even put the issue on his radar monitor. For the process to work, you need certain connections to happen at the right time and in the right context - i.e. as in cooperation, rather than argument or confrontation. When you think about it, it is those tiny 'connections' within the human brain, that allowed us to leave the 'Ape Community' behind, all those millions of years ago, and to master the skill of upright walking and some form of communicative speech. The Irish Spatial Design Tradition, isn't ready for those large steps quite yet. But if we ever want to get to that stage, you can't expect the Irish environment, to benefit from a brain that is crippled through it's lack of connected-ness - or even opportunity to learn. If a whole decade, and countless battles, are required to make 'Part IV of the act so comprehensive', then what meagre level of progress is the Spatial Design Tradition, going to make over the course of a century? My honest guess, it will have become extinct before a century has even passed.

The major complaint about organisations is that they have become more complex than is necessary. Refreshingly, the excellent companies are responding by saying: If you've got a major problem, bring the right people together and expect them to solve it. The 'right people' very often means senior people who 'don't have the time'. But they do, somehow, have the time at Digital, TI, HP, 3M, IBM, Dana, Fluor, Emeson, Becthtel, McDonald's, Cititbank, Boeing, Delta, et al. They have the time in those institutions because those companies aren't transfixed with the organisation charts or job descriptions or that authority exactly matches responsibility. Ready. Fire. Aim. Learn from your tries. That's enough.


That sounds very much like the human brain managing to improve itself over time, through testing of things, learning from trying etc. What really worries me in Ireland, at the moment, is the environmental design system is not being allowed to learn. I witnessed this first hand myself, in our so-called 'Design Schools'. I have noticed, that in the real world, prior to any major masterplanning, the players, have been spread out on the chess-board in a pre-configured way. The end game has already begun. The 'masterplan' builder just has to move the design professionals around on the board, using the muscle of capital finance - virtually unlimited, 'Easy-Credit'. Basically, money talks and shit walks. The situation you describe with the Hilton Hotel on Westmoreland Street, is the classic stones and clubs, 'noone-wins' confrontation, whereby, Architect and Planner expend their resources and energy on something purely trivial - the design of the perfect widget. Usually, by the time, the perfect widget has been obtained, the window of opportunity has already been wasted, and filled by other competitors. This is not how highly evolved and intelligent companies such as the Hilton group have amassed their large fortunes - and unsurprisingly, they 'lost interest' in the Westmoreland Street site before the process had run it's course.

Finally, and most importantly, is the user connection. The customer, especially the sophisticated customer, is a key participant in most successful experimenting processes....

The McDonald's experiments, obviously, are all done in conjunction with users - the customers. Many companies, on the other hand, wait until the perfect widget is designed and built before subjecting it - late in the game and often millions of dollars have been spent - to customer scrutiny. The Digital, McDonald's, HP, 3M magic is to let the user see it, test it, and reshape it - very early.


Both of the quotes above, are from Tom Peters book, In Search of Excellence. I mean, if you think about the design of a successful hotel - there is a lot of merit in the approach - of allowing your customer to shape and help you make it, what it should be. That simply isn't possible, if the design is stuck for a whole decade trying to make it's way down a very long and constrained pipeline. In reality, all the delay can do, is to detract designer time and resources away from identifying problems and issues related to a certain site. For all of the resources expended on confrontation between Designing and Planning professions on Westmoreland Street, all we have to show for it now - is a couple of very 'famous' facade battles which took decades to work out - and a classic 'take-your-eye-off-the-ball' situation, whereby bus companies, and a lack of any decent road design, prevents the street from becoming anything much. The unfortunate thing about Westmoreland Street is, now, it is forced to 'get the treatment' by 'masterplan' builders, using Easy-Credit to push the design professionals clear out of the way. It's just a pet theory of mine, but in Ireland, I think the environmental professions have something important to learn from Tom Peters 'Excellent Companies'. See a rather nice and 'quirky' quote below, about the training and motivation of a typical Disney theme park employee.

People are brought into the culture early. Everyone has to attend Disney University and pass 'Traditions I' before going on to specialised training. Pope says:

Traditions I is an all-day experience where the new hire gets a constant offering of Disney philosophy and operating methodology. No one is exempt from the course, from VP to entry-level part-timers.... Disney expects the new CM [cast member] to know something about the company, its history and success, its management style before he actually goes to work. Every person is shown how each division relates to other divisions - Operations, Resorts, Food and Beverage, Marketing, Finance, Merchandising, Entertainment, etc. and how each division 'relates to the show'. In other words, 'Here's how all of us work together to make things happen. Here's your part in the big picture.'

The system support for people on stage is also dramatic. For example, there are hundreds of phones hidden in the bushes, hot lines to a central question-answering service. And the amount of effort put into the daily clean-up amazes even the most calloused outside observers. In these and scores of other ways, overkill marks every aspect of Disney's approach to its customers.

Whether or not they are as fanatic in their service obsession as Frito, IBM, or Disney, the excellent companies all seem to have very powerful service themes that pervade the institutions. In fact, one of our significant conclusions about the excellent companies is that, whether their basic business is metal bending, high technology, or hamburgers, they have all defined themselves as service businesses.


Now, please tell me again, how a major organisation, such as the Hilton Hotel group,... in the business of customer and service orientation, for half a century, would be interested in getting involved in the messing, our little Environmental Design community goes on with? Care to offer any kind of response? Part IV of the act is so comprehensive? That sounds like a recipe for mass extinction if you ask me. Remember, clients like the Hilton Group are sophisticated beings, they have not made it to the top by being stupid. It is worth repeating, when issues become a major 'blip' on the radar screen, the Irish government has to step in and 'Steam-Roll' some major projects ahead towards their completition. That is hardly a good reflection upon the spatial design tradition here in Ireland. But unfortunately, I think the odd road project, that Bertie is forced to push through the pipeline, is still a very thin end of a growing wedge.


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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Mon Aug 15, 2005 9:09 pm

No doubt Treasury were not advised that there would be so much opposition to this scheme at that particular time and there is little doubt that this case is one of the reasons why Part iv of the act is so comprehensive.


In order to point out, how the Irish Environmental Design system, appears to be 'learning' at the moment, I am going to draw an analogy from the world of computers. One of the arguments made in relation to computers being really dumb, is to do with, the computer's lack of opportunity to learn. To learn, as small infant human beings do, from an early age, through the sense of sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell. I want to draw your attention to a certain book, which might be worth reading, if you get the time. The book by George Gilder, is called: The Silicon Eye: How a Silicon Valley Company Aims to Make All Current Computers, Cameras, and Cell Phones Obsolete. The following blurb describes what the book is about.

Known for weaving engrossing stories from material knotted with numbing complexity, Gilder (Telecosm; Microcosm) delves once again into the world of high-tech business, this time focusing on the company Foveon and its efforts to develop a device that will allow digital machines to see as the human eye does. "Computers can perform instantaneous calculus... and search the entire contents of the Library of Congress in a disk-drive database," he writes. "But they cannot see. Even today, recognizing a face glimpsed in a crowd across an airport lobby, two human eyes can do more image processing than all the supercomputers in the world put together."


Basically, humans have a very large brain that allows them to do all kinds of things, but also, humans have a brain which is highly connected to the outside world, via the many nerve ends, like eyes, ears, digits with sensory capability, and what not. In order for the Environmental Design Tradition in Ireland to grow and evolve, at a pace sufficient to keep up with the explosion of 'easy-capital' and demand for services, facilities and what not,... the Environmental Design system, here in Ireland, has to have 'the ability to learn' built into it's very fabric. The only way to do this, is to allow many more bright young individuals called 'Architects' to infiltrate the planning regulatory bodies. You will have to forgive, my scepticism,.... but making 'part IV of the Act so comprehensive',... just underlines the poverity of connectedness, our system displays, without the necessary sensory organs that may enable it to learn. The kinds of 'organs' that would enable the Environmental Design system to learn over a period of decades, are those like 'Architecture' and such,... there needs to be bi-directional communication going on there. That is exactly what happens with the human brain, and organs like the eyeball, the brain talks to the eyeball and visa versa,... it isn't just 'one-way' communication, like we have in the Environmental Design system right now. The Irish Planner, telling the Irish Architect something, or quoting a line of code, and thats it. I must stress the 'bi-directional' nature of that communication, because Architects do need to learn from Planners, and Planners, visa versa, need to learn from Architects. I have added my little piece below, as a snipet, a view of the world we live in,... which could be of use to some part of the Irish Planning 'Brain'.

Dublin City Council, looks set to replicate the 'Henry Street Approach', in Westmoreland Street - without analysing the fact, the situation in Henry Street doesn't work. I experienced Henry Street last night around 10pm, and it was dead as a door nail. Yet, Parnell Street at that time of night was vibrant and felt okay - it is very strange how the bit-flips during the day light hours, as the car invades Parnell Street, and the footfall practically 'wipes out' Henry Street,... with poor old Moore Street doing the difficult job of 'in-between' space,... where you go for an Afro-Caribbean haircut.


The above little quote, may not seem like very much at all,... indeed it might be garbage, like a lot of the information discarded in 'real time' by the human brain, as it goes about it's daily existence,... but more importantly, what my little quote does represent, is the humble, but sure beginnings of a 'sensory capability' within the Irish Planning profession. We need to 'expose' the Irish Planning brain, to more of those stimuli. The only feasible way I can think of doing that, is to open up and enlarge the profession of Architecture in this country. Rather than using the profession of Architecture, as an exclusive monopoly, why not use 'Architecture', to fill the voids within the Irish planning system, with those sensory capabilities it needs. While I have no doubt that the Environmental Design system here in Ireland, is growing and developing at an astounding rate,... what I always have in the back of my mind, is the story of the Silicon intelligence, the computer chip, and how poverty stricken it's development has become, through a shere lack of sensory organs. While I can understand, the wishes of a very small elite community in Ireland, to maintain it's numbers tightly and preserve it's 'golden monopoly',... my problems isn't that,... but the effect, that this architectural monopoly,... is having on the system-wide growth and development of the Irish Spatial Design 'brain'.

"Part IV of the act is so comprehensive".

It is like saying, this dumb piece of computer silicon chip technology, is so clever, because it can run some mundane task, a piece of code, very reliably. But what currently exists in Ireland, just as happened in the world of computers and Silicon, is a growing mass of human-generated 'code-base',... but very little basic learning. While the 'code-base' of many software firms represents it's intellectual property, and therefore, it's actual wealth,... as the Irish Planning Tradition has continued to improve and refine it's valuable code base,... we should not fall into the same trap, as the dumb piece of silicon. I have no doubt whatsoever, that we are accelerating towards this Nirvana of Spatial Planners - a comprehensive set of planning regulations. But at the end of the day, all you are left with is an 'intelligence' simulated by humans beings - as opposed to one which has grown with the benefit of eyes and ears. The eyes and the ears, by the way, are those 'Precious Licenses', that are handed out each year by the Irish Architectural system.


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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Tue Aug 16, 2005 12:30 am

Since this thread is about Westmoreland Street Dublin Brian, what solutions do you offer to this blockage in mindset, practice and efficency of which you speak pertinent to Westmoreland Street?

Specifically in relation to the Hilton/Treasury saga, it is hardly fair to describe the facade 'issue' as insignificant in the broader planning and environmental landscape; everything could be described as such in their respective fields were that the case.
It is perhaps reflective of a larger problem in Irish planning and architecture, but not irrelvant in itself.

Given your architectural background, what do you suggest in relation to Westmoreland Street as to what can be done to improve it as a workable, aesthetically pleasing public space in the centre of Dublin in 2005, in the context of your above observations and the 'system' that we have?
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby Devin » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:34 am

Didn't want to get into the whole Hilton/Treasury/Lancefort thing, apart posting those pictures as a record what became of the 3 WSCs buildings on Westmoreland St., but since Garethace has written off the issue as being about 'getting the right facade' or something, 'better go over the facts:

The scheme entailed demolition of 7 significant historic buildings: The former Pearl Insurance building - on the left in the above pictures (demolished behind the facade), 37, 38 & 39 Westmoreland Street - in the middle in the first pic above (completely demolished), the former Scottish Widows building - on the right in the above pics (demolished behind the facade), 3/4 College Green (completely demolished), the former A.I.B. bank, with frontages on College Street and Fleet Street (demolished except for facades and banking hall). All of these buildings (except 37 to 39 Westmoreland Street) were Listed - i.e. would now be Protected Structures.
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby Devin » Tue Aug 16, 2005 3:03 am

Indeed, the point has been made before on the forum - From 'More for the Art Deco fans' on 30th May 2000:

Paul Clerkin, 2:02PM wrote:john, merely keeping the upper stories of a facade is pointless without the original building behind.

Bonzo, 2:52PM wrote:I agree. The Interior of a building is just as important as the exterior.Sure is'nt that what the Lancefort conflict was all about regarding the new Westin hotel...
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Tue Aug 16, 2005 7:54 pm

Often wondered what the Pearl Building's interior was like - anyone know?
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:19 pm

Since this thread is about Westmoreland Street Brian, what solutions do you offer to this blockage in mindset, practice and efficency of which you speak,.... pertinent to Westmoreland Street?


When I started Architecture in the early 1990s, there wasn't much publicity about architecture in Ireland. There wasn't any debate much and there wasn't any building going on. It was more about 'the opposite' of building, the 'code' associated with 'Un-Building', if I can coin that phrase,... and about de-commissioning of the city, rather than construction of the city. We see that in the respective titles of Frank McDonald's books, the Construction and the Destruction of Dublin. What there always has been in Ireland, throughout the construction and destruction phases, is a raging battle over the faith of Westmoreland Street. That battle has burned up more resources, man-hours and money, than others I know. Westmoreland Street, has always been, and continues to be, a very useful test-zone, in which the Irish Planning Tradition is able to refine it's wealth - it's Intellectual Property - The Irish Regulatory and Planning Laws. This is shown clearly by the 'nature' of the following quote:

No doubt Treasury were not advised that there would be so much opposition to this scheme at that particular time and there is little doubt that this case is one of the reasons why Part iv of the act is so comprehensive.


The final product, you see in Westmoreland Street, shows many signs of a war between the Irish Planner and the Irish Architect. As if both were using the opportunity to stake out their territory. I like to compare the Irish Planning Wars that raged on Westmoreland Street, to another epic battle over territorial dominance, the wars between man and machine in the movie called 'The Matrix'. Using that analogy, I have penned the short piece down below. But I think it is time for Westmoreland Street to cease being, a 'test-bed' for the Irish Planning and Regulatory Law, and to become a real life street once again - one which is designed and envisaged by Architects. Not by Planners trying to execute some kind of 'Code Language'.

Which will it be Neo? The Blue Pill,... or the Red Pill?

The biggest problem with computers, these days, is not their lack of ability to crunch through the most baffling problems in higher algebra or statistics,... but, for all their apparent 'brain' power, computers, still can not distinguish between a photo of Bin Laden and a hamburger. I wonder what is going to happen, fifty years from now, when Ireland eventually has the ultimate set of planning and building regulations, but faces the same trouble when looking at a complex urban site. How will the machine 'know' what it is looking at - unless it learns to see, as well as crunch through the code? In the face of this question about computers, and similarities between code running on silicon chips, and code designed to regulate the built environment, I think there is a serious question we should be asking. Indeed, a question the Irish Architectural Profession has been avoiding for some time. When faced with building anything on a complex site, why is the first person 'engaged' for guidance, a planning consultant rather than an Architect? An Architect, being a person, who is meant to understand real space, more than 'code space'.

I cannot help but notice the Planning Consultant's name on the site notices, for many of the 'difficult' sites in Dublin. Is the challenge of designing on those sites too much for the older practioners of spatial design? I think the monopolisation of the architectural disipline, has had a 'knock-on' effect, whereby, the building code, rather than an Architect, is being used to design our environment. Given the scarcity in the past, of good architects who were fully integrated, into the process of designing the environment,... we have managed to fine tune a system, whereby the environment is laid out, without the intervention of humans at all. There is much evidence of this, in something like pedestrianisation. Pedestrianisation, is a rejection of the need for any human intervention in the design process. Pedestrianisation is a 'piece' of code, readily available to the planners, and executed as they deem fit or appropriate, all over the place. They seem almost 'trigger-happy' with this particular piece of legislation.

The handy thing about pedestrianisation, of course, is the Irish Planning Tradition owns the Intellectual Property Rights, to execute the code. Because, on streets such as Westmoreland Street, the Irish Planning Tradition has worked tirelessly, and fought many a battle, to get that code written. Given the suffering people must have endured to deliver the code, the Irish Planning Tradition is now very reluctant, not to use that code, whenever and wherever, they see an opportunity. We have already witnessed (the pedestrianisation of) Grafton Street, and Henry Street, explode in all directions. Now, we are in a position, to join up the two! Such is the power of the planning regulation code. I am sorry, but I do not see the necessary opposition to this force, to maintain a balance. It certainly isn't going to come from the (Irish) Architectural profession, so where will it come from?

I cannot help but be reminded of movies like the Matrix Trilogy, in which the human race awaited the savior, the one that would bring balance. That, someone with the strength of body, mind and soul, to go into head-to-head fist fights, with the code which forms the matrix, and it's human personification, Mr. Smith. There is this wonderful scene in the final installment of the Matrix Trilogy, where the machines finally locate and invade, the human stronghold, the underground city of Zion,... there the humans are forced to make their 'last stand'. I cannot help, but be reminded of this scene, when walking down Westmoreland Street,... I can never decide, what I am looking at - the result of a human designer or just another physical personification of the Irish Planning and Regulation Code. Like a famous line from the movie, how deep does the rabbit hole go? Anyone here care to guess? I fear, that pedestrianisation, would push the balance, just too far in the machine's favour. Okay Architects, now get your mini-guns out!


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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 17, 2005 8:29 pm

Just to expand one last bit, on the comparison, between computer code and planning regulation code,... and the need for a good 'test bed' environment, when trying to build that code base,... I have found some quotes in a book called 'Rebel Code', a history of the Open Source Software Project named Linux. That open source project, was started in Finland, about the same time I started Architecture, in 1992.

Even though he (Alan Cox, early Linux hacker) always said that his eventual goal was to get rid of FvK's layering, because it was making things complicated and slow, and didn't add much in the way of functionality. He started by just making it work. Alan Cox recalls, 'the first thing I was doing in many cases was cleaning it up... there was actually very little I fixed at the protocol level' in terms of the basic TCP/IP standards. 'The protocol stuff was mostly right, it was just everything underlying was a bit flaky and had holes in it.' Fixing code that 'was a bit flaky or had holes in it' was one of Cox's fortes. 'Cleaning horrible code up was one thing I appeared to be good at,' he says, and he soon emerged as Linux's bug-fixer par excellence. 'I often figure bugs out in my sleep', he confesses. As well as debugging and writing new code, Cox also began to assume the important additional role of one of what are often called Linus's 'trusted lieutenants.' These are senior hackers who are responsible for certain areas of the kernel. Their job is to filter patches from other hackers, check them, and then pass them on to Linus. Alan Cox recalls, 'Fairly early on, people started sending me things' for the networking code. 'If there's anything they're not sure about, someone would say, 'I think this is a fix but I'm not sure, what do you think?'

[cut]

Once again, what might be called the Linux method is evident: Rather than trying to develop software on the best possible environment - a fast processor, lots of memory, no strange pheripherals - you use an underpowered machine with lots of extras to winkle out unusual bugs. This was the reason Cox had become involved with Linux's TCP/IP in the first place, where the extreme demands his network set-up made on the code allowed him to find and fix bugs no one else had suspected existed.

[cut]

'I don't care about the market per se,' Linus said, 'but I find it very interesting to see Linux used in different places. Because I think that's how Linux should be used. Not necessarily should [it] be used in commercial places, but Linux should be able to be used in those places too. I think getting more and different markets show you the weaknesses better of a system, so I expect to get some feedback related to these issues.' Despite this unwavering concentration on milking every opportunity to improve his code, he, too, gradually began to wage his own marketing campaign. He started speaking at shows and conferences as people's curiosity grew about GNU/Linux - and Linus.

[cut]

He explains why he was willing to go to such efforts to resolve the problem back then in the autumn of 1998. 'If you look back at my view of how the Unix vendors splintered,' he says, as explained in his Source-ware proposal, 'and how that was universally a bad thing for the source base itself, and the product itself, my point of view was the worst thing that you could do to a project is split the source stream. There's nothing worse. Two leaders, doesn't work.'


There is good evidence to suggest, that the 'effort' is split here in Ireland, between two camps - the planner and the architect,... with neither one capable of coming up with the definitive answer, or even a good working template. Of course, there are additional, smaller parties too, contributing lesser components to the system, which just makes things that little bit more complicated. I mean, this morning, I listened to the news and heard of a brand new 'Road Safety' authority that has been created, one with more 'power', than the older one. I think the Archiseek movement, itself, is useful, in simulating that harsher environment, in which many ideas, code and end-results can be 'put to the test'. The aspiration is very noble at least. By the way, there is one universal belief across all Linux contributors, expressed in the following sentence, 'Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow'. If those eyes aren't present, in the form of Architects, involved in the planning process, then I would imagine a lot of bugs are going to prove deeper and much harder to fathom.

I like the ending of the Matrix Movie Trilogy, where Neo decides he needed to become a part of the code in the Matrix itself. I do believe, the task of the Irish Architectural profession, should be, to integrate itself, it's views and it's aspirations, into the code making up the Irish Planning System. Although Architects are the first ones to complain about our Planning System, that small and cosy monopoly, is the last to expand it's ranks, and thereby, provide the resources needed badly, to help to generate the System and Code, they seem to want. Any comments anyone?


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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby Frank Taylor » Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:16 pm

This thread has gone OT into a discussion of the similarities between the frameworks for software development and urban development. I guess there should be a new thread.

In short, there are parallels between the two development frameworks. While working in their own private environments (eg a home PC) a software developer can design anything he likes. This is equivalent to an architect designing anything he wants on a private island with no planning regulations.

When a shared environment is required whether a street or a computer network, then regulation is needed to allow the interacting components (or buildings) to work together. The software world is replete with standards (TCP/IP, Posix, SATA) . These are the equivalent of planning gudelines and building regulations. Without them you might have one computer hogging the network or one building blotting out the sun.

Look at a city like Amsterdam that historically used a standard specifying the width and height of all buildings and you can see that a successful system was devised, pleasing in function and form. Enough regularity to ensure pleasing lines to the street and a sense of cohesiveness yet enough variety to avoid tedium.

Then look at another prescribed repeating form housing plan, an Irish housing estate, and you see a system that is dysfunctional in practical and aesthetic terms. By the time of the oil crises in the 70s it was clear that we simply couldn't afford to live in this arrangement, yet the plan was not changed and it was illegal to build in any other pattern for the next 25 years.

So it is most important to get the plan right and to quickly abandon or modify it when it is found to be a mistake. It's important to test plans or even better to use plans that have been tried and tested elsewhere. If the plan is too detailed and prescriptive, then the planners have effectively become the architects. I think we are close to this stage in Ireland now where you have a meeting with the planner and ask him to draw out for you what's allowed to be built.

In the case of the home PC , the whole system became so standardised that there was no work left for computer designers - the machines were all functionally equivalent and interoperable commodities. The tech equivalent of Bungalow Bliss.

So...
planning is needed.
too much planning is bad
plans should be tested and abandoned without sentimentality
test many plans in parallel in separate environments to find the best
learn from other people's plans
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:03 pm

An efficent summary - I like your PC analogy Frank :)

Is it not the case though that much of this is academic, as in reality a significant amount if not majority of development in this country there aren't even architects used to come in conflict with planners!

And in the case of the public domain of Westmoreland St or D'Olier St, neither planner nor architect has touched the space in 30 years!
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:00 pm

You are wrong about Architects and Planners not 'having touched it' in the past 30 years,... it has been the site of many a battle. Instead of 'having it out' on Westmoreland Street though, they have scrapped over things, closeby, in areas such as Temple Bar. Every time one side, 'thinks' it has gained an advantage, the other side responds quickly with something that will put it down. This reminds me of the Cold War, where Asian Countries inadvertedly, got used for that purpose. My biggest fear, is that the Irish landscape itself, has become a stage for this power struggle. In the aftermath of sagas such as Temple Bar, there is 'for' and 'against', both sides. You have to place Westmoreland Street within the context of this 'cold war' politics. To do otherwise, is to ignore the reality. You have to look at the state the Architectural profession too, and what kind of a 'battle' it could hope to mount these days. I reckon myself, that code and the planning tradition have made massive leaps in capability and penetrated deeply, into the system, in the last decade or so. On the other hand, I cannot see a reciprocal advance on the part of the Architects.

Yeah, I do reckon, Architects and Planners were more evenly matched in the 1970s and 1980s, and therefore couldn't quite decide who 'would win' on Westmoreland Street. But following debacles most recently, such as Henry Street and Parnell Street, I would think the matter will get settled shortly. That is the context, in which, I would like people here to consider Westmoreland Street. There are future careers, reputations and respect at stake here, much more than just the sum of all the parts. I was always told in Architecture school, that Architecture is like frozen music. If this is so, then I think, that the only 'music' being played at the moment, is by the Planners and by their Planning code. I have added these short few passages, from 'Rebel Code', to help further 'flesh out' my point.

Unix programming is an art, Raymond believes, because 'when you do it at a high enough level, there's a very strong aesthetic satisfaction that you get from writing an elegant program. If you don't get that kind of gratification, you never join the culture. Just as you don't get composers without an ear for music, you don't get hackers without an ability to be aesthetically gratified by writing programs.' This element of aesthetic gratification perhaps provides the key to explaining one of the missing pieces of Raymond's otherwise comprehensive explanation of the open-source process.

In a follow-up essay to The Cathedral and the Bazaar, called Homesteading the Noosphere, Raymond explored an apparent paradox at the heart of open-source software: If everyone is free to take the code and modify it, why do major projects like Linux or Apache rarely split, or 'fork,' as hackers say, just as the old-style commercial Unixes did? He suggests that peer esteem, the key driving force for people working in the world of free software, explains the effect. He demonstrates well that the dynamics of such a 'gift economy' - where prestige is measured not by what you have, but by what you give away - tend to reduce the threat of forking.

[cut...]

Knuth was born in 1938, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During a brilliant early career as a physicist and mathematician at Case Institute of Technology - where he was awarded a master's degree contemporanesously with his B.S. - he became interested in the young world of computer science.

[cut...]

Knuth summarizes his views this way: 'Computer programming is an art, because it applies accumulated knowledge to the world, because it requires skill and ingenuity, and especially because it produces objects of beauty. Programmers who subconsciously view themselves as artists will enjoy what they do and will do it better.'



It is in light of the above quote, that you have to see the frustration, of so many young Irish Architects. While the Code has being accelerating on, at an alarming pace, the Architects, merely drop in as it suits. Architects, generally are far too charismatic and charming, to read something like the planning and regulatory code. Yet, they still seem to huff and puff like Billy-o, if the Planning System hasn't managed to integrate their specific needs into it. I mean, if you refuse to be an integral part of the process, when it comes to the building of a large urban project, as in the case of Group 91 Temple Bar Architects, are you surprised when that system, does not provide you with the necessary service, you expect?

I often wonder about the education process for architects in Ireland too. I mean, when designing something as monumental as an Olympic Swimming Pool for the Docklands, the architectural student usually spends about 5-6 weeks concept-ing, design-ing and present-ing, stuff on boards to show off as their design. Note, the highly personal nature, of the last sentence - It is my design, and how dare you lay your fingers upon it! You see? You actually do get rewarded in the educational process, for coming up with the most individually inspired, 'totally awesome' solution. But where in this whole process, is the consultation with a local authority, to see if they have any input? I mean, for heaven's sake, given the size of an Olympic Swimming Pool, yet we are just going to sit here on our lonesome, and create a grand masterpiece! And yet somehow, the system rewards you for that course of action? I take the point that student projects are meant to be illusionary, without a real-world client very often. But yet, the same exercises are meant to prepare one for the real world. I mean, seriously, how many people could get away with designing an Olympic Swimming Pool for Dublin's Docklands area, and not meet with a planner at some stage?

This gets me right back to exercises like Group 91 in Temple Bar. Do Architects seriously think they are allowed to just 'slip things in there', like large urban renewal projects, and expect that no one will even notice? Yet, you often hear the architects complain about how the local authority 'got in their way', or will not let them 'get on with the job'. This aspiration to plough their own furrow, is not getting the Irish Architectural profession very far, I fear. And still, somehow, the Irish Architectural profession, manages to reward it's members, for all of the wrong reasons. It is frightening to think, how far we need to go back, to find a time in Ireland, when the Architect was more than just a 'side-show' to the whole process. You would have to go back further than the 1960s I would think. The very last straw for me, is noticing all of those site notices around, for crucial sites here in Dublin, where the planning consultants name, has become more important than that of an Architect. This just sends out another discusting message, that Architects have lost another 'foothold' in the process.


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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:09 pm

That's a point well made re planning consultation in third level - as an outsider I'm quite shocked this does not happen if what you say is correct. One would expect this to be standard proceedure in any architectural eduction.

Regardng Westmoreland St, I referred to the public domain not having been touched in 30 years, this largely being the focus of attention. Well originally anyway...
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:16 pm

They have played out many a 'little battle' on the walls of that public space, if not the floor of that public space. If you know the right people, and you know what to actually look for, and the in's and out's, it is frightening stuff,.. reminiscent of Krushev, banging his shoe on the table, during Kennedy era and the cold war. It is like one side is testing the other side's 'resolve', just like in the Cuban missile crisis etc. I think if this scrap eventually does happen, it is important that both sides are in good enough shape, to have it out properly. There is nothing worse than watching an old Mike Tyson at age 40, just going through the motions. But, I am afraid, that is basically, all that Architects are doing nowadays. Tyson himself summed it up best I think, when he said in his final ring interview, 'I don't love this no more'.

That's a point well made re planning consultation in third level - as an outsider I'm quite shocked this does not happen if what you say is correct. One would expect this to be standard proceedure in any architectural eduction.


I had done many years of my architectural studies, when asked to do my first full planning application. Yeah, I did the planning application alright, but later discovered, the whole process had been made difficult for me, because there was another old geeser in the practice, who used to 'hide' all of the planning guideline brochures for the various counties. Apparently, the submission of planning applications 'was his thing', and no one elses. Not even a young architect such as myself, tasked with the job, of doing the application, was allowed 'to know' too much about what I was doing! I mean, this simple brochure is freely available from an local authority to anyone. But it was 2-3 years later, before I actually figured that out. Call me stupid or something, but I would be surprised, if many of my young colleagues, knew any better at the time. When I speak about 'giving foundations' to our young spatial designers, in this country, I am mainly coming from this angle. There is an acceptance, nowadays in Ireland, that Architects are 'dumb' about things such as planning regulation. Rather than being where they should be, at the forefront of that field. This is really why, I chose to emphasise my points, so strongly here on the Westmoreland Street thread. Fullest apologises guys, for having mucked up another one of your threads. But someone at least, has to try, to make an issue of this - and sooner rather than later. This is not the '10 year' plan kind of thing, an answer does need to be found right now. The best way to think about the Architectural profession at the moment, is in the sense of young Irish men, who were 'kept back on the family farm', in rural Ireland. And think, of all the implications, that kind of a 'father-to-son' approach, had, for the young people and their development and growth, as individuals.


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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Fri Aug 19, 2005 10:04 pm

Just cross link it with this thread right here:

http://www.archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?p=38536#post38536

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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby PVC King » Wed Aug 31, 2005 10:47 am

Graham Hickey wrote:That's a point well made re planning consultation in third level - as an outsider I'm quite shocked this does not happen if what you say is correct. One would expect this to be standard proceedure in any architectural eduction.

Regardng Westmoreland St, I referred to the public domain not having been touched in 30 years, this largely being the focus of attention. Well originally anyway...


On the first point you may if you wish make representations to a local authority councillor who may make representations to the relevant planner on your behalf. The resources do not exist for local authority planners to explain the ins and outs of planning to every affected party in every case but councillos who are now paid can and do act for constituents in such matters.

Westmoreland St more than any of the other major streets in the City needs a bit of the O'Connell St treatment, starting with a lot of bulk being removed from the trees.
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby garethace » Sun Sep 04, 2005 7:54 pm

Thats good to know, interesting.

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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby PVC King » Wed Apr 25, 2007 1:16 pm

Fire at former 'Irish Times' building
From ireland.com12:17Wednesday, 25th April, 2007
Fire fighters are at the scene of a fire in the former Irish Timesbuilding in D'Olier Street in Dublin.

Four units of the Dublin Fire Brigade and an ambulance were at the scene of the fire and gardaí were redirecting traffic.

Fleet street was closed between Westmoreland Street and D'Olier Street. A Garda spokeswoman said there were no reports of injuries so far.

The Irish Times occupied the building from 1882 but moved to new and expanded premises last October.

A leading property developer last year paid around €30 million for the newspaper's former headquarters which spans and D'Olier and Fleet streets in Dublin 2. It is likely to be redeveloped for offices and apartments.



Nothing irreversable I hope
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Sun May 13, 2007 12:17 am

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I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but Westmoreland Street has fallen into an appalling condition over the past year or so, as part of a wider deterioration taking place over the last five years. With further recent closures on the street, and an ever-disintegrating public domain, the thoroughfare has become an embarrassment in the centre of the city. Indeed in parts it now resemble the worst excesses of Talbot Street, only at least that street has some life and vitality – Westmoreland Street by contrast is virtually stone dead. In fact, in spite of its special designation under the O’Connell Street Integrated Area Plan (IAP), the street’s condition has actually got markedly worse since the Plan’s implementation in 1998, to the extent that an outsider would be incredulous to discover that this thoroughfare has almost unique status in the city in being part of an IAP, an Area of Special Planning Control, an Architectural Conservation Area, and contains one of the highest concentrations of Protected Structures of any commercial street in the capital. Even as a principal artery in itself, it is deserving of the highest level of attention.

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Yet in typical DCC form, because this street is not being ‘regenerated’ in a flagship, glossy-brochured, press-released, velvety-worded extravaganza, it has been allowed to fall into decay, with almost zero maintenance, a contemptuous disregard for the welfare of its pedestrians, and left bereft of even the most basic improvement works that are so desperately needed. Over the past five to ten years, the excuse of the anticipated Luas central corridor has been bandied about as reason for the lack of action here, but this is a weak and frankly pathetic reasoning for the shocking levels of degeneration in the public domain, not to mention the almost total abandonment of planning enforcement on property, the chronic pedestrian congestion and over-provision of space for vehicular traffic, and the lack of incentives in attracting new, higher-order, and a broader variety of uses to the street.
Of course not everything can be laid at the feet of DCC – the most marked downturn in the street’s fortunes of late is outside of their control in the short to medium term: business closures and expiry of leases. It’s nothing short of shocking just how much dead frontage there now is on Westmoreland Street – as much as 50%, not even counting the Westin Hotel.

Shuttered up properties now include the grand Beshoff’s premises.

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The enormous frontage of EBS across the road.

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The substantial Bewley’s restaurant, in an appalling state for over two years.

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And the vast frontage of the ICS block facing it, dead since the Manchester United store closed, unbelievably over five years ago.

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Only recently has it been put up to let.

If there’s one thing that demeans a city or urban area and sets alarm bells ringing above all else, it’s shuttered-up businesses. There really is nothing worse. Whatever about the temporary blips on the western side, the footfall on the eastern side of the street needs to be addressed – it’s been a problem for the best part of a decade at this stage but has been consistently ignored. The problem is that it links to the central median of the bridge, rather than its dominant side pavements, essentially absorbing only the minimal pedestrian traffic of the median of O’Connell Street - so it has to be accepted that this side will always have a lower footfall. But the shoddy public domain and empty/lower order uses are simply self-sustaining in negating the appeal of this area. Indeed advantage ought to be taken of this less busy part of the city centre for outdoor dining along a tree-lined pavement – there isn’t a single such quality use on any of the principal streets in the city, and certainly not within a substantial radius of O’Connell Bridge.


A decrepit public domain comes a close second to closed-up businesses in the oppression stakes, and Westmoreland Street remains virtually untouched since it was last treated thirty years ago. Indeed disconcertingly, it almost has a certain appeal in being something of a 1970’s time-warp; it’s quite coherent and uniform in its shoddiness! The patchwork of cracked, subsiding and hastily re-laid filthy pavements, mountains of ancient municipal clutter, and mismatched street furniture makes for a thoroughly depressing make-do-and-mend environment.

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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Sun May 13, 2007 12:28 am

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The most recent addition being more of these ghastly yokes.

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While unregulated private operators merely contribute to the mayhem at one of the narrowest points on the street.

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On the western side, a drainage channel runs right down the centre of the most congested pavement in the city, a death-trap for pedestrians as anyone who has tripped in it will know, while turning into a river of water to negotiate when it rains, and overall making for an uncomfortable experience in trying to avoid in what is an already challenging pedestrian area.

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While further space is consumed with bicycle parking along the kerb!

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Not to mention the ranks of bus stops and hoards of waiting patrons blocking the footpath. These were taken at a quiet time of the day.

And more mindless clutter and lack of coordination at the bridge corner.

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Contributing to the hostile pedestrian/vehicle divide are these decrepit railings mounted along the sides of the pavements.

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While at O’Connell Bridge the attention to detail is ever-refreshing.

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And the road surface generally is also appalling.

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One of the biggest problems with Westmoreland Street, and its most dangerous, is the lack of pedestrian crossing provision at its centre – thousands of pedestrians every day make the treacherous journey across from one side of Fleet Street to the other. Call it indiscipline, or call it inability to plan, or even take note on the part of authorities.

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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Sun May 13, 2007 12:34 am

Thankfully this crossing is largely made impossible during morning and much of the afternoon and evening, when Westmoreland Street transforms itself into one of the city’s unofficial bus depots.

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It makes for a very hostile experience with such narrow pavements and a monumental wall of buses lining the thoroughfare. Being clamped in in shadow on the busy narrow western pavement is not a pleasant experience.

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It’s just unreal at times.

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And of course many of these buses are serving the hundreds of additional people that are further congesting the pavement while waiting at their stops.

Meanwhile the trusty rank of London planes are, as ever, concealing some of the finest buildings on the street.

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As for the farce of high summer...

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While the rest of the windswept thoroughfare (when the buses eventually pull off) is left cold, barren and unforgiving.

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Without question, the most shocking indictment of DCC’s attitude towards Westmoreland Street is the fact that the entire length of the thoroughfare is illuminated with the grand total of three single sodium floodlights. A fourth one is redundant, concealed behind the trees. The street is to all intents and purpose shrouded in darkness after nightfall. There is barely a scrap of public lighting on the thoroughfare, with the majority of the 1970’s floodlights completely out of action. In fact, if none were operating at all, there’s little doubt they’d be left as such regardless. The majority of the street now relies on the pools of light provided by its convenience stores – it’s no wonder they’re increasingly resorting to this crude practice across the city.

And as for the properties themselves – well, where to begin. The notion that this street has been an Architectural Conservation Area for five years now is simply laughable.

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Tawdry, tacky signage, shopfronts and retail/service uses predominate the whole way down the street, many of which certainly post-date 2002.

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Everywhere you look it’s Tackorama Central, with most of the offenders hosted on fine protected structures.

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Look at the state of some of the last surviving Wide Streets Commission buildings.

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And as long as these ground floor uses predominate, there’s no way the upper elevations are ever going to be restored to their original condition. Equally, because they don’t relate to the upper floors as they once did as residences, there’s no street access to the upper floors either.
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Sun May 13, 2007 12:47 am

Only a few properties have seperate access.

Even where stores move away from cheap reproduction and pastiche, they still make use of harsh expansive glazing, exposing all their cheap internal fit-outs to the street.

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And as for the worst offender of all, the Londis on the corner of O’Connell Bridge, one of the most prominent buildings in the country, is allowed get away with the most unbelievably inappropriate window displays and store presentation.

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It is scandalous that the image of the city and country at large is permitted to be tarnished with such crass promotion – for as long as can be remembered this corner has been like this. Now I’m not a prude by any means, but it’s nothing short of embarrassing to see these ranks of alcohol stacked to collapsing point as the window display of the most prominent store in the country, right beside O’Connell Bridge. As usual, DCC have full control over this if they saw fit to intervene.

And this Londis also breaks nearly every rule in the SAPC book:

“The signage relating to any commercial ground floor use should be contained within the fascia board of the shopfront.”

“Lettering or logos should not be affixed directly to the glazing of any shop or business windows.”

“All sign displays inside the shop should be kept back a minimum distance of 300 mm. from the glazing.”

“Goods or advertisement structures should not be displayed on the public footpath or at the entrance to the shop.”

“Projecting signs will not generally be permitted as a profusion of such signs in a confined area can lead to visual clutter in the streetscape.”

“Not more than one projecting sign should be displayed on a building”

“Signs should depict a pictorial feature or symbol illustrating the trade or business being undertaken and should be as transparent as possible.”

I mean, what is the point? What is the point? And the flowery language regarding strict monitoring and planning enforcement would just make you laugh – it’d actually quite an entertaining read were it not so embarrassing. And of course the same can be applied to most premises the entire length of Westmoreland and O’Connell streets. Guinness have also just opened a tacky store on Westmoreland Street in the past few weeks, having applied for permisson for another typically crude shopfront - they were refused permission, but heck they threw it up anyway. What does this say about how retailers now view DCC? It's no wonder they hold them in such low esteem - they need only look outside their front door.

And then we have the ICS building across the road (the design in itself a blatent breach of regulations in the mid-1980s) – when is anything going to happen with this?

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The down-at-heel environment must surely be one of the contributing factors to the lack of progress with this property.

More hideous frontages further down – all patently illegal on a host of planning levels.

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The delightful Queen Anne building also mauled by a myriad of uses and their attendant signage.

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What the heck are DCC up to?! And the longer all of this is left, the more there is to clean up when improvement works eventually start in 2038, at which point they’ll then start going on about “oh well it takes time for the public domain works to have a knock-on effect on properties”. And we can see how that enlightened policy is taking off on O’Connell Street...
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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby GrahamH » Sun May 13, 2007 12:52 am

Of course it’s very easy to be negative about things, and obviously we can’t expect major regenerative works prior to Luas, but really there is almost no redeeming features whatever to Westmoreland Street of a modern character – it clings desperately to its historic features as a sole aspect of appeal in what has otherwise become a municipal rubbish tip in the centre of the capital. In many ways it’s now worse than O’Connell Street was, because that at least was a destination of sorts, that could be blocked out of the mind, avoided, or dismissed as a planning disaster. But dismal Westmoreland Street lacks that identity, assuming the character of the wider city instead, and as such badly reflects it in its appalling condition. One can almost sense the incredulity of tourists as they enter from the College Green end – what an anticlimax after the gracious mellowed setting of the Lords portico, to walk into such a disaster zone – greeted first incidentally, with this.

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Even the retail unit of Bank of Ireland on the corner has been allowed degenerate.


It’s difficult to believe that this was once one of the finest and most innovative streets anywhere in Europe at the turn of 1800, along with its D’Olier Street counterpart. It is also difficult to understand how the most impressive piece of street planning in the Georgian city was mauled by the 1980’s mansard roof addition and destruction of WSC facades. The reinstatement of this composition ought to be encouraged as a one-off correction of a major scar on the city.

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But there is simply no excuse for the condition that Westmoreland Street has degenerated into of late - the parts over which DCC has control. Luas is no justification whatever for what has been allowed happen on this thoroughfare: it’s irrelevant. The parallel with Government’s brushing off of planning and transportation disasters with our ‘unparalleled, unprecedented success’ is uncanny. Blame it on the Luas! Indeed.

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Re: Westmoreland / D'Olier Streets

Postby Morlan » Sun May 13, 2007 2:07 am

Great stuff, Graham. Going to fetch a cup o' milk and read through it.

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