Re: Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

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I agree with gunter’s point entirely. His post hits the nail on the head. We are destined to wait for ever, for the perfect storm to arrive. I did pull a fast one on Dick Gleeson by quoting him out of context. It is the sound bite tactic that trashy publications like tabloids are renowned for using. I can post up the full lecture notes later for your reading. The lecture was quite good, and aimed at joining up all of the various Local Area Plans for Dublin city. Instead of having them all isolated which was the case for a long time. When you begin to connect all of the dots, so to speak, a new picture emerges. Where different parts of Dublin city begin to look as if they are servicing different component parts of the new information based economy. For instance, broadcasting and media, biomedical, education, financial services, transportation and so on. I guess in Beijing, the Chinesse lumped each function into one massive 10 million sq feet standalone building. What DCC aim to do in Dublin is knit together the new economy with much of the existing urban layout. But there again, the strategy DCC proposes is a shot in the dark – you have to wait forever, for all the right elements to ‘line up’. I mean DCC doesn’t own the land to an overwhelming extent. The developers do, who are very cranky, pedantic and unpredictable at the best of time – like human beings usually can be.

There are a lot of things that are good about DCC’s approach to Dublin City. But because DCC does its own thing, ignoring such valuable allies such as Liam Carroll, they are missing some crucial information signals they should be getting from the (global) marketplace. I keep reflecting back to the example of Dublin Airport and the more positive synergy there might there, between Michael O’Leary and DAA. I mean you look at the office space the DDDA occupies itself – it might as well be on Mars. You arrive into this gigantic reception space somewhere on Sir John Rogerson’s quay, where a secretary greets you and not much else. It is not the best model in the world for ‘interaction’ that I have ever seen. I have several times, handed in compliance drawings and permissions there. You don’t even get a written receipt! ! ! Nothing, not a sausage. I am astonished that Liam Carroll even has a scrap of paper with some signatures to approve the building of North Wall Quay. Because with DDDA, you seldom even receive that. We have a whole area of study about workplaces we need to master, and yet the DDDA wants to plant trees. We have intelligent people available to us, and sophisticated companies like Carroll’s to realise projects, but the DDDA’s lack of proper awareness and basic direction is staggering.

You only have to search around the web, and you will find that Dick Gleeson is indeed rubbing shoulders with the right people:

John Worthington’s book, Reinventing the Workplace, is considered to be a classic work and case study on office block design. I found this blurb about the DEGW founder:

Frank Duffy, chairman of DEGW, is an advocate of the flexible office. His theories could redefine office buildings of the future. Frank believes that UK developers do not consider the impact of radical changes in working practices on the office market. He believes that flexible workspace can save the occupier money and adapt to changing working practices. He feels that the factory office environment where workers perform routine set tasks is in decline, and a type of ‘club style of office is emerging.

Where floor plates are 18m to 20m deep with minimum interruption from cores and vertical circulation, this provides a number of opportunities for clubs and working groups. Here are a couple of sketches from the Bristol university masterplan website:

The internal depth of 15m gives optimal flexibility with reasonable quality daylighting, and a sense of view to the outside. Increasing the building depth above 15m tends to lead to the perception of a “deep plan building”. A 12m depth floorplate would in general be too small unless a very substantial amount of cellular academic office space was required.

Using the 15m dimension, you tend to end up with minimum floor plates of over 20,000 sq. ft. But to make it worth while, I still believe the 40,000 sq feet floor plates are worth looking at. (Maybe with that 18-20m depth) I bounced my PDF, Hippies, New Towns and the Irish, off a couple of people today. I was asked to revisit John Thackara’s book, In the Bubble. In Thackara’s last chapter he speaks about ‘Flow’. Indeed many of the ideas that I explore, were in fact the focus of that chapter in Thackara’s book. I looked at the chapter again, and yes, it certainly does build on the ideas of Don Topscott in relation to the Global Plant Floor. Thackara talks a lot about designing from the inside out, which is one of the key design philosophies I learned while working at Liam Carroll’s organisation. Liam gets a lot of his signals from the marketplace and such advisers as CBRE. It seems though, that Dubai is having the same problem as Dublin does:

Townsend advised developers to design office blocks “from the inside out” rather than focus on exterior design.

Click through the photos, they are quite instructive and do demonstrate the growing competition that Dublin is now up against. We need to get smart fast, about how we do business. Ripping down stuff, and firing builders, engineers and architects isn’t the proper way to go at all. No matter what Frank McDonald or anyone else may think. DDDA is a bit like Dubai in Dublin. They imagine they have money to throw at the wind. Andrew Laing, research guru at DEGW consultants says, “There is a huge disconnect between work process and space at most companies”. People forget how limited our resources are to build anything in this country, and all opportunities to evolve new workplaces and new process should be taken full advantage of. That is why it guts me so badly to see brand new structures being torn down. Its not just Dublin, Foster is generally having a hard time these days:

When most people view the RTE Primetime report on North Wall Quay, what they saw was a pretty rough looking concrete structure that was still a building site. What they could not see from the primetime program, was the fact, such a structure could become a workplace, and how much thought had gone into making it. It is a whole research area in itself, and an area I have spent the last six or seven years of my life studying.

BTW, If you want to go to this part of DEGW’s website:

There are two extremely comprehensive documents available there. From 2008, “Working beyond walls – the government workplace as an agent of change.” And from 2004, “Working without walls, an insight into the transforming government workplace”.

Brian O’ Hanlon

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