Re: Re: proposed changes to stephen’s green
Unfortunately you don’t have to travel to any rural villages to see exactly the same kind of mishaps. You only have to look at the current state of things around the Stillorgan shopping centre – I don’t know the exact sequence of development, that Stillorgan village took down over the years, but from my understanding of it – the village of Stillorgan did experience several sequential road building and road alteration projects. As time went on, problems that should have been addressed from the beginning, just kept going ‘un-resolved’, leading to the current state of confusion. What you have left now is a pure obstacle course of different plans, different ideas and nothing really gels. Stillorgan is actually a crazy kind of environment, because you have a tiny village scale in parts, the first Shopping Centre in Ireland, a GAA field and associated properties, a few major car and bus routes, speculative development and residential all knitted together in some kind of weird fashion. You have a lot of open space out there and a lot of opportunities exist to solve the problem well. But I fear, the way that people are going to use these opportunities, is in the typical short-sighted, and ‘my-little-site-on-it’s-own’-kind-of-way. Herman Hertzberger is one of the very few Architects I know, you has seriously faced up to the problem of designing ‘the in-between’ space, as opposed to just designing ‘the object’.
But getting back to your point on the pavements – Stillorgan – coming from its ancient history as a country village – still manages to sport this very large kind of ‘hump in the road’,… it is a kind of topological feature that really dominates and defines the experience of walking or driving through Stillorgan. And just like the photograph you have shown, most of the architecture flanking this ‘hump in the road’ has adapted to this hump in the road. For the life of me, I just cannot understand, with all of the major road building projects going on all over the country – how that ‘hump in the road’ right in the middle of Stillorgan has managed to go un-noticed for all of these years. The road is far too wide there anyhow, and the parking on either side of the road is a pure mess. It is one of the few places in Dublin, where a pedestrian is not ‘safe’ to cross when a green man lights up. But as I have said, for every nice ‘all-pedestrian’ environment one creates, at the other end of the scale, Dublin City manages to get away with an environment which is exclusively car oriented. The siting of the Ormonde Cinema in Stillorgan is very funny too, as most mothers will park their car in the summertime in the Shopping Centre park, and then the half-dozen or so kids have to ‘run’ across about 5 lanes of car traffic going in two directions, with the added difficulty of this ‘hump in the road’ topography, which makes visibility of oncoming vehicles especially hard to judge. It is so funny, right at this point you have a veritable ‘intersection’ of mums with kiddies running across a road (sweets and fizzy drinks in hand) with practically an ‘Auto-bahn’ running right by. You see, unless, you can manage to view spatial design problems in four dimensions, you just don’t notice things like that. My fear, is that most spatial design students, looking at their projects manage to see their solutions in three dimensions, and that is as far as they get to take it.
The real trouble with everything that has happened to Stillorgan, including the most recent scheme to extend the old 1960s Shopping Centre. Every presentation, perspective view, plan, elevation and representation of the new scheme was very carefully doctored to draw your attention away from this current nasty traffic/pedestrian mess, that exists right along side the proposed new development. No one has ever been commissioned to just model the entire base – the reality of what is actually there – irrespective of property lines, of point of view or special interest. This I feel, is where you do need a government to step in and take the initiative. But as I have already said here, the government aren’t in the business of spatial planning and design – just a few individuals in a very little known profession called architecture, are actually able to wrap their heads around such complex design tasks – and I don’t know to what extent they seem to be able to get into anything at all. I as a kind of person, who knows his way around a spatial design problem or two, I do know perfectly well, that to trully represent many designs, it is not enough just to model and present the proposed ‘Object’ you have to build,… because in fairness, you have to represent the entire picture – the context, into which this development is going to land. The trouble, is that your developer consortium doesn’t want you looking beyong the immediate boundaries. And with the advent of computer graphics visualisation nowadays, which ‘appear’ to present the reality of what will get built – alas – that elusive ‘Fourth’ dimension doesn’t translate through these CG renderings at all. Which is all the more reason CG renders are so popular amongst the developers I fear. I think, the Stillorgan centre renders presented only, what the developers want you to see – when it is plain as a pike-staff out there on the ground, what the real problems are. The same faith fell to Moore Street, which lost it’s chance to gain a suitable entrance space, at the corner with Parnell Street. If you really look at it, you see a pattern emerging all over the city. The planners obviously aren’t able to grasp the spatial subtleties of the various sites either – and something tells me, that developer consortiums have twigged onto this, and have exploited that.
The extent of the definition of spatial design problems, in planning applications is seldom large enough – especially for crucial sites, where doing the right thing has impact on the whole surrounding area. The problem with villages like Stillorgan is repeated all over Dublin City as far as I can see. The only problem is that our spatial planning and design tradition in this country has just been too weak over the years to contribute anything to the debate now. The profession seemingly run by too many old folks, who would rather a quiet evening in their back garden talking to their plants, rather than exert themselves to deal with the actual issues. In relation to Grafton Street, which excludes the automobile altogether, this idea of having armies of pedestrians marching up and down to their own drum beat, supposedly in the name of high street commerce. Dublin City Council seem to be unable any longer, to put that idea back into it’s box – it has escaped – and is totally out of control. It has just gathered it’s own momentum down through the years, as if some ‘bottom-up’ intelligence, in the form of pedestrians were somehow getting back at the automobile for all of the years of suppression. I really think DCC needs to put the lid back on this box, and put a pile of bricks firmly on the lid. The pedestrianisation of Grafton St., was a pretty mess they created, except they are unable to admit that now. I challenge anyone to fairly say, they can ‘walk’ up through Grafton Street on any busy shopping day – and enjoy that experience – I challenge anyone. Total separation of car and pedestrian just tries to solve the issue, by separating the two things altogether – in other words, you avoid dealing with it. In terms of a ‘solution’, total separation is just the lowest common denominator, the lowest rung on the ladder. But heh, we have a long history in the spatial design tradition here of doing just precisely that. As warped and chaotic as they may seem, I actually ‘like’ places like Stillorgan village and even streets like Dame Street here in Dublin. They still represent to me, a problem waiting to be tackled properly and given the attention and care it really does deserve.
Brian O’ Hanlon.