Reply To: Office blocks @ Kilmainham Gaol & Royal Hospital

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Dermot Deering

Having perused the description of the proposal for office and development park by Charmside LTD. I doubt how any Architect or planner could be a party to it and retain any vestige of integrity. THe proposal flies in the face of what development should mean in 2001 Ireland and is more reminiscent of Wood Quay twenty years ago, where a historic location was desecreted in the name of development (i.e the twin towers of Mr.Stephenson) destroying views of Christchurch from the river and over- shadowing the medieval street pattern for evermore. It is doubtful if anybody claiming a sensitivity or understanding of the Urban form would or possibily could defend such an ugly apparation beside a medieval Cathedral today. Development means more than mere functionalism and expediency, as appears to be the case with the Charmside proposal in Kilmainham, it must mean more than massification of office space in a non Central Bussiness District or Industrial/Technology Park, it must be in harmony and not clash with the Aesthetic and historic elements of such a unique overlap of different traditions of our country as represented by the Gaol and Royal Hospital. Development I beleive is about fullfilling the potential of an area and facilitating the socio-economic wellbeing of society at large.This would mean taking an imaginative look at the possibilities for such a historic and topographically rich location as this site at Kilmaimham is. Development must spread its view near, far and wide. By its nature it must be concerned with the present or near present import and future impact of its works. This area of the city, let us not forget that we are talking about city location which has a considerable amount of long term residents and newcomers, has needs pertaining to the nature of the National Monuments and indeeds needs of the above said local community. In other words development should addresss cultural aspects when they present themselves so clearly and concentrate itself on these aspects and on how they could be enhanced and not skirt around them as is the case with the Charmside Proposal. The future well being locally and nationally will be roughshod over if this proposal by Charmside goes ahead. It will sound the death knell for future of Kilmainham, in an era when a more culturally appropriate and economically far sighted Creation is financialy viable. The potential for the area is almost limitless with views across the river to the expanse of the Phoenix Park and the long vista to the Royal Hospital. Any planner must surely identify the potential for long term Cultural tourism as representated by the juncture of the magnificient Royal Hospital, the atmospheric Gaol not to mention the possibilies for the present courthouse, if it was restored and received a change of use after its long service. Any architect with some fertile thoughts could conjure up a a model edifice to do justice to the Ireland of today on the old Rowntree site, one in which views of the Phoenix Park and River would be reciprocated by views of a stylish and thought provoking development, complementry in scale to the present buildings and adding a modern dimension to the area whilst serving a usefull service to tourists, national and international and the local communtiy,e.g a Hotel. The quantity of tourism in Ireland is doubtlessly keeping the tourist Industry very happy but in the future visitors to Irelands may well be more discerning, more demanding and therefore a sensitive and properly thought out development is what’s required on this site. The massive scale and density of Office space as proposed by Charmside is totally contrary to the long term benefit of not only Kilmainham but the whole nation. The present proposal if it went ahead would eliminate views across to the park which still can be enjoyed, for thought the present Rowentree building is no work of Art it does not crowd out everything else in sight. I see that Charmside have designated there application as ‘AN Office and Technology Park”, I do not see any earthtly reason for locating such ‘park’ amongst the Culturally Significant Structures of a rich and diverse past.By labelling a proposal ‘Technology Park’ does not turn an Area into a Futuristic Zone where other dimensions of culturel life must bend to a brave new world, we are surely not living in some cultural desert berefit of architectural and social referece points both to our hertiage and modern architectural endeavours on the continent. I can understand how Property Developers like the directors of Charmside wish to build on every square inch of the site as the intention of ‘Real Estate’is to make as large and as quick a return on investment as possible. They presumbly do not work under any other constraints, there is the world of competition, the searching out of lucrative site before the competition. It would be more normal for such sites to be restricted to where they belong, in a real Technology Park like in Stillorgan or out on the Naas Rd. However planners, developers and society at large must be concerned by any emphasis on quick profit which will adversely affect the social fabric and cultural integrity of the area and the nation. Such an Office and Technology Park at such a scale on an elevated position will fullfull only the aim of quick profit, little if anything in the way of services for our most valuable resource Tourism and will cast a negative shadows for decades to come on such a potentially rich location. New thoughts and ideas are required on this matter from the Architectural community to counter such an ll-conceived proposal as set out by Charmside if we are to start beleiving in their vision for Ireland in the 21st Century.

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