DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby spoil_sport » Mon Dec 08, 2008 11:56 pm

"Indeed, as Beijing did use Canary Wharf's Canada tower as a direct reference. Arup Engineers describe the CCTV building as like 4 no. One Canada Square buildings, put together. If you can imagine it as doubled, with two horizontal Canada Square towers, top and bottom in the attached image."

Are you taking the piss, what a moronic comment to make.
That is a skinking pile of poo and you know it (I hope)
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby BTH » Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:46 am

Eh, what's so "moronic" about the above comment?? In terms of office space, which this thread is discussing, that's almost exactly what the CCTV building is. He's not referring to the visual appearance as I'm sure you realize (I hope)

Very very interesting tower proposal from SOM there - I have to say I like it... A pity that it appears it was only a sketch proposal.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby spoil_sport » Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:15 am

"direct reference" suggests an active engagement with the subject prior to the fact, rather than a post rationalised comparrison, which is what it is.
I doubt Rem Koolhaas or "Beijing" were aspiring to "4 no. One Canada Square buildings, put together" (even in terms of office space) the language of the post skews the facts to support a (dubious) argument.
But yes BTH my subsequent response was (as usual) disproportionate.
And yes I also kinda like the SOM thing, but only as an image, not convinced it would be right for Dublin.
What is/was it? Dead in the water?
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby phil » Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:46 am

garethace wrote:Indeed, as Beijing did use Canary Wharf's Canada tower as a direct reference. Arup Engineers describe the CCTV building as like 4 no. One Canada Square buildings, put together. If you can imagine it as doubled, with two horizontal Canada Square towers, top and bottom in the attached image.



The reason I asked about Canary Wharf is that despite finding it a fascinating place in many respects, I feel it stands for everything that is wrong with contemporary urbanism. It is over-scaled, cut off from its surroundings and privately controlled. I am not going to defend much of what has been done in the docks in recent years, but I really hope that it does not end up being anything like Canary wharf.

With regards the CCTV comparison, perhaps there is some form of engineering cross-over, but I would imagine the same could be said for countless other commercial buildings built in various locations around the world in recent years. It seems to me, and correct me if I am wrong, that many commentators outside of China have become obsessed with this building based purely on its iconic image, and have no real idea of what it is like in the flesh (is it finished yet?). I am not denying that it is an impressive looking piece of architecture, but questioning whether anyone truly knows anything about it. I would be somewhat dubious of using it - as an example of the representation of a state controlled media - to uphold the virtues of a Canary Wharf model. Which brings me back loosely to my original question; i.e, is this what we want for Dublin's docks?
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby ctesiphon » Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:27 pm

phil wrote:It seems to me, and correct me if I am wrong, that many commentators outside of China have become obsessed with this building based purely on its iconic image


Isn't that the point of that building? ;) Perhaps it's time to give up the fight and embrace architecture as propaganda? As diorama?

phil wrote:is this what we want for Dublin's docks?


Not me, but perhaps the DDDA sees it differently?

Libeskind, Schwartz, Foster, Gormley (A), Calatrava...
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby phil » Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:30 pm

ctesiphon wrote:
Not me, but perhaps the DDDA sees it differently?

Libeskind, Schwartz, Foster, Gormley (A), Calatrava...


Yep, I won't argue against you on that one.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby phil » Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:39 pm

However, I (innocently perhaps :)) often hope that those outside the power structures of the likes of the DDDA, developers etc, should hope for a different urban model and not just look to the globalised image of development for inspiration.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:49 pm

Phil,

Some very well made points there. I think you will appreciate Ali Grehan’s talk transcript of last May ’08, when I get it online. Even though her talk was to do with BRL, Ballymun Regeneration Limited, she makes her points so well it is worth posting. Ali does refer at the end of her talk, with a deep sense of approval to this tower scheme proposed on North Wall Quay. I think her words were, ‘I feel very encouraged by the West 8 project’. (Obviously a company name used for the North Wall Quay site) It appears as if DDDA were positive about the project. DCC were too. It appears as though everyone was feeling ‘so encouraged’. I cannot understand how we ended up where we are.

One thing is clear though. As a nation, we have proven conclusively this time, that the Irish context doesn’t lend itself towards advancement of projects and development in general. The framing of the Irish constitution confers far too much power on individuals. Hence, the tradition of back-hander dealing, we all know about. Which has been covered so well in the press in recent years. There simply is no other way, to get anything done on this little island, except through the back door. The front door obviously doesn’t work, or isn’t there most of the time!

The ironic thing is that advanced engineering design was complete for the entire North Wall Quay site. That alone has consumed thousands, if not millions of man hours. The project had the financial backing of banking institutions and a cash rich developer. You can believe me, all of what you see on the SOM images, or a version of it, was definitely a ‘green light’ financially and feasibility-wise until now. We spent a fortune in tax payers money setting up organisations and bodies to oversee and enable things to happen. And we are looking at knocking down something? ? ? I mean, John McLoughlin introduced the DDDA in a May ’08 public lecture, as ‘enablers’ of development! That is a laugh. Not to mention the ripple effects on a fragile construction industry, which depends on key projects to happen at this minute. From the salaried engineers right down to the guy sweeping the street.

Eh, what's so "moronic" about the above comment?? In terms of office space, which this thread is discussing, that's almost exactly what the CCTV building is. He's not referring to the visual appearance as I'm sure you realize (I hope)


I heard the chief engineer of Thomond Park in Limerick speak quite recently. He lectures some architectural students from time to time. Take an arch for example. It is quite simple from a mathematical, mechanics point of view to define an arch. Once you have defined one arch in those maths equation terms, every other arch in the world becomes the same. It is peculiar to architects, he reckons to go around the place, spotting ‘different arches’ and cataloguing them. But basically, from an engineer’s point of view, they are the one formula. The same argument could probably be extended to office space, from a Quantity Surveying and project economic feasibility point of view. Everyone else does a job. Everyone else finds ways in which to draw connections and make comparisons. Architects seem to be the only ones, who find the time to imagine everything as unique and special. Which it is I guess. Since every site is unique and special.

There are exceptions arising though in the environmental engineering field. Take for instance, wave energy converters out in open seas for generation of renewable electricity. In that case, it is feasible for designers to survey the site, for the characteristics of waves, in order to obtain the maximum conversion of wave energy into electricity. Engineers will actually fine tune their design to the site, as it pays off in lower cost per KWh generation. So the lines are blurring as we speak between architects’ view of the world and that of engineers.

The one thing I am sure about in 2008, is that business processes don’t vary that much from one side of the world to the other. Indeed, this is my point about Dublin having the opportunity to become a ‘destination’. We are not used to thinking of our island as a destination yet. The existing generations and mindset will have to be phased out first. Read books by George Gilder and others. We are looking at the death of distance in many ways.

I haven’t the experience with office block tenancy to back this up. But I suspect that from looking at an office management company like Regus, that height does matter. It is to do with organisational flexibility. A great reference on the subject of organisational flexibility is Richard Sennett. If you check out the bottom of his wiki page, there is a link to a BBC web cast interview. You will hear Richard highlight the difficulty of this new found flexibility and mobility of workers in modern day living. Another guy worth a listen to is Mike Wescsh who is actively pursuing studies into You Tube as a phenomenon. Wescsh is an anthropologist who believes that the way we connect, has a lot to do with our society. He refers to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone as a critical study into modern day society.

That is why I was ‘so encouraged’ by Liam Carroll being allowed to develop on North Wall Quay site. Because I felt he had the right credentials and capability to furnish new age arrivals and global workers, with a work environment that was half decent. We are too provincial in our views alas. Caught up in our own little, tiny country. Our own pitiful institutions, and percentages per acre master planning and what not. Given the speed at which the digital society changes its course, and given our need to respond to changes faster, I believe the masterplan is an out of date tool. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest, that as a tool, the master plan was flawed to its core, to begin with. A lot of that has to do with sequencing I spoke about earlier. The best reference by far, to bring in the appropriate biology, and ‘nature as a computer’ metaphor’s is Kevin Kelly’s book, Out of Control, which is available to read for free as his website.

Random Paths to a stable ecosystem:
http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/ch4-c.html

I wouldn’t expect someone such as Frank McDonald, un-tutored as an architect, and embedded with a deep sense of ‘Irish-ness’ to grasp these subtleties. But as far back as 1998, Merit Bucholz then a humble part-timer at DIT Bolton St architectural department was toying around with the notion of ‘not using masterplans’. (Bucholz cooperated intensively with Ger Carty in that year) We took a site down near the sewage works on Poolbeg peninsula, of several acres and suggested ways in which to ‘colonise’ the site, in a many similar to that described by Kevin Kelly. Basically, you would take a structure, which was designed to be ‘repeat-able’, and could spread across the site. This was the commercial/light industrial portion of the plan. Having first established this condition, one would afterwards set about pollinating the system with residential and living quarters. Again, you would design a modular type of system designed to spread over the site, as required. In other words, it embraced one of those oldest of urban ideas: the city as constantly being a building site.

My own criticism of the docklands development formula, is that it doesn’t embrace some of these ideas. Both in the horizontal and the vertical dimensions. Getting back to the Regus concept of embracing organisational flexibility. Take the Twin Tower project in Vienna or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur as examples. Or, I hate to use it as an example, but the World Trade Centre, Twin Towers in NYC had a very varied occupancy. Lots of different kinds of firms and enterprises co-existed in the one complex. Notice how fast the Americans are to re-build on the Ground Zero site. It wasn’t only a building that collapsed on that awful day. It was a hub of financial services activity and generation for that entire world region. Another nice reference is to look at that beautiful film, Man On Fire, about the tight rope walker who walked between the WTC towers in the 1970s, the building was only half completed, but still operational. The movie really gives you a sense of what the WTC meant for the city at that time.

Arup were entered for the Ground Zero competition, but instead decided it better to focus on China. China seemed to offer a future, US is only the past. The outcome of Arups focus on China, was their involvement in the CCTV project and so many others. In terms of the development that is happening out there on a global stage, and considering how 'transport-able' workers and companies are today. We should aim to be building things that matter, rather than trying to decide what we should demolish. What a miserable year 2008 has been for Ireland.

Brian O’ Hanlon
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby spoil_sport » Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:41 pm

The film was "Man On Wire", "Man On Fire" was something completely different.
I am constantly bemused by these rambling.
I should hope, that your Thomond Park engineer is not representative of engineers in general and that this is either an inaccurate portrayal on your part or he is a poor engineer. Having one formula that can mathematically determine the capacity of an arch is roughly analagous to having an architectural thesis or style, (Libeskind or Ghery being an example of a generic, repeatable style) but this certinally does not mean that all works of architecture are then the same any more than every arch is the same, in any site the engineer has to account for soil types, relevant loads, etc, so the idea of calibrating wave energy converters out in open seas, is neither novel nor interesting as a concept. (And a rather bizzare and obscure analogy at that)
However all the academics aside, the simple fundamental flaw of all your arguments, is that what is right for London, is right for Beijing, is right for Dublin, and I should hope it is a good thing that there are those of us "who find the time to imagine everything as unique and special", and realise that X area of office space in Dublin is not the same as X area of office space somewhere else.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby petere » Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:00 am

I too was entertained by O' Hanlon's last post. Its contradictions were endless - inflexible infrastructure facilitating organizational flexibility was my favourite. Fittingly Man on Wire has less to do with the present discussion than Man on Fire, which dramatises certain social problems caused in part by inappropriate infrastructural development.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby reddy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:33 am

Well actually he has some good points. I think the major point is that in order to maintain a competitive position in the global economy we are going to have to start building commercial office space and creating standards of corporate service which begins to compare with those beginning to emerge world over. We will never compete in size but in means of organisation and levels of services we certainly can.

I'm not saying that any of the examples touted here are ones I'd necessarily look to follow but I totally agree that we need to look at new, innovative forms of office space and ways of working which will attract new investment from multinationals - and more importantly now - begin to encourage innovation and entrepreneurialism in the economy.

We need to aim at becoming a highly skilled, highly innovative economy at the forefront of new technology and business practices. To do this our infrastructure must enable it. So in this sense what is right for London, is right for Beijing, and IS right for Dublin. I'm not talking about architectural style or context here but means of allowing this development in business and economy.

This is where the DDDA have failed to provide.

O and by the way I would try not to be so dismissive of peoples opinions. Brian O Hanlon took the time to voice his opinion and encourage debate and then to go referring to him by his second name smacks of superiority and arrogance.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby phil » Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:54 am

garethace wrote: I think you will appreciate Ali Grehan’s talk transcript of last May ’08, when I get it online. Even though her talk was to do with BRL, Ballymun Regeneration Limited, she makes her points so well it is worth posting. Ali does refer at the end of her talk, with a deep sense of approval to this tower scheme proposed on North Wall Quay. I think her words were, ‘I feel very encouraged by the West 8 project’. (Obviously a company name used for the North Wall Quay site) It appears as if DDDA were positive about the project. DCC were too. It appears as though everyone was feeling ‘so encouraged’. I cannot understand how we ended up where we are.


Thanks for that garethace,

I look forward to seeing the transcript.

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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:02 pm

Filling the Urban Void,
Exhibition Opening,
Ballymun Civic Centre,
April ’08.
John McLoughlin, Chief Architect DDDA speaks.
I put it together in minutes type of format, because the recording wasn't the best.

Brian O' Hanlon

DDDA, a facilitator role rather than a design role. Old customs house authority, concerned a lot with cars and traffic management. In 1997, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority was formed. It’s remit was widened to social regeneration. The area has been widely developed with mixed use development. DDDA involvement in property, physical development of the city, building of infrastructure. Financial services centre, a catalyst for economic expansion in the past 15 years.

Working with the community. Rising tide of what goes on, integrate them into it. The urban void is not just spatial, it is also social. Projects for the community – social work. The way the space is layered, the social stratification. Throughout Docklands history, people who worked in these areas, also lived in the area. Docklands is a place which has been severed away from the rest of the city largely by infrastructure. The loop line, creates bridges, that are visually obstructive.

Water and spaces around the water. The reason for the city of Dublin is the river. Junction of not just the Liffey, but also the Dodder and the man made amenities of Poolbeg, Royal and Grand Canal. Canal docks were really extensions of the edge surface of the river. Railways of 1840s and 1850s made canals redundant. A lot of Docklands is built land. Dublin port deepened, and extended into the bay. Army surplus oil tanker, led to containerisation, Sealand company and ultimately to globalisation of trade. At the end of its previous life, large parcels of land were left, with industrial uses associated with them. Gasometer, the production of town gas. Light the streets of Dublin. Notice the the size of sites that developers acquire. Large chunks of land, which lend themselves to perimeter block development.

Looking at it in terms of the scale of the city – bridges. 12 bridges from Heuston Station to O’Connell St. From the customs house down, there aren’t very many bridges. If you were to implement a similar frequency of bridges, it would look something like this. (shows slide)

Public buildings in the docklands. Abbey Theatre, Georges Dock, National Conference Centre, Grand Canal Theatre, Point Theatre. Before 1978, the river was navigable as far as the Customs House, when the Matt Talbot bridge was completed. Customs house itself is severed by loop line and Matt Talbot bridge in 1978. Effectively putting it on a giant traffic island. DDDA engaging with traffic management at DCC. Loading/unloading of goods at customs house continued up until 1950s. At which time a granite wall was erected. (Which is now black) It contrasts badly in the view from across the river, with white limestone of customs house. The Customs house lost much of its floating quality of the original Gandon scheme. Board walks and campshires – connecting Customs house back to the river.

Dublin inner city is very hard. An idea of trees and gardens is missing from this part of the city. The campshires landscape is quite severe. Slide of quayside in Paris. Dutch landscape and master planning practice working with DDDA. Person able to walk all along the Royal canal from Roscommon. Docklands portion is the only bit one cannot walk. 2 no. new footbridges to tie across the river. Striking a balance with use of the river for navigational purposes. Lighting of space – tie it together and make it more attractive. Issue of safety. West 8 scheme, a cluster of office buildings. Canal to surround the project – introducing water into the depth of the North Lotts area. To create a different identity. Re-introduce a relationship back to the water.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:05 pm

I didn't like John McCullough's failure to properly analyse the success, or lack of it, of the mixed use development concept that the Docklands masterplan adopted, all those years ago. So I scribbled these notes down.

Brian O' Hanlon

Mixed Use Development:

I can testify to some of the mixed use projects I worked on in the Docklands area. Their ground floor retail is small and difficult to make work. We have Dublin City Councils requirement for so many staircores, it is hard to keep any retail frontage, or any frontage for service entrances etc. The ESB take massive swathes out of the ground floor area for meter rooms. Don’t get me started on services engineers, when the see all the space available to them on ground floor of mixed use projects. Some projects are lucky enough to have a project manager who stands up to them, some are not. If you try to accommodate plant on roofs, to release space at street level, then that becomes a problem also. I have seen some daft planning conditions, to do with accommodation of necessary plant for office accommodation on LUAS lines. Not to mention ground floor accommodation of bicycle sheds, within the volume of the ground floor. All told, when you are done, what started out as ‘mixed use’ is a joke. Because the meagre amount of commercial space you are left with is unusable. That wouldn’t be too bad though, if the DDDA managed to build a basic road to your doorstep. But often, that doesn’t even happen. Lets not forget the bills the water department put in. Each individual ground floor commercial properties needs and water connection, and gets hit with back rates for the last 60 years. So you are paying over a million Euro for water, before even going into business.

Generally the office portions of mixed use developments in the Docklands weren't much better than Georgian terraces around Fitzwiliam square. The exact thing the Digital Hub is trying to move away from.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:14 pm

Filling the Urban Void,
Exhibition Opening,
Ballymun Civic Centre,
April ’08.
Ali Grehan, Chief Architect DCC speaks.
(The transcript is a pretty good reproduction, as her voice is very distinct and clear)

I don't think Ali really gets how important the concept of developing new towns was to Irish planners of the 1960s. More on that topic later. The relevant paragraphs of this transcript are the last ones, where Ali nods towards the West 8 scheme for North Wall Quay. Directly contradicting the conclusion formed in the RTE Primetime report, which hinted at something secretive about the project. That is a version of events I would like to correct. It appears as though John McLoughlin and 'his architects' were all very much in the loop.

I have to comment, I do get the air of superiority while listening to Ali Grehan's talk. It is a great talk and hits all of the right issues. But that is the problem. It is an unabashed attempt to promote how DCC can hit all the issues on the head. There is a lack of appreciation for the other people and companies involved in the process - despite all of her lip service to 'collaboration'. Ali is a company woman, as I am, I suppose in many ways, a company man.

Brian O' Hanlon

Quotation: Every city has its its cracks. There are gaps in the urban form. Where overall continuity is disrupted. The residual space is left undeveloped, underused or deteriorated. The physical ties that purposefully or accidentally separate social worlds. The spaces which development has passed by. Or new development has created fragmentation and interruption.

The above quote is from a paper called ‘Cracks in the City’, 1996 by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. A paper which addresses constraints and potential of urban design. It echoes the theme of the Lisbon conference and what I am going to talk about now. Anastasia goes on in the paper to giver one example of a crack. Where public housing developments are fenced islands of poverty. Abandonement and deterioration have filled vacant spaces with thrash and human waste. That might sound a bit extreme, but it very much describes the Ballymun when we came along in 1997. Ballymun was very abruptly inserted into the landscape of north Dublin. It was conceived, commissioned and constructed in five years. From the government reviewing a report on system built housing in the early 60s, to building it in 1969, only five years had elapsed. It was quite stark. On it’s completion it was heralded as a new town. Although were some reservation expressed, where an anonymous writer said:

“Surely the integration (I use the word hopefully) of 12-15 thousand people is something that should be tackled from a planning point of view and not left to depend on a few mouldy old concrete sections”.

When we look at that and we thought about how we were going to present extremely complex project at the Lisbon conference, we decided to just try and tell the story in very simple graphics. Using figure ground diagrams and tenure diagrams. Through those diagrams, maybe just hint at the evolution of change, that had occurred since Ballymun was first conceived in the early 60s.

When we ask ourselves as a master planner, what do we do now? What went wrong? How do we put it right? Really, to my mind, it was simply a question of size. Or scale, or grain. Whichever word, grain would be the word commonly used. In the first instance, the first example of scale: of course the physical form of buildings and spaces. Lack of discussion between buildings and the spaces. In my mind, well designed buildings or spaces initiate or facilitate conversation. Between buildings, spaces and people who inhabit the spaces. There hasn’t been much of a conversation going on in Ballymun – if anything, if might call it a shouting match, if even that. Really, the question is, how do you find an appropriate scale?
I had to contact the curator at Tate Modern to get these images. He spoke at the Lisbon conference that a lot of us attended. He showed us the project which was for the first exhibition mounted in the turbine hall in the Tate. The Tate had been open for 2 years. Everyone was fabulously impressed with this amazing building. But in the main space they said where was the art? The curators didn’t know how they would introduce art into the turbine hall. So they decided they would have to meet this challenge. The curator decided to set up an exhibition of 25 sculptures, all scaled at a human scale. I think what he did is an excellent example of how you deal with scale and the transition of scale between something massive like the turbine hall – which has been described as a secular cathedral – and how you bring it down to a human scale. While also dealing with the practical issues. Like how do you protect the art? He didn’t want to put them on plinths. So he had to introduce layers and thresholds to actually achieve that.

This is one of our diagrams, which is a figure ground diagram. Really, it doesn’t make any sense. Because to understand the layout of Ballymun in 1997, what you need is a road network diagram. The location of the buildings do not really mean anything. Basically what we had to do is look at how you converted that diagram, completely invert it, into a more legible diagram – that would have properly enclosed space. We are well over half way through that process. John’s (McLoughlin) comment about landscaping the docklands is relevant here as well. I think since we have started we’ve planted over 2 or 3 thousand trees. I am not sure how many. But even that shows a huge improvement.

Another aspect of form which was to improve the scale, was the whole issue of permeability. Ballymun in 1997, the same as it was in 1977, was a roundabout at a deadend. Then either through accident or design, there is a completely impenetrable buffer zone separating the estate from the adjoining, existing 2 storey housing. We did diagrams showing how we would need to, and how we could plan to make Ballymun more permeable and connected to the adjoining areas. By 1997, the M50 had arrived and there was a junction. So inadvertedly, the M50 was one of the first ‘bringers’ of regeneration to Ballymun. Because then you had to drive through it to get someone from the airport. It is possibly why, people noticed how awful it was and then decided maybe we need to do something about this place.

Our ultimate goal is to connect it completely with the adjoining estates. The dotted line signifies cul-de-sacs. The solid lines are through-routes. This dotted line is completely innocuous, it is just a scribble. But it represents one of the most controversial issues facing the regeneration team. It signifies hours, weeks and months of heated negotiation, emergency meetings.

The second question of size which we looked at is tenure. When Ballymun was originally constructed it was 100% social housing. Which would be fine except it was so large. You are talking about 5,000 social housing units, which was fairly significant. The social housing tenants have all been able to buy out their houses. But they weren’t in a position to buy their flats. That is still the case. Over time, about half of the houses were bought out. But none of the flats could be bought out. By 1997, the tenure mix was 80% social and 20% private. Which is the complete opposite to what would be the national norm. so really the challenge is to completely invert that tenure mix. To 20% social and 80% private. It has actually been very difficult to achieve. Now you have a situation where most of the houses are social, and most of the apartments that have been springing up along main street are private. But over time it should evolve. But ultimately, the aim really is to enable people to take ownership of the space that is immediately outside their front door.

The third section I want to talk about is strategy. The question of size is the title of one of the essays in E.M. Schumacher’s book ‘Small is Beautiful’. In that chapter he talks about things like, how big should the city be, how big should the country be? In a further part he talks about large organisations. He accepts that it is completely inevitable. That there will be extremely large organisations. But he urges that the fundamental task is that to achieve smallness in large organisations. I think BRL, is an excellent example of that in practice. Because BRL was set up by Dublin City Council to implement the master plan. In hindsight, it would be impossible to see how it could have been done any other way. Because it needed that dedicated focus on the ground.

Another strategy worth noting is that whole strategy of the enabler of the new. It has been said that neighbourhood regeneration is one of the key components of urban renewal. It has also been said that the key to good government is grassroots involvement. In other words, good politics makes good places. It is also about clear ideas collaboratively realised. We are here in the civic offices, which is the civic heart of this new town of Ballymun.

Another installation which is on at the moment in the Tate Modern is Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth Oct 2007 - April 2008. A ‘shibboleth’ is a custom, phrase or use of language that acts as a test of belonging to a particular social group or class. By definition, it is used to exclude those deemed unsuitable to join this group. ‘The history of racism’, Salcedo writes, ‘runs parallel to the history of modernity, and is its untold dark side’. For hundreds of years, Western ideas of progress and prosperity have been underpinned by colonial exploitation and the withdrawal of basic rights from others. Our own time, Salcedo is keen to remind us, remains defined by the existence of a huge socially excluded underclass, in Western as well as post-colonial societies.

I am sorry to end on a serious note, but I think that represents a key challenge facing our city and the country. How do we integrate both culturally and physically. Niall (McCullough) talked about this threat, this perceived threat of tall buildings. Of course, we can discuss that. I don’t think myself that tall buildings are going to be threatening. I simply think what matters is how the buildings meet the ground, and how they talk to each other. But fundamentally, it is about integration.

I was at a very interesting conference last week. Nothing to do with architecture. It was an education conference. Doctor Dermot Martin spoke. What he was talking about mainly was how do we integrate? How do we make sure that there is cultural integration at secondary school level? He spoke about the problem of ghetto-isation. Not just of the poor, but also of the rich. This reaching for illusionary safe havens. I also heard Doc. Martin talk on the Late Late Show before Christmas. He spoke about the problem of new developments in the city centre. A lot of places, they are gated, they turned their back on the street. He wondered what kind of problems were going to arise from that. Where the people who lived, the new people, they had no connection with the street. They had no connection with neighbours. They possibly had no connection to each other. I think that is something we really have to think about. It is also a challenge for architects to find ways through design to ensure that that doesn’t happen. I think, doesn’t have to happen.

(Cartoon on final slide) Another issue which is facing us, is the increasing privatisation of public space. That must be looked at. Because obviously people want spaces to be well managed, so the immediate temptation is to hand it over to private companies to manage. In fact, to not take ownership to them at all. I was really encouraged to hear what John McLoughlin, John McLoughlin’s presentation last week. Where his architects were talking about the West 8 scheme. One of the things that they spoke, I suppose, very eloquently about was how this space to the river should be public. I was very encouraged by that. That, that was something which was so obvious to this group of architects. Ending on that note.

(Loud Applause from the audience at Ballymun Civic Centre)
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby petere » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:17 pm

reddy wrote:We need to aim at becoming a highly skilled, highly innovative economy at the forefront of new technology and business practices. To do this our infrastructure must enable it. So in this sense what is right for London, is right for Beijing, and IS right for Dublin. I'm not talking about architectural style or context here but means of allowing this development in business and economy.



Such a generalising statement is unlikely to produce the 'highly innovative economy' you seek.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:53 pm

---------------------------------------------------------
Hippies, New Towns and the Irish.
---------------------------------------------------------


11th December 2008.

I wanted to end my contribution to this discussion now, with some positive suggestion. I wanted to ask relevant questions, as to how private and public enterprises can foster workable relationships going forward. Sadly, from my experience that isn’t the case right now. But if we are to prosper as a country, we need to investigate those avenues thoroughly and become world leaders in cooperation and collaborative techniques. Become a place other countries aspire to, rather than make jokes about. Much of what I would like to say, has already been covered by an author much more skilled than I. That is Don Topscott, in his many books. But in particular, his book Wikinomics, and specifically his chapter about the Global Plant Floor. I feel there is a durable and promising model there, for our local authorities to find out their strengths. While also learning to tap into the talents of the private enterprise around them. In a way that is meaningful, and doesn’t invoke empty PR statements and lip service, so often witnessed. That doesn't involve any more screw ups like North Wall Quay. Which is a like the Irish version of the Hubble Space Telescope. To me, NWQ is the low point, from which we can only improve.

When I listen to Ali Grehan, I am reminded of a classic black and white film, The Flight of the Phoenix. In the movie, James Stewart stars as an aging pilot who has to crash land with passengers in a desert. As the pilot, he fills in his log book each day while they are stranded. They are trying to re-build a plane in the desert, under the direction of a German Aviation engineer. James Stewart says in his log book, that the modern world will belong to those who use scale rules and computers. Later on, he discovers the aviation engineer has only ever built 'model' airplanes. Obviously he challenges the man about the design. But the German model aviator responds that model airplanes were in flight 50 years before the Wright brothers even got off the ground. I think if one accused Ali Grehan of studying too many 'models of cities', she would not be too perturbed.

Fast forward to the 1960s. We see the rise of a phenomenon in the United States, of folks who move back to the land. The hippy communes have been described in a book by Fred Turner, as model versions of society. In order to understand something, you build a model of it. Turner's book, From Counter Culture to Cyber Culture, tracks the adventures of a couple of individuals. Those of Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and Howard Rheingold, who were all involved in the Whole Earth Catalogue publications. (If you search You Tube, you will find an excellent interview between the four guys) The Whole Earth Catalogue was like a Bible for the hippy movement, describing things such as wine making and goat husbandry. Kevin Kelly, who later became a founder of Wired Magazine described the WE movement as the beginnings of a tools view of the world. Where today, we create the tools using computer code. Using a computer, we can indeed build very sophisticated models to enable us to understand better how the world operates. Howard Rheingold was the first person to use the term 'virtual community'. The idea of building virtual communities, in order to try and understand our physical communities better. Howard is a good friend of mine, and his most recent book, Smart Mobs looks at the modern, worldwide phenomenon of mobile communications.

Ali Grehan's use of art installations as a source for understanding how to approach urban planning the right way, is an inspiration to all. She manages to break down urban design, to its basic essentials. That is seldom done effectively in today's over rich knowledge environment. Grehan's use of mental models fits very much into the 1960s culture and way of doing things. But there is some context I would like to fill in. While the hippies were doing their thing across the water, the concept of New Towns was being born in Britain. The New Town idea contrasts sharply with that of a hippy commune. Both being ways to organise development resources efficiently. The commune was widely dispersed, rather like the Internet based economy of today. While the New Town provided a model for how central planning organisations could add value in the grander scheme of things. I would like to compare the work of an urban planner, to that of an engineer. Tom Cosgrove recently spoke about his job as chief Engineer at Thomond Park in Limerick. He said, people think that engineers are in the business of using lots of structural material. When in fact their job is to study ways to take it away. To remove material where they can, in order to make the structure as efficient as possible. In a way, that is the job of an urban planner, only on a different level.

Speaking to a retired Dun Laoghaire planner last year, I learned about Irelands plans in the 1960s to build New Towns, as the British were doing. The British built the world. They know how to engineer things efficiently, and they certainly know how to plan efficiently also. The Irish government of the 1960s commisioned a study into our legal constitution to examine the feasibility of building new towns. The legal advice found there was nothing in the Irish constitution to prevents us from doing it. The bones of the New Town concept were as follows. The farmer's land was compulsory purchased, and the farmer received one and a half times the agricultural value of the property in money. That enabled the farmer to buy a better farm and stay in the occupation of farming. The government would then service the land they had obtained, in order to raise its value. There is not much profit for the developer in building road, telecommunications, sewer and other civil works. Not to mention public transport infrastucture like railways and underground lines. Having gone through this phase, parcels of land were sold onto the developer at a premium. The profit made by the government would pay for schools, libraries, civic institutional buildings and so on.

When you compare the sophistication of that model, to what happened at Ballymun, it is very easy to see how little the Irish did embrace the New Town concept. Fundamentally, at some level, the Irish politians hoped to make fast windfall profits, from re-zoning of agricultural lands. Overnight millionaires and back-hander dealing became the order of the day. The same problem persists today. British architects who work in Ireland are astonished by some of the sites they are asked to work on. By their shere scale in comparison to other countries. We don't have the New Town concept established in Ireland. Developers don't receive parcels from the state. Instead they buy it lock, stock and two smoking barrells. (The barrells can be used to shoot the pheasants and other game, that live on the land for years before it can be developed) Vast private land holding companies have grown around this sole business model. When the rest of the world is producing value through companies such as Intel, Sony or Nokia, the Irish are producing companies like Dunloe Ewart.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Dublin Docklands Authority stroll into the picture. Greener than the grass, and talk about planting even more greenery and more grass. This comes from the Irish state's own lack of fundamental involvement in the process from the ground up. Most of what authorities do is try to appear as if they do add some value. This is unique to the Irish situation, and our own short history as a small island nation. It results in a very one sided public/private partnership, with a vast amount of the crucial knowledge wealth existing on the developers side of the table. While the state authorities on the other hand, merely try to appear as if they are talking sense. Some very good messages about partnership in modern day times, are expressed in Don Topscott's book, Wikinomics. This quote is from his chapter about 'The Global Plant Floor'.

A key message in this book is that the old monolithic multinational that creates value in a closed hierarchical fashion is dead. Winning companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources, and capabilities. Even the stodgy, capital-intensive manufacturing industries are no exception to this rule. Indeed, there is no part of the economy where this opening and blurring of corporate boundaries has more revolutionary potential.


In his book, Topscott explains why BMW hardly make cars at all today. I wish Dublin City Council had the confidence to do that. I wish Dublin City Council planners under Dick Gleeson would take a leaf from BMW's book. Namely, when it is the case, that others in the supply chain, know more about manufacturing than you, give it to them. That is where Liam Carroll's organisation should have entered the stage, in my humble view. No organisation has more combined man years of experience and knowledge in building, than Liam's. (And his extended supply chain of expertise and resources) Boeing Airlines brief to its partners for a recent model of Jumbo Jet, was only 20 pages long. Compared with 50,000 pages in the past. I feel that Dublin City are falling into the same trap that Boeing fell into. They were becoming too prescriptive, and had removed their partners room to manoeuvre. Manoeuvre is essential in order to wring idle costs out of the system. It is essential nowadays that Ireland becomes competitive.

In an office building, the expected life cycle is 20 years. If costs cannot be ammortised within those years, then either land values and construction costs must go down, or office rent rates must go up. Liam Carroll is someone who could have delivered the former. Other developers want to deliver the latter. Which doesn't bode well for Ireland in the global context. In her book about international corporations, No Logo, Naomi Klein talks of companies as 'swallows'. Without any ties to a particular geographic region. They can simply catch a gust of wind and fly elsewhere at will. The following quote is from Dick Gleeson. This is what he has to say about 'Elegant Tall Buildings' at a lecture in early summer 2008. I believe it is a clear example of where Gleeson is getting into an area he doesn't understand well enough, to be prescriptive.

I have found elegant tall buildings generally incorporate about 400 meters squared. Which gives them about four apartments per floor. In comparison with say buildings in Canary Wharf where the shape is around 40,000 sq. feet per floor. Those scale of buildings with very large floor plates, are sometimes very unhappy in how they puncture the skyline. Alot of the big banking HQ's will really be 15,000 sq. feet per floor. Less than half the size of those in Canary Wharf. Floor plates are sometimes very compact.

Dublin centre is to remain low rise, but if anything did puncture the skyline, it would need to be a strategic contribution to the city in terms of the economic or cultural or in terms of public amenity. It wouldn't damage the architectural legacy in terms of views, in terms of environmental qualities or in terms of creating preceedent. The role of the heart of the inner city as The centre of that city region and what it needs to be sucessful, you do need the city core to triumph! Looking back to the profile of the city in the middle ages, you did see churches puncturing the skyline. I think there still is a case to be made for acknowledging a central role or importance and announcing something special. And it would have to be something special, in terms of creating an exception.


The expanded vision of Dublin City Council, for Dublin City is available here:

http://www.insidegovernment.ie/subcategory_detail.php?iResearchId=6817&iCategoryId=327&rootpage=subcategory.php&rootid=1

http://www.dublincity.ie/Press/PressReleases/Press%20Releases%20Apr%202008/Pages/MaximisingtheCitysPotential.aspx

I would like to counter Dick Gleeson's assumptions in the above quote. 13 meters width of floor plate is a minimum dimension, to enable the 'modern knowledge entreprise' to function in the way they need to. Anything smaller than that is too small. Taking that dimension and using a square type of floor plate. A square floor plate of 13m x 13m which wouldn't be ideal. As the circulation and service core would chew too much out of the space. The smallest floor plate you can achieve using a 13m dimension, is around 1800 sq. ft. Which is still higher than the figure Dick Gleeson quotes. The canary wharf size of floor plates are correct for the modern scenario. DCC have been seriously misguided in there information regarding the needs of the modern enterprise! They are passing projects which are unsuitable for the creation of a modern knowledge economy in Ireland. Right there you have an example of what is poisonous about the Irish planning system. Instead of focusing on what should be its core strength, planning authorities are going back to the Russian model, of deciding how many pairs of shoes to produce each day! In other words, Gleeson deludes himself into thinking he can beat the marketplace at calculation. A very fatal error indeed. (Note: Dick Gleeson was on the panel at the Tall Building conference a couple of years ago. Where a Quantity Surveyor from Britain expounded his 'fat is happy' theory on high rise developments. Gleeson should have listened better on that occasion. There seems to be a certain stardom attached to being a chief local authority planner or architect, doesn't there? All the conferences you have to speak at etc.)

Take the Local Area Plan concept as another example. Introduced in the late 1990s in Ireland, in order to improve efficiency with which land was developed. It fits into the entire story described above. By the late 1990s, most of the land in Ireland was in the hands of greedy private developers. The planning community were rightly concerned about misuse of development investment resources. They stepped in as promptly as they could, with the Local Area Plan as a tool. (This coincided with a large roll-out program of lavish local authority headquarter buildings throughout Ireland, many of which were more stylish and over budget than they needed to be) When I look at the details of many local authority plans produced in the Dublin area, the lack of expertise in the planning community is striking. The devil is in the details. Basic mistakes, like courtyards that are too small for residential, and office floor plates are too small for employment.

It is alright to talk about the skyline. Maybe it is a resource we can afford to spend on our little green island. It is about the only thing we can afford to spend now. But what Gleeson is really saying, is that he is prepared to insert a bottleneck in the process of Ireland becoming a knowledge based economy. Gleeson and his planners are getting involved in areas beyond their ability to comprehend. This is where a successful and deep collaboration with a world class consultant is crucial. Building a modern office block is just as critical a project to Ireland's economy, as that of extending Dublin Airport Terminal. As such, it should be approached with the same degree of science. Yet, the only consultant I heard John McLoughlin mention in his talk, was those who know how to plant trees! Compare that to a recent Dublin Airport Authority presentation I attended, where DAA had the sense to know what they didn't know.

Between human beings there is a type of intercourse which proceeds not from knowledge, or even from lack of knowledge, but from failure to know what isn't known. This was true of much of the discourse on the market. At luncheon in downtown Scranton, the knowledgeable physician spoke of the impending split-up in the stock of Western Utility Investors and the effect on prices. Neither the doctor nor his listeners knew why there should be a split-up, why it should increase values, or even why Western Utility Investors should have any value. But neither the doctor nor his audience knew that he did not know. Wisdom, itself, is often an abstraction associated not with fact or reality but with the man who asserts it and the manner of its assertion.


That was something Kenneth Galbraith had to say, in his book 'The Great Crash 1929'. It could almost describe the DCC! The Dublin Airport Authority invited Turner and Townsend into a deeply collaborative relationship. Turner and Townsend are described as having a background in program management and aviation. DCC and DDDA are handicapped by an over dependency on concepts to do with beautification. But have a severe shortage of good guidance on how economies are being built. For the Grangegorman Third Level campus masterplan, Charles Moore was brought into the process. At Cherrywood Science and Technology Park, Liam Carroll introduced Gehl Architects. Gehl are a world leading consultant in urban planning, who proceeded to pinpoint many deficiencies in DLR Coco's proposed framework masterplan. A document which DLR would have shoe horned through their channels, to have it become legally binding for the next 10-20 years!

http://www.cherrywood.ie/about.html

There is certainly a motivation on the part of local authorities to do these framework documents as soon as possible. Because it puts them into a position of greater control than they sometimes deserve. That is, for the meager levels of skill and knowledge, they are to bring to such undertakings. Often the authorities have used their new headquarter buildings, to go on a hiring binge. Taking in planners of dubious merit and committment from across the globe to cobble together something on paper as quick as possible.

Dublin Docklands Authority brought in an expert to deal with planting trees. But it didn't consult the right people about the modern information economy. While developers have managed to attract companies such as Google to Irish shores, I feel the DDDA are working against them. The trouble often stems from the architectural training itself. While it is very comprehensive and worthwhile, architects all suffer from an extreme blindspot. Economics should become an integral subject on the architectural school curriculum. Architecture students should be allowed the opportunity to absorb the research and ideas of Richard Sennett, Paul Duffy, Scott McNealy, George Gilder, Howard Rheingold, Nicholas Negroponte and Nicholas G. Carr. (To name but a few) Then we would be producing architects who had some clue what an office block is. Why they are the crucial heartbeat at the centre of an economy. Needed to enable employment and innovation. Not just things on which you play with fancy facade treatments or talk with Dick about skylines. An excellent reference on Canary Wharf can be found at http://www.feasta.org. A video of David Wetzel's lecture delivered at Bolton Street a few months back. According to Wetzel, what enabled Canary Wharf to happen, to become a workplace able to support 60,000 people, was transport. Prior to transport arriving in the area, it could not support 3,000 people. The issue of transport is another one of the things the British understood all those years ago, when building an empire across the globe.

"Concerns about the cost of progress for traditional community and neighbourliness are examined in a very readable manner by Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone,"


The above quote is from Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach. In fairness, I had to give the last word to Bertie. I only hope that McLoughlin, Grehan and Gleeson might use the Christmas break, to reflect on some of the issues I have raised.

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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby spoil_sport » Thu Dec 11, 2008 10:42 pm

Well Brian, I am extreemly gratefull that I have made my way through architecture school before you got your hands on it, I find the idea of studying economice apawling, and would think twice about doing architecture if that was the case.
I'll admit perhaps to a lack of understanding of where you are coming from, but then understanding is a two way thing. I will try to find common ground, in terms of positive contributions to productivity, surley you a familiar with the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker, and you may also have heard of Sick Building Syndrome, ie negative physical effects that result from prolonged periods of working in exactly the kind of artifically lit, artifically ventilated, deep floor plans you call for. In architecture school we are though that 13m is infact the maximum any floor plate shoud be to ensure natural ventilation and light. It is about recognising the human factor of the "knowledge based economy" rather than the numbers and categories to which you constantly refer, it is the qualitive experience built around the individual and not the service of economics which architecture has at it's core.
I do not necessarily disagree with a lot of what you have said, the incompetance of governament, the failure to implement the New Town concept, transport, etc; but you seem deluded as to what an architect's role is. I think the simple enjoyment of being in a place is fundamental; I do not mean that in a flakey or abstract sense, I am not a flakey or abstract person, but the places you are proposing (and this is what architects do, to think about being in the place) regardless of efficiency, are horrible, depressing places to be, and should not be regarded as models that young architects aspire to.
(And as it happens I have frequently referenced Sennett)
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Re: O'Hanlons Last Post

Postby petere » Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:03 am

There is a need to improve the efficiency of infrastructure development in order to produce a globally competitive economy. This is explained by your argument. One which is driven by a desire to produce a successful economy. But for what reason? This is an important question, your post implies on numerous occasions that economic success drives development in general and is the solution to existing problems both social and economic. This is an outdated (but unfortunately) prevalent neo-liberalist attitude. It is no surprise then that you hold Canary Wharf in such high regard.
In terms of social development it is a disaster, exacerbating inequalities at all levels while it feeds the illusion that London's economy is paramount and more worthy of investment than any other region in the UK. This is not an example to be held in such high regard.

A dynamic economy is important, but not at the expense of social and political development. This is what you have failed to understand.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:10 am

Summoning Richard Sennett in defence of 'what an office block is'? This statement alone calls your whole argument into question. (Unless of course I've missed something in my almost complete reading of his output- yes, even including the novels.)

Also, if there is merit in having a general debate on the future of office development in the city, might I suggest a new thread? Much of what has been written is entirely unrelated to the DDDA.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:37 am

Peter, Spoil Sport and Ctesiphon have all responded with excellent points. Thankyou.

I am aware of the argument for happier workers, being more productive workers. The writer Amartya Sen in his book, Development As Freedom frames the whole issue in a wider sense. Global summits are held each year to discuss development of the third world. They inevitably reach the same basic conclusion. The need to bring about economic improvement first, and then worry about political or social freedoms. Amartya Sen contradicts this approach in his book. He explains clearly and vividly, why political and social freedoms, if unavailable will short circuit early attempts to foster economic prosperity. Thanks again to the above posters for making their very good point.

The reason the Dublin Docklands and office developments are so interlinked as issues, is because the docklands is a large inner city brownfield site, served by a lot of public transport. The parallels with Canary Wharf therefore, should be obvious. Especially when you listen to guys like Dave Wetzel. The organisation FEASTA does offer a route by which architects can cross-pollinate their ideas with those of economists, valuers and other folk from the liberal arts. (Cross pollination is the name of a very good chapter in Tom Kelley's book, Ten Faces of Innovation) But the urban pheriphery is gaining in attractiveness for office development. The current North Wall Quay mess only underscores that fact.

Sennett does illustrate the problems inherent in the new economy. But if we understand those difficulties, why should Ireland lead the world in finding their solution? This is the opportunity public bodies such as DCC, DDDA, DLR should be looking for. I enjoy reading Sennett because has influenced one of my favrouite modern writers, Nicholas G. Carr. Nick wrote his 1999 Havard Business Review paper, on the Corrosion of Character as a response to a book of same name by Richard Sennett. (That article is available in the hard bound HBR section in Dublin's Illac public library) Since then, Carr has developed his ideas in essays such as 'Does IT Matter'. The essay is published in a compilation book of the name. Carr's most recent book, the Big Switch develops his ideas about information and economics. (Carr's excellent and entertaining blog site is at http://www.roughtype.com) But I chose Don Topscott's book as a primary reference. Because it assembles together a hoist of different issues to do with a modern economy.

On a side note, I searched the entire Dublin City Library system recently for one title by Nick Carr, Richard Sennett or Neil Postman. It appears the Dublin region is without a public copy of any books by these authors. That seems strange, for a region pretending to be a centre for the new information economy. Especially given all the library buildings and staff that DCC has on the payroll. Just as well, I can buy Peter Drucker in bargain basement for 3 euros. (Sorry, I couldn't resist one last cut at DCC)

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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:06 am

I never heard of Hook employment before. But over the last couple of weeks I wondered why Hook employment was constantly in my head! This morning I found out why. I saw a cyclist pass me out with Hook written on his back. It proves a point that good advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. The Hook employment ajency found a valuable advertising space, which didn’t require planning permission, like DCC’s signs! (Theres DCC again) The cyclists were mobilised to do the work of being billboards! See how synergistic the relationship is? See how much welfare it provides? The cyclists need the vests anyhow. The relationship is good for everyone. Ali Grehan is right about the need for cultural integration in this country. It is about successful projects collaboratively realised. I don't think hi-vis vests are the answer to Ireland's social, political and economic problems. But it does provide a useful case study to work with. What Ali Grehan needs to understand, is the biggest and most expensive cultural divide in Ireland today, is that, that exists between public and private enterprise. The conversation doesn’t exist between these two monoliths at the moment. They need to find a common ground and a common language. The casualties will pile up on both sides, until we find the solution(s). The slaughter is costing the country a fortune each day to maintain.

Enjoy the PDF version. Over and out.

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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby gunter » Fri Dec 12, 2008 12:11 pm

garethace wrote:
DCC have been seriously misguided in their information regarding the needs of the modern enterprise! They are passing projects which are unsuitable for the creation of a modern knowledge economy in Ireland. Right there you have an example of what is poisonous about the Irish planning system. . . . (Note: Dick Gleeson was on the panel at the Tall Building conference a couple of years ago. . . where a Quantity Surveyor from Britain expounded his 'fat is happy' theory on high rise developments. Gleeson should have listened better on that occasion.

Brian O' Hanlon


What kind of a half-assed 'Knowledge economy' are we trying to create if it can't even function properly if does have a 13m floor plate? What happened to flexibility? adaptability? all those 'abilities' that we were told brought humans to the top of the food chain?

If I understand Gleeson's point, it was that a city, like Dublin, could very quickly be destroyed if it gave in to the temptation to build big, bulky, corporate office blocks in a vain attempt to emulate Canary Warf, or some such corporate financial district from the Yuppy era.

That may not have been his point, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I think his reference to church spires is very useful. Cities do trade in various ways on their prestige, and prestige seems to be an element in a city's economic success, or otherwise, and it is in that context that the 'church spire' concept is important. Church spires were always horribly expensive, difficult to construct and funcionally useless, but thriving cities had them and struggling cities didn't. There is a argument that the contemporary city also needs vertical punctuation to nail down it's position in some kind of global urban pecking order, but I think, in the context of a historic city, like Dublin is supposed to be, the same 'church spire' rules need to apply.

Instead of seeing a major corporate development proposal (say in the docklands) as an occassion to bulk-up high, there is an argument that permission for pockets of fairly intense density should come with an obligation to build one or two, horribly expensive, and very slender, towers that would never stand up economically on their own, as prestige statements, like church spires.

As long as we keep hoping that a high rise proposal will come along that: (a) is slender enough to be elegant, (b) happens to be strategically positioned to enhance, not detract from the skyline, and (c) is economically viable,
I suspect we're destined to continue to be disappointed.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:52 am

The competition.
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Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

Postby garethace » Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:55 am

I agree with gunter’s point entirely. His post hits the nail on the head. We are destined to wait for ever, for the perfect storm to arrive. I did pull a fast one on Dick Gleeson by quoting him out of context. It is the sound bite tactic that trashy publications like tabloids are renowned for using. I can post up the full lecture notes later for your reading. The lecture was quite good, and aimed at joining up all of the various Local Area Plans for Dublin city. Instead of having them all isolated which was the case for a long time. When you begin to connect all of the dots, so to speak, a new picture emerges. Where different parts of Dublin city begin to look as if they are servicing different component parts of the new information based economy. For instance, broadcasting and media, biomedical, education, financial services, transportation and so on. I guess in Beijing, the Chinesse lumped each function into one massive 10 million sq feet standalone building. What DCC aim to do in Dublin is knit together the new economy with much of the existing urban layout. But there again, the strategy DCC proposes is a shot in the dark – you have to wait forever, for all the right elements to ‘line up’. I mean DCC doesn't own the land to an overwhelming extent. The developers do, who are very cranky, pedantic and unpredictable at the best of time - like human beings usually can be.

There are a lot of things that are good about DCC’s approach to Dublin City. But because DCC does its own thing, ignoring such valuable allies such as Liam Carroll, they are missing some crucial information signals they should be getting from the (global) marketplace. I keep reflecting back to the example of Dublin Airport and the more positive synergy there might there, between Michael O’Leary and DAA. I mean you look at the office space the DDDA occupies itself – it might as well be on Mars. You arrive into this gigantic reception space somewhere on Sir John Rogerson’s quay, where a secretary greets you and not much else. It is not the best model in the world for ‘interaction’ that I have ever seen. I have several times, handed in compliance drawings and permissions there. You don't even get a written receipt! ! ! Nothing, not a sausage. I am astonished that Liam Carroll even has a scrap of paper with some signatures to approve the building of North Wall Quay. Because with DDDA, you seldom even receive that. We have a whole area of study about workplaces we need to master, and yet the DDDA wants to plant trees. We have intelligent people available to us, and sophisticated companies like Carroll’s to realise projects, but the DDDA’s lack of proper awareness and basic direction is staggering.

You only have to search around the web, and you will find that Dick Gleeson is indeed rubbing shoulders with the right people:

http://www.qub.ac.uk/ep/news/08-05rtpivisit/TallBuildings.pdf

John Worthington’s book, Reinventing the Workplace, is considered to be a classic work and case study on office block design. I found this blurb about the DEGW founder:

Frank Duffy, chairman of DEGW, is an advocate of the flexible office. His theories could redefine office buildings of the future. Frank believes that UK developers do not consider the impact of radical changes in working practices on the office market. He believes that flexible workspace can save the occupier money and adapt to changing working practices. He feels that the factory office environment where workers perform routine set tasks is in decline, and a type of 'club style of office is emerging.


Where floor plates are 18m to 20m deep with minimum interruption from cores and vertical circulation, this provides a number of opportunities for clubs and working groups. Here are a couple of sketches from the Bristol university masterplan website:

http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/Bursar/masterplan06/appendix5.pdf

The internal depth of 15m gives optimal flexibility with reasonable quality daylighting, and a sense of view to the outside. Increasing the building depth above 15m tends to lead to the perception of a “deep plan building”. A 12m depth floorplate would in general be too small unless a very substantial amount of cellular academic office space was required.


Using the 15m dimension, you tend to end up with minimum floor plates of over 20,000 sq. ft. But to make it worth while, I still believe the 40,000 sq feet floor plates are worth looking at. (Maybe with that 18-20m depth) I bounced my PDF, Hippies, New Towns and the Irish, off a couple of people today. I was asked to revisit John Thackara’s book, In the Bubble. In Thackara’s last chapter he speaks about ‘Flow’. Indeed many of the ideas that I explore, were in fact the focus of that chapter in Thackara’s book. I looked at the chapter again, and yes, it certainly does build on the ideas of Don Topscott in relation to the Global Plant Floor. Thackara talks a lot about designing from the inside out, which is one of the key design philosophies I learned while working at Liam Carroll’s organisation. Liam gets a lot of his signals from the marketplace and such advisers as CBRE. It seems though, that Dubai is having the same problem as Dublin does:

http://archive.gulfnews.com/indepth/cityscape/main_story/10161231.html

Townsend advised developers to design office blocks "from the inside out" rather than focus on exterior design.


Click through the photos, they are quite instructive and do demonstrate the growing competition that Dublin is now up against. We need to get smart fast, about how we do business. Ripping down stuff, and firing builders, engineers and architects isn’t the proper way to go at all. No matter what Frank McDonald or anyone else may think. DDDA is a bit like Dubai in Dublin. They imagine they have money to throw at the wind. Andrew Laing, research guru at DEGW consultants says, "There is a huge disconnect between work process and space at most companies". People forget how limited our resources are to build anything in this country, and all opportunities to evolve new workplaces and new process should be taken full advantage of. That is why it guts me so badly to see brand new structures being torn down. Its not just Dublin, Foster is generally having a hard time these days:

http://www.building.co.uk/intl_story.asp?sectioncode=284&storycode=3128597&c=3

When most people view the RTE Primetime report on North Wall Quay, what they saw was a pretty rough looking concrete structure that was still a building site. What they could not see from the primetime program, was the fact, such a structure could become a workplace, and how much thought had gone into making it. It is a whole research area in itself, and an area I have spent the last six or seven years of my life studying.

http://www.degw.com/press/hq_blog.html

BTW, If you want to go to this part of DEGW's website:

http://www.degw.com/about/publications_1.html

There are two extremely comprehensive documents available there. From 2008, “Working beyond walls - the government workplace as an agent of change.” And from 2004, “Working without walls, an insight into the transforming government workplace”.


Brian O’ Hanlon
garethace
 
Posts: 1579
Joined: Wed May 14, 2003 9:01 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland

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