Re: Re: O’ Connell Street, Dublin
Couldn’t agree more. I’ve long held that this terrace is completely pivotal on both a local streetscape and a macro city level. Not only is it critical to the scenography of the O’Connell Bridge district and the entrance to O’Connell Street, but by virtue of its prominent location at the ‘crossroads of the nation’, it also has an immense role to play in providing a coherent statement about the very character and identity of the city itself.
The O’Connell Bridge nexus is a problematic space. The bridge and the surrounding quay roads are too broad and too exploded to simply be host to acres of tarmac – they are windswept and lacking in enclosure. The vistas both east and west are disappointing, and there is an overwhelming sense of visual chaos and an absence of design coordination in the buildings and the public realm. The enclosure of the surrounding buildings is generally acceptable, but the architectural disunity here, for such a critical place in the city, has always lent an unfortunate impression of lack of civic pride and general discordance. Upon arrival in the heart of Dublin, you have to ask yourself – is this it? Where’s the evidence of the Enlightenment principles that originally brought this landscape into being? How does the urban landscape here represent us? To be honest, it might as well be a third rate UK city or some dull Canadian provincial capital.
Nonetheless, the hodgepodge of buildings surrounding the formal composition of O’Connell Bridge can also be validly perceived as a built manifestation of the city’s history and architectural evolution, whether it be the 1960s O’Connell Bridge House, the 1920 Irish Nationwide corner or O’Callaghan’s Chance at the apex of Westmoreland Street and D’Olier Street. What is a shame however is the gaping absence of any building or terrace that represents the eighteenth-century heritage of the city – namely, the iconic brick façade with gridded sash windows. The reproduction Ballast Office makes a grim attempt, but otherwise there is nothing to give an indication that Dublin is essentially a Georgian city – a grievous shame for such a critical location. Ironically, the reproduction Zoe blocks on Bachelor’s Walk are one of the most important group of buildings in the city in this respect. Like or loathe their detailing, they are a critical player to providing clarity and coherence to Dublin’s identity.
And yet at O’Connell Bridge we actually have an original Wide Streets Commission terrace – the genuine article, the real deal – sitting there, hidden from view, languishing beneath a blanket of accretions. To get this terrace back to its original form, even if it means having to replace entire swathes of delaminated brick, should be as high an aspiration as transforming College Green back to a civic space. I rank it that highly in its importance to Dublin.
There are keynote buildings, streetscapes and spaces in all cities that establish a baseline character and identity, and this terrace is Dublin’s benchmark. Every conceivable effort should be made to get it right.