Re: Re: Grafton Street, Dublin

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…and Archiseek kicks back to life!

This is quite a baffling development. The embarrassing spectacle of Hartecast becoming indirect design consultants to local authorities across the country has been well charted in previous discussions on this board, so to have one of their most ignorant products specified for the ‘premier’ street in the country is quite simply a grotesque joke.

I have a lot of time for Hartecast, as an Irish company operating in a highly competititive market, and for the innovation they have engaged in in recent years to refine some of their product offering. They’re the Liam Carroll of the street furniture world, slowly realising the benefits that can be brought from engaging a modicum of design expertise – even if much of your success has been built on the horse having somewhat bolted over the hills.

But seriously, how on earth the very worst aspects of Hartecast’s early years – bullet-proofed, blandly-wipeable, easy-watching, cartoonly-proportioned aesthetics – can be even trialed, never mind apparently be commissioned, for Grafton Street, not only beggars belief, but raises very grave concerns about the collective competences of the agency delivering this project. This is quite serious stuff, and hard-hitting questions really need to be asked. This just cannot go unchallenged.

I had a look at this yoke in the flesh this evening. The deep green colour is elegant and highly appropriate for the street. Indeed, this is similar to the colour I originally specified as being a suitable option for the refurbishment of the existing street furniture. But that’s where the flattery ends. The proportions are beyond belief. The casualness, the lack of formality, the grossly proprietary qualities, the baffling po-mo detailing, the crude, bordering on simply inaccurate, rendering of the Dublin City Council city stamp – it’s all such an insult to the citizenry that you couldn’t make this stuff up. I’m so sick of the public having to pick up the pieces on basics like this. Yes, of course there’s subjectivity in public design – there always will be – but this doesn’t even enter into the design world. It doesn’t even qualify for a bashing. Which renders the previous paragraph somewhat troubling.

I’ve inspected the new paving in very considerable detail and like other contributors, have major reservations about the ability of the Portuguese granite, even with the sealant, to hold up to the battering that this street gets – easily one of the busiest in Europe. But I’d like to think this has been trailed and correctly specified, and will give it the benefit of the doubt. On the design and choice of stone itself, I can entirely understand why the bush-hammered finish was chosen. It is exceedingly urbane, strong, handsome, and oozes a venerable quality – as if it has been on the street for a couple of centuries. I know it’s hard to believe this in its current begrimed state, but look at it in the rain and it is stupendously good. In fact, I think it’s far superior to the Leinster granite alongside. The decision to go with wide jointing is also an interesting one. It’s hard to decide if it works or not until the staining is removed.

Unfortunately, I think the mid-grey of the Portuguese and the honey hue of the Leinster actually clash quite badly. I’d much prefer to see the Portuguese granite laid the whole width of the street. The charcoal coloured rumble strips running parallel to the gutters are cluttering and cheap in appearance, and from an aesthetic point of view, certainly aren’t needed. The street junctions of square slabs of pink granite are coming along quite nicely. The quality of the workmanship here is much higher than it is for the main body of Portuguese granite, which is unevenly laid, indeed there are clearly trip hazards already, and where the handling of the gracious street curve is seriously ham-fisted, being awkwardly angled into stretches of straight lines.

All in all, a very mixed bag on Grafton Street at the minute. Just somebody do the right thing please and refurb the previous furniture – lamps included – to a high standard.

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