Re: Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany
Might this be the one?
The debate so far about the proposed development of six million square feet at Spencer Dock has focused on its density, its height and its likely impact on vistas from O’Connell Bridge or the “Georgian Mile” of Fitzwilliam Street. But it could be argued that these are not the only issues of importance.
The critical issue, it seems to me, is whether the Docklands area of Dublin is going to be developed to meet the real needs of the city or simply exploited for short-term gain and commercial expediency.
It is timely now to reflect on the 1997 draft master plan for Docklands. This was an inspirational document, well-researched and optimistic, which projected a future for the Docklands as an area of real employment and lifestyle mix. Mr Lar Bradshaw, chairman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, said at the time – in December 1997 – that it would be “a living, breathing and self-sustaining community” developed in a focused, sustainable manner.
There was talk of a landmark project, such as an opera house or an Olympic-sized swimming pool and, at face value, the Spencer Dock consortium’s proposal to build the long-delayed National Conference Centre at North Wall Quay. It seemed to be a project consistent with the concept of developing the Docklands as a new urban district.
Here was an opportunity to make a landmark building relating the Docklands to the wider city. As the first public building of the new century, it would have to be a first-rate architectural statement, a worthy successor to the other great public buildings on the River Liffey: the Custom House, the Four Courts and Heuston Station.
Examples of similar projects elsewhere include the Sydney Opera House, the Portuguese pavilion at last year’s Lisbon Expo and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. If these were used as models, it would suggest that the National Conference Centre should have been treated as a major civic project.
Because of the Government’s refusal to fund its construction (apart from earmarking it for a Â£25 million EU grant) and the question mark over some urban renewal tax incentives, it has now become reduced to an appendage of an over-scaled American-style speculative development rather than the centrepiece of a new urban neighbourhood in the city.
If the current plan is approved, it will inevitably set a precedent for the development of the overall Docklands area. Unless there is a radical rethink, this would result in the area being developed purely as a commercial real estate exercise rather than the sustainable urban community promised in the master plan.
It is no coincidence that the predominant architectural influence behind the pressure for this type of high-rise development in Dublin is American – Skidmore Owings and Merrill at George’s Quay and Roche Dinkeloo at Spencer Dock]