Re: Re: Clerys

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Yes good to see the store reopened after such a whirlwind of a four-month refurbishment. The flood event of July was catastrophic in its impact. Effectively a massive water storage tank-like scenario developed on the 1970s roof, which gathered water in the intense heavy rainfall and then collapsed in part, admitting gallons of water the entire way down through the building. Many of the late 1980s ceiling panels collapsed in the process, thankfully offering the opportunity for re-exposure of the original coffered ceiling. Interestingly, even the original sprinklers and/or at least identical replacements from 1922, occupy the same utilitarian position they always did beneath the panels and are now exposed in a manner not dissimilar to a White Star Line or Cunard liner.

The lighting improvements have quite literally transformed the building, with spot tracks providing sharp pools of light while also hiding LED strips washing the ceiling. Indeed, Clerys now has one of the largest LED retail installations in Ireland – it has well and truly gone mainstream. At second floor level it has been used to clever effect washing the rear of wall units, ceiling coffers and bulkheads. Some of the colours mightn’t be to everyone’s taste though.

Unfortunately the opportunity wasn’t taken to improve first impressions from the main entrance doors, where the usual chaotic cosmetics counters dominate the scene. I don’t think the new flooring is particularly successful down here either, made up of horizontal tiles and knotty timber board insets. How the displays and general circulation work with these is a bit incoherent too. But the first floor level flooring is a fabulous beech-coloured parquet – very ‘on-trend’ as per Brown Thomas’s top floor – while evoking the original post-Edwardian flooring. The escalators have been revamped with illuminated plastic panels too.

There’s a fantastic heritage gallery located on the second floor that is well worth a look. Lots of images of Sackville Street, the original Delany/McSwiney interior, the original post-1916 interior, and, lets face it, generally showing how the store is a less pretty place today. But overall, a great job by Jennings Design Studio – a spawn from Douglas Wallace who carried out earlier work on the building. It was an incredibly ambitious job to turn around in such pressurised circumstances.

But there are pangs of concern about protecting what’s left of the original fixtures and fittings fabric of the store. The recent glass entrance doors have not been a success in how they expose the busy interior and have become a magnet for postering, and after the event, it’s not clear if all of the excellent timber doors (just badly inserted) that were disposed of were in fact a mixture of original and reproduction fabric, and not just reproduction as was claimed. Nor exactly how much of the original Edwardian window display backdrop screen fabric was retained as was supposed to happen. There are constantly layers of older fabric being exposed and concealed in this building and it’s important that it’s coordinated and recorded, but one gets the distinct impression nobody’s willing to take on this task. Clerys is an important building and its heritage should be showcased as part of its branding – not sold out to the demands of international concessions. And in the long run, given the still confused clientele and merchandise, there’s no question that a substantial portion of the future of Clerys has to be fresh food. The brand, the location and the premises are a potential goldmine for a foodhall if it was done right. Do we really need another generic cosmetics hall?

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