Re: Re: Dublin Quays …latest addition.

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Agreed it will sully quickly. One despairs at the photographs of the bone white Four Courts after its respective cleanings of the late 1970s and 1990s. The incessant heavy passing traffic simply destroys it, as with countless other buildings in Dublin.

I don’t mean to be unduly harsh about the Ormond Building. That would be counterproductive: firstly because it is a good building, just lacking polish, and secondly, as this would leave one wondering, well what exactly would be appropriate along the quays? The Ormond Building is a good example of what the quays need in terms of scale, massing and facade treatment, and, if not quite marks, then at least suggests, a new departure for sensitive, confident infill buildings. I agree it is not overtly cruel on the Four Courts, but without question it does not contribute to the scenic quality of its environs, which frankly is just not good enough.

The ‘brightness’ of the facade is not something which is of greatest concern – and fully agreed, spoilsport, about rendered facades which I am very conscious of (and for which, incidentally, there are absolutely no design guidelines for painting or methods of enforcement) – rather it is the choice of cladding material in the first instance. Although the lightness of the building is harsh, and further emphasised by its crisp, modular articulation, it is its fundamental ignorance of the tradition of building materials, and to some degree forms, in Dublin – on much as an intellectual level as a tangible one – that so disappoints. This ‘tradition’ is not that of preservationisim, of architectural heritage protection in its strictest sense, or that of a nostalgic mindset. Rather, it is an inherited collective agreement and vision for a city, which, while very much informed by precedent, establishes rules and commonly-held practices which are adhered to in expressing the city’s identity in restoration, adaption and new-build.

It is truly quite baffling that after literally decades, nigh on a century, of architectural critics and visitors praising the inherent hierarchy and coherence of not only Dublin’s quays, but of the city as a whole, expressed by reticent brick terraces flanking focal stone buildings, that this be so completely disregarded by this development. Whereas much of this concept has long been diluted since the 18th century, and let’s face it in some instances was never that impressive in the first place, it nonetheless comprises the very essence of the city, its backbone, its framework, its readability. To erode this concept, however piecemeal, is to chip away at the identity of the city.

It is extraordinary that this framework of established principles, so prominent in the architectural legacy of previous and current generations, can be so brashly contravened by both the planning and architectural professions, and all the more so that it be intellectually supported in the form of an architectural competition. It strikes a highly disconcerting chord that architectural and design excellence, as associated with such competitions, results in the Ormond Building. Is this what the relevant professions aspire to in Ireland? The fact that an express requirement for the use of brick as a dominant facing material in this development was not insisted upon by those organising the competition as much implicates the planning profession as it does the architectural. It suggests an ignorance not only of the site and its context, but also that of a wider vision for the consolidation of the identity of Dublin.

The office park character of the building, meanwhile, suggests a lack of imagination and ambition, and an inability to deal with challenging design concepts which so sorely need to take infill architecture in Dublin to a new level. This is something that the newly installed City Architect has made a mission to achieve excellence in, which must be warmly welcomed, if sadly too late for this strategic site.

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