Saving old buildings with new ideas

When it comes to planning applications in Galway, whether it is for a new building, or the renovation of an old building, modernisation or improvement, there are two strands of thought that can affect the decision from the local authority. I may not have all the technical jargon, but I understand that one side of the argument insists that pretty well every building that is a few generations old should be preserved. Any additional building must use the same or similar materials so that the addition appears to be a seamless add on.

The other side of the coin says yes, let’s preserve what we can; but let us also avoid the phoney or pastiche add ons. It’s far more honest to design a modern structure but adhering to the space and proportions of the original building, subject to the agreed planning laws.

A good example of my second point is the bold glass structure (designed by Atlantic Architects), which accommodates the city transport unit of Galway City Council. It practically adjoins the refurbished Grammar School (built in the early 19th century, now Yeats’ College), on College Road. Is the new structure a carbuncle close to the venerable Grammar School; or is it an honest modern building reflecting the job it has to do, providing an interesting contrast between the two buildings?

There is a concern that if Galway continuously refuses to allow new buildings (which is an impression that is out there), then we have little or no 20th or 21st century architecture; and we are in danger of being left with a Walt Disney town reflecting “˜the good-old-days’.

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