Re: Re: proposed changes to stephen’s green

Home Forums Ireland proposed changes to stephen’s green Re: Re: proposed changes to stephen’s green


St Stephens Green West will be open to vehicular traffic from the junction of Cuffe St./Harcourt St./St. Stephen’s Green South as far as York Street and from the top of Grafton Street as far a Glover’s Alley. The stretch of St. Stephen’s Green West from York Street to Glover’s Alley (i.e. in front of the Royal College of Surgeons) will be closed to traffic. A new plaza will be constructed here.

That’s great news.

Actually, it isn’t good news at all, because once you begin, to see cars ‘excluded’ totally from the equation in some areas, you automatically see environments created on the other end of the spectrum, which exclude the pedestrian and even cyclist altogether,… that is not progress,… but going backways in terms of urban design.

Interestingly the new ‘pedestrian plaza’ on Green West consists of an extended pavement in from of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Well if you look at my observations in relation to Dundrum Shopping Centre,

you will notice how in Dundrum, the approach of ‘separation’ of cars from pedestrians is taken to an extreme, whereby cars are totally ignored on one aspect of the site, and it is all chinese rock garden kind of aesthetic,… whereas on the other end of the site,… it is all ‘car city’,… and pedestrians and even cyclists have been just shoved out of the whole equation period. This is the polarity that often happens in today’s road engineering I find,… whereas to do design well, I think you have to accept a bit of both worlds,… to accept that these worlds are going to intersect much more than we are currently willing to accept. It is so funny to see the few cars that do venture down towards the college of surgeon’s, getting really ‘aggressive’ with walkers at the moment,… I see cars beeping an awful lot at the walkers, and it is currently unclear as to who ‘owns’ the territory. As if that was the proper way to go about things,… that you have to either ‘own’ the territory as a car driver, or as a pedestrian, but no in between. The drivers around College of Surgeon’s and the LUAS stop now feel as if they need to hoot and honker, huff and puff a whole lot, to re-establish some of their personal space. The article on Hans Monderman linked over here, is about the best article I have read in a long while, on traffic mixed with people,…

As I said, all over the city, the separation between car and pedestrian, is just so exaggerated as to be ridiculous. I tend to subscribe to the notion, that when you speed up the flow of cars, then the whole traffic system in the city as a whole tends to collapse, and everyone is left waiting in jambs. But if you actually slow down the traffic in general and mix up pedestrians and cars more, the system will manage much, much better as a whole. This seems like a paradox, but recent studies are showing it to be the case. In Ireland, in recent years we have been so busy arguing for faster and faster lanes, speed limits and allowance for car speed all over,… and the system as a whole has just buckled completely. Of course, as soon as you create a car speeding friendly zone, you have to take measures to exclude people from the design altogether, and the car just takes over completely,… that is where your drab, and lifeless environments come from. The trouble I see happening in Dublin, is the hell that is Grafton Street ‘pedestrianisation’ is being allowed to spread out too far altogether,… you already have the pedestrianisation down to the Gaeity, and now all over the Green. All that is happenings is the hell that was Grafton Street pedestrianisation,.. and the extreme separation of cars from pedestrians,… is starting to grow, and it is not an improvement but a dis-improvement in my opinion. I think it is patently wrong that pedestrians are seen to need a totally separate environment of their own – it is something driven mainly by big commerce and a culture of litigation in Ireland. The kind of environment produced when you just have all pedestrians on their own, isn’t really a nice environment at all, or a successful urban experience. Even in the planning of new areas of cities, you see the influence of the car, down through the years,…

The ‘Radburn’ example in the linked images, is the one that Hans Monderman thinks was ‘written into’ most traffic guidelines and codes, and re-produced all over the world,… the extreme separation of car and pedestrian. The ‘Radburn’ philosophy comes about, because cars are treated the same way as water flows in a pipe, and that kind of engineering of car traffic, like how large the pipe diameter needs to be etc. As I have mentioned here on the board previously, for every nice spanking new ‘Henry Street’ that Dublin City Council manages to make,… it also has to create a ‘Parnell Street’ rear service entrance to accomodate all of the ‘shit’ that has to happen to service the said high street. So that, one space becomes ‘car hell’ like Parnell Street, while another street, just becomes pedestrian hell, like Grafton Street or Henry Street,… any day I have experienced those places anyhow.

My major concern would be that this turning circle would end up being a buspark, where the drivers had their ten-minute break before heading out of town again.
It would be entirely inappropriate for double-deckers to be parking around here and it would be probably worse than the old arrangement where at least the traffic was moving (albeit slowly).

The big question that is raised here, is why do all of the bus routes in Dublin city appear to need to ‘stop’ in the City Centre? Why can you not have a terminus stop, someplace removed far away from the city centre,… and also reduce the amount of space needed in general for buses stopping in the city centre? It seems to me as if most of the great spaces in Dublin city centre are entirely ruled by rows of double deckers,… and yeah, the drivers eating kit-kats. The strongly hierarchial nature of urban city council’s just doesn’t seem to be capable of maximising on what our cities have to offer,…

An often quoted architectural text from the seventies, Complexity and Contradiction, by Robert Venturi, expresses the point about hierarchies, and such in the following way.

Cleanth Brooks refers to Donne’s art as ‘having it both ways’ but, he says, ‘most of us in this latter day, cannot. We are disciplined in the tradition either-or, and lack the mental agility – to say nothing of the maturity of attitude – which would allow us to indulge in the finer distinctions and the more subtle reservations permitted by the tradition of both-and.’

The tradition ‘either-or’ has characterised orthodox modern architecture: a sun screen is probably nothing else; a support is seldom an enclosure; a wall is not violated by window penetrations but is totally interrupted by glass; program functions are exaggeratedly articulated into wings or segregated separate pavilions. Even ‘flowing space’ has implied being outside when inside, and inside when outside, rather than both at the same time. Such manifestations of articulation and clarity are foreign to an architecture of complexity and contradiction, which tends to include ‘both-and’ rather than exclude ‘either-or.’

Complexity and Contradiction, is actually a nice book to study in the context of urban design in Dublin nowadays. I had almost forgotten totally about that text, but I must say, I have ‘re-visited’ it recently and find it useful, in constructing my ‘thinking’ about urban design.

The real question is what is of higher value another civic space entirely free of traffic or the efficient operation of the 14/14A 15/ 15A 15B 44 48A and only public transport disturbing pedestrians.

‘Either-or’ philosophy? Hmmm,… We need to stop thinking in terms of ‘either-or’ and start learning to think in terms of a ‘both-and’ mind-set. Just my humble opinion. 🙂

Brian O’ Hanlon.

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