Reply To: Office blocks @ Kilmainham Gaol & Royal Hospital

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John Callery

Green Street Development.

 Halston St. Park – former site of Newgate Prison.
 Stone finish and nice amenity for children / residents.
 Green Street, ground floor of your average apartment block incorporates retail units along its entire ground floor = amenities for old and new residents.
 Mostly apartments on both sides of Park.

Halston Street.

 ST Mary’s Church with its stepped tower has character and its presence and varied shapes not dominated by 6 storey office blocks.
 Surrounded on all sides with varied buildings all in scale with each other.
 New office extension facing North King Street onto The Debtor’s Gaol. I’m glad to see does not imitate the old building and is in scale with the old building. But it is really banal and quite an ordinary block and devoid of any shape other than as flat as a mirror on its northern elevation. Office block on Green Street (again run of the mill) but not rising to diminish this old district. Nothing remarkable but in scale with it’s surroundings.
 Unlike Kilmainham Gaol the Debtor’s Gaol is not a National Monument surrounded on all sides by protected structures and visited by thousands of tourists all seeking amenities and facilities which are so lacking opposite Kilmainham’s unique national / international heritage sites.
 General topography around Green Street is the same and extension to Debtor’s Gaol is insignificant in its built environment when compared to development opposite Kilmainham Gaol which is proposed to sit on the highest naturally elevated site in Dublin West- consisting of 3 purely speculative blocks – 100% rent a space office blocks of 650,000 ft sq. and rising to 6 stories. No comparison exists here with the tiny Green Street scheme which is in scale and tacked neatly onto the Debtors GaolTo quote you, your words again Greg:

“An apartment scheme sounds fine”

There is no ( ZERO) residential element within the 650,000 ft sq. Macro Blocks.

“the city must develop”

Old Kilmainham’s tourism must develop and have priority over office blocks that could be built up the road on Goldenbridge or Jamestown Road Industrial estates.

“the city must live”

What is proposed for Kilmainham is dead office blocks after 5pm and over weekends and holiday periods when the tourists are here in abundance to face these empty dead spaces on leaving the Gaol and the Royal Hospital. With only people having business (9-5) in the blocks availing of its magnificent location and panoramic views.

Office blocks are not an appropriate development for Kilmainham considering its vast tourism potential presented by all its heritage sites and parks and zero amenities / appropriate development. If the function of this work planned for here had substantial community / tourism gain (as Kilmainham cries out for) then its architectural merits would be of secondary importance – this has neither.

 The Corporation and Treasury only envisage rates and rent respectively. In the mid 60s nearly 100% local voluntary labour (of all political persuasions) restored the Gaol and saved it from it from becoming a national ruin-when the entire roof had fallen in. A similar fate faced The Royal Hospital when all it was, was an abandoned playground / wonderland for us to play as kids.

 All this was done when no developer or government agency was even remotely interested in the preservation of either architectural or historical icon. And now when the district is so popular with visitors, it’s to be dominated by 3 monolithic office blocks- it just does not make sense.

 This scheme opposite the Gaol is nothing less then a new version of “Park House” that stands on the North Circular Road above Stonneybatter. Its devoid of any character other then its monolithic proportions and simple monetary function – rent a space office blocks.

“The proposed site is a field”

But not just any old field in any old place Greg. What’s planned is just not good enough (in purpose and architectural style) considering the context into which it’s proposed to land and not on a short visit but to stay for generations like Park House on the NCR.

“Anything would be better than what’s there already”

Greg are you serious? ??ANYTHING?? considering the unique architectural and historical stone icons that surround this site on all sides.

“Our architectural heritage is precious the bit we have”

Well said, and a substantial amount of it stands in Kilmainham and all in the vicinity of the Gaol.

“ A zealous streak of anti development running through everyone today (read the visitors book on the site).”

The following (among many) have visited and have commented publicly as follows.

1. Liam O’Brien, California.

“As a film producer for Discovery Channel, I have featured Kilmainham Gaol in our serious “Invisible Places” which has been seen by over 30 million people and is still aired worldwide. Fortunately I did not have to then and when I film at Kilmainham in the future I hope I will not have to include these oversized, out of perspective, dreadfully lumpy and monumental office blocks in any exterior shot of the Gaol. In my opinion these buildings as drawn, ruin the experience that is Kilmainham. Liam O Brien Los Angeles, California.”

2. Michael Chretien , (Neatherlands).

“In my capacity of an University professor dealing with heritage and inner city revitalisation, I am convinced that such so-called “modern” development near Kilmainham Gaol would simply be a crime against intelligence, against the environment, against the very basic principles of urban development and Irish identity. After the bunker already committed along the Liffey, this would definitely promote Dublin Corporation as the champion of the worse urban projects worldwide.”

3. Hugh Pearman ( London).

“This is the horrible story of a developer trying to squeeze the maximum possible flooespace out of a site, and to hell with the surroundings. There comes a point when basically bad and inappropriate proposals such as this one cannot be “improved” any more. If it’s overscaled (and it is, grossly) then no amount of fiddling about with the elevations is going to help much.

At which point it is time to wave goodbye to whoever is proposing the bad scheme and invite new approaches from less greedy people fielding better architects, capable of producing a suitable lower density scheme. Preferably mixed-use. You know, homes shops,cafes, etc as well as offices. That way it doesn’t go all dead at 5pm”

4 Suzanne Barret (USA).

“I have visited Kilmainham Gaol four times over the last 12 years, twice to gather information for a novel set during Ireland’s War of Independence, and a fourth time to write an in depth feature for my travel website IRELAND FOR VISITORS. I think it is a misuse of land to develop across from a National Monument with a high-rise office complex and parking garage. Surely the property could be better be used to benefit the huge number of visitors to the Gaol and the nearby art museum by providing visitor related resources”

And to conclude with comments by Renzo Piano on office blocks in general:

“Office blocks have a bad reputation because they are selfish, they are totally enclosed worlds”

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