Re: Re: Should the Clarence Hotel redevelopment get permission?

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IGS letter in today’s IT. Hmmm…

Clarence Hotel development

Madam, – The Irish Georgian Society: Ireland’s Architectural Heritage Society is extremely concerned at the decision reached by the members of the board of An Bord Pleanála on July 16th, 2008, to grant permission for the Norman Foster-designed redevelopment and extension to the Clarence Hotel, Wellington Quay, Dublin.

The Irish Georgian Society is confounded as to why the board said Yes to this scheme when their own senior planning inspector advised against doing so, citing the negative impact on the built heritage as the principal reason.

In addition to An Board Pleanála’s own planning inspector advising against the scheme, Ireland’s conservation community was unanimous in its rejection of the scheme, with the Irish Georgian Society; An Taisce; Dublin City Council’s conservation department; and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s architectural heritage protection policy unit all advocating a No decision.

Furthermore, the decision reached by An Board Pleanála to grant permission for the scheme is contrary to the measures set out to protect the built heritage in Dublin City Council’s development plan (Dublin City Development Plan, 2005-2011, Part X, Heritage and Appendix 18, Protected Structures and Buildings in Conservation Areas), Ireland’s national conservation legislation (Planning Development Act, 2000, Part IV, Architectural Heritage) and national conservation policy (Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s Architectural Heritage Protection: Guidelines for Local Authorities), as well as international conservation charters (International Charter for the Conservation Restoration of Monuments and Sites, Venice, 1964) and conventions (Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, Granada 1985).

The society is strongly opposed to the decision to grant permission for this scheme and fully concurs with An Bord Pleanála’s inspector’s evaluation that the “design of the proposed development is conceptually brilliant but contextually illiterate”.

This is due to the proposal’s form, scale and massing being at variance with already established urban form of Wellington Quay, an urban form characterised by small-scale narrow-fronted terraced Georgian houses.

A form deemed to have significant heritage value, as borne out by the quays being designated an Architectural Conservation Area.

In addition to the negative impact the granted scheme will have on the “quayscape” and city’s skyline, the granting of permission represents a serious conservation setback in Ireland as to what is deemed acceptable treatment for a protected structure.

The concept of a protected structure, as introduced into Irish law through the Planning and Development Act, 2000, was a far-seeing and progressive one, where the protected structure comprised the building itself, the interior, the curtilage of the building and where relevant, the attendant lands.

In particular, the protection of the interior was a long overdue but hugely welcomed development and was intended to inhibit facadism.

Facadism, long discredited by the international conservation community and totally at odds with ICOMOS’s conservation charters, entails the retention of the facade and the demolition of the building behind.

The Clarence Hotel, Dollard House and number 9-12 Wellington Quay, which formed part of the planning application, are all protected structures and as such their interiors were also protected.

An Bord Pleanála’s ruling to grant permission for the demolition of the interiors of all these protected structures has paved the way for wholesale facadism along this stretch of Dublin’s quays.

Most worrying is the precedent that has now been set. It will be increasingly difficult for Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for future insensitive planning applications which threaten to degrade the protected structures and architectural conservation areas located within Dublin’s historic core.

The last point the society wishes to stress is that we are not in any way opposed to good quality modern buildings.

The society is conscious that the well-designed buildings of today will become the built heritage of tomorrow. However, the “built heritage of tomorrow” should not be erected if it means that Dublin’s celebrated historic buildings and streetscapes are to be mutilated and degraded, as is the case with the Clarence development.

The society agrees that to have an architect, such as Norman Foster, who is held in such esteem by the international architectural community, design a building for Dublin should be exciting.

However the society emphatically considers that Dublin is being given a second-rate building by a first-rate architect and that it is a sad day when an architect of Norman Foster’s calibre is reduced to facadism. – Yours, etc,

Conservation Research Manager,
Irish Georgian Society,
74 Merrion Square,
Dublin 2.

© 2008 The Irish Times

Also, gunter- I’ve been giving your last post some thought. I’ll be back.

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