Re: Re: ILAC centre

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The finished Dunnes product in its all-consuming glory.

It couldn’t be more insensitive if it tried, bulldozing through the reticient streetscape and slashing nonchalantly through the unifying codes of the host terrace.

The success of the bombastic Debenhams/Roches was reliant on its contrast with the charming traditional unified streetscape leading up to it – that has now been utterly lost.
Is it now the renewed policy of Dublin City Council, as in the 1980s, to clear away all of Henry Street? How can they possibly justify future refusals for similar development in this terrace? Simply, they cannot. Not that they’d be bothered either way going by this development.

The bleak corridor that is now Cole’s Lane: the blank facade of Debenhams to one side, the ugly elevation of Dunnes to the other, and the pathetic two-storey termination of the ‘refurbished’ Ilac at the end.

The finesse is striking.

The ubiquitous pavillion storey on top forms the restaurant and additional store floor space.

The restaurant design is edgy, crisp, calm and at times tounge-in-cheek – mirror walls are apparently ‘in’ again. One of the saving graces of this development.

The colour scheme seems to be influenced by an Aero bar, and is very cool.

Saying that, €2.80 for a cup of coffee is extortionate, and the warm milk on my table was thoroughly sour. Not a great start. For a restaurant with such pretensions, milk on the table is an oddity at best. You’ll get a far better deal all-round in Chocolate Soup in Debenhams.

The roof terrace directly adjoins the restaurant, and provides all of its natural light. It is from up here that one really appreciates what a loss the unacquired corner building on Henry Street/Cole’s Lane was for Dunnes. It constrains both the floorplates of the store at large, and a highly desirable wrap-around roof terrace with views down Henry Street. There are no views to be had of the city from the current location, other than the blank wall of Debenhams opposite and the horrendous vista of the low-rise air-con peppered roofscape of the Ilac. No wonder all the glazing is frosted!

The interiors of the store itself are relatively predictable. Surprisingly little has moved on since Roches was completed a number of years ago; in that respect I think Roches were ahead of their time. Dunnes only has the allure of the new as an attribute at the minute: generally I think the Roches fit-out still wins out on substance, if a little more worn now. Dunnes has some great escalator wall treatment, but little else of note. It’s no wonder the store was completed so quickly, as much of the corrugated metal and concrete structure is still exposed, just painted black and hung with suspended slab ceilings. Strangely inconsistent eggshell black walls are also a feature.

What is innovative however is its product displays – they’ve come on leaps and bounds from the Dunnes of old. Sweeping sexy crescents of seating with shoe display shelving above, big circular rugs with display tables atop, elegantly laid out shelving units more akin to Fraiser’s apartment than a retail outlet, all makes for a visually interesting retail experience.

A shame it’s all housed in such a monster of a building: even at the entrance on ground floor level it gives Henry Street a slap in the face by turning its back on it. The windows are completely closed off, making for an unpleasant closing-in experience upon entering the store. There’s also no sense of place whatsoever upon entering what proclaims to be a department store of sorts – you walk straight into racks of clothing which looks and feels odd.

And not to lay this matter just at the feet of Dunnes, but the energy these places consume must be crazy. Everywhere you look it’s energy energy energy!

Along with heating and air-conditioning blasting away and escalators rotating 18 hours a day. You’d wonder as to the sustainability of these warehouses in the longer term.

All in all a positive retail and design contribution to the city centre, but an ignorant brush-off to its host streets.

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