Re: Re: Arnotts

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No the west tower will not be rebuilt, as this application (lodged two weeks ago) forms part of the wider Arnotts redevelopment which involves the remounting of the facade of the west wing of the building as the elevation to the newly opened Liffey Street. This will make the existing central tower three-dimensional and a prominent feature of the streetscape.

This is a very welcome development, not only as the Arnotts store – as admitted by the group’s chief executive – is getting a bit tatty round the edges, but also as this phase of the development project was scheduled to be one of the last completed in around 2011-12. Now it is the first. It makes complete sense to undertake it now, independent of the delay to the wider project, as it serves a dual function of greatly improving the store in the interim while also tackling one of the cheaper parts of the new quarter scheme. It also explains the rather high figure of €10 million that was being bandied about for these cosmetic works!

Just on the west tower mystery again, there is little question that it was built. I came across this rare image of the store some time ago, reputed to date to 1902, but is perhaps more likely to be 1904 if this is when the building was finally completed (the main structure being of 1894).

This trade card appears to be more pragmatic in terms of detail than the earlier sketch we have of the building (but it also serves to confirm that it was correct too). Interestingly, the two gabled buildings to each side of the building are depicted here as forming part of the store – perhaps it was these elements that were the ‘extension’ of 1904? It is significant that these buildings are depicted at this time, as this tells us that the left-hand one, which still survives, pre-dates the 1916 destruction, and is likely to be the only other building on this side of Henry Street to do so.

Also interestingly, the image also shows the vast workrooms (in somewhat embellished perspective) to the rear of the main building, where clothes were made for the ‘monster store’ and probably custom-tailored for customers when required.

KITCHEN and DINING ROOM can clearly be made out, along with WORKROOM and CABINET to the rear (above image), presumably referring to furniture-making.

The newly proposed works will radically transform the appearance of the store, turning a dingy 1960s vision of retailing back into the gracious ensemble of tall plate glass picture frames addressing the street that Arnotts once was. The photomontages look extremely impressive – literally a new Victorian building will land into Henry Street, as the typical shopper cannot appreciate the store in all its glory at present. These works will do wonders for the prestige of Arnotts, injecting it with considerable street presence.

One final point is the ground floor pilasters proposed to be reinstated dividing the windows. The drawings propose to reinstate ‘stone pilasters to match original’ but there is no bronze band detailing depicted (as seen above), as once wrapped around each pilaster in typical Victorian style. Such a motif can still be seen on polished granite shopfront pilasters on Dawson Street, and more critically, on Arnotts itself, where the banding marks still remain on the pilasters of the grandiose side entrance door.

© fjp

What’s the likelihood of those going back on across the board? They’d cost a fortune to get made up. Sourcing a similar dark grey granite for polishing also won’t be easy. These issues are not specified in the otherwise very well detailed conservation method statement.

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