Re: Re: O’ Connell Street, Dublin
So I see the redevelopment application for the corner of O’Connell Street and Henry Street has been referred to Further Information by Dublin City Council, who are seeking clarification on a number of matters. Nonetheless, it is clear from the tone of the planner’s report they have got what they wanted – demolition of the Victorian building on the corner with Henry Place and the Georgian building in the middle. Only the 1750 corner building at Nos. 68-69 O’Connell Street Upper is likely to be retained.
Given the overwhelming weight of development pressure from within DCC, it is understandable, if depressing, that the Further Information only relates to consolidating the conservation gain for the important corner building and not the wider outstanding questions about this proposal. Sadly, the pleas of others in the Council for retention of all buildings, including the case planner one suspects, are not reflected in the planning assessment. Even a rigorous assessment of the viability of level floorplates spanning across a contemporary infill building and a retained Victorian corner has not been asked for, never mind a design option for better interpreting this ‘war-torn collection of buildings’ as the Conservation Officer suggested. This is not just unfortunate: it is simply unacceptable. And not exclusively from a conservation point of view either, but from an architectural perspective also. How can we promote challenging, creative design in Dublin – as espoused by DCC’s freshly lodged bid for World Design Capital 2014 – if we simply demolish existing stock without even questioning the possibility of dynamic synergies? This typifies the lack of clout – and the commonplace lack of understanding – of the architectural profession.
The latter is further exposed by the City Architects Division’s and the Conservation Officer’s respective submissions stating that the proposed new building should be predominantly of brick, rather than the overly complex and distinctly bling approach proposed by the project architects. As I stated here previously, this is a far more appropriate option for re-interpreting this modest infill site on a predominantly brick street. The building should not take its design cue from the attention-grabbing neoclassicism of O’Connell Street, but from the measured reticence of Henry Street. Again, not on ‘conservation’ grounds, but on grounds of good urban design principles.
The Further Information rigorously picks through the proposals for the retained corner building, requiring retention of its distinctive plan form and further research be conducted into its original layout, clarification of design approaches between ‘old and new’, revised approaches to services passing through the building, retention of a proposed part-chopped out corner chimneystack, and a more traditional shopfront befitting of ‘Number 1 Sackville Mall’ which I fully concur with. Feck off with your imported stone lads – let’s get some classy indigenous timber craft going here.
If there is a single thread of humour here, it is the submission from the Griffin Group of Londis fame, World Class Leaders in the Field of Unauthorised Development of Convenience Stores: Specialising in Architectural Conservation Areas. They object, no less, to this development on the grounds of ‘Damage to the historic fabric of central Dublin City’, in particular the buildings’ ‘nostalgic and emotional significance’ and their being located in an Architectural Conservation Area. You couldn’t concoct this stuff if you tried.
Manahan Planning also submitted in a similar vein on behalf of Bulter’s Chocolates, The Body Shop. Korky’s Shoes and others, devoting most of their submission to conservation philosophy no less! It’s hilarious how business interests can turn on the rose water when they want to get one over on the big guys, especially in this case with the applicant being AIB. Unfortunately the conservation approach outlined is not particularly well informed and is something of a disservice to the submission.
In other O’Connell Street news, Eason is getting in on the trend to turn Dublin into World Landfill Capital 2011 by erecting a giant banner across their facade advertising their wares, in contravention of ACA policies. As if the store wasn’t cheap enough, they’ve just brought it down to a whole new level. One hopes it doesn’t fit in with Eason’s managing director, Conor Whelan’s, vision for turning around the chain by making it more up-to-date and improving its image through investing €20 million in store refurbishments and IT. What a way to start the process.
Nonetheless, never did the flagship O’Connell Street store need a makeover – it’s horribly dated, cluttered, cheap and incoherent. The new business plan intends to integrate all aspects of the business’s product lines more seamlessly into each other, so rather than ‘departments’ of books, cards, stationary etc, they would bring it all together, and more coherently branded through ‘merchandising, signage, lighting, shop flow, cross merchandising – the whole atmospherics’. They hope to refurb a trial store this year – here’s hoping the O’Connell Street outlet will be one of the first.