Re: Cork Opera House facade

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Standing on Emmet Place, you could be well forgiven for forgetting about the horrible monstrosity that this Murray O’Laoire designed facade extension hides. The original Opera House, designed by Scott Tallon Walker back in the early-1960s was originally destined for a site adjacent the InterContinental Hotel (Jurys – which itself will now be sooned demolished for a massive redevelopment scheme in conjunction with O’Callaghan Properties) along the Western Road. However the Cork public protested against such a move (surprise surprise) as they longed for the current Lavitts Quay site to be retained, as it was the site of the original Cork Opera House destroyed by a fire in the late 1950s – they’ve been paying the price ever since. Cork has been punished by the hideously expansive, bland grey-brown North Wall ever since the current Opera House was constructed. MOLA were the winning entry in a competition held by COH and CCC to improve the Opera House’s appearance in late 1999. The development was valued at 5m euros and included an extensive refurbishment inside and out. It formed Phase 2 of a 3 Phase plan for the institution. Phase 1 being the auditorium refurbishment and Phase 3 being an extensive recladding and physical adjustment to the North Wall making it more aestically approachable, and enhancing the quayside. So, far, other than the minor alterations enacted as part of Phase 2, the third stage has never proceeded. Funding is the apparent culprit. However with the superb Lavitts Quay enhancement at 21 Lavitts Quay, the project in planning for the former Thomas Crosbie Holdings site at 16 Lavitts Quay by Howard Holdings, an architectural competition in mid-transit to redevelop Kyrls Quay, and plans for the Coal Quay also in the pipeline – we may yet see improvements to the North Wall in the future.

In the meantime, it’s nice to take the time to appreciate the wonderfully altered Emmet Place facade of the Opera House. Emmet Place has a very cosmopolitan European feel to it. The extensive pedestrian areas, innovative landscaping, imposing Crawford Gallery building, and many neat Victorian and Georgian stand-alone houses that pop up in the most unexpected areas of the street (e.g. Marble & Lemon building, Meadows & Byrne, Insurances House next to the AA Offices). O’Callaghan Properties also have a huge 6-storey, 150m euro retail and residential development for the former Irish Examiner HQ and Academy Street block in the pipeline – with an application being lodged this Summer. It is hoped that this will all enhance the delicate aesthetic value of the street, which the Opera House has so positively helped support.

MOLA also won a 2001 Southern Region RIAI Award for the efforts!

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