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So I think it is agreed amongst pretty much everyone – and from all ends of the architecture and planning spectrum on this website – that this is categorically not what O’Connell Street and this new city quarter warrants or deserves in design terms. Therefore a systems failure has to be identified, either in our planning process or in the architectural profession, or both.
Developers and some architects have often been heard in recent years waxing on about overly-prescriptive planning laws, yet surely the outcome of the above is precisely the result of a lack of clout and clarity in planning policy? Or more pointedly, the erroneous interpretation of planning policy? Alternatively, one can argue that the relative ‘freedom’ offered by planners in this case was to enable architects to come up with imaginative and creative design solutions in accordance with best design practice. Architects, after all, know best when it comes to design – right? Why shouldn’t they be given the rudder on this one? Logic would dictate that they should.
The reality is that we see both professions culpable in this:
In spite of some worthy Additional Information modifications made by Dubln City Council, an effectively illegal interpretation of the O’Connell Street ACA under the 2000 Planning Act led to the initial grant for the scheme by DCC: -1 for planners.
The initial proposal was over-scaled, crudely integrated with its host environment and ignorant of existing building grain and street patterns: -1 to architects, and -1 to planners for granting it.
An Bord PleanÃ¡la then gets called in to clean up the mess as usual. They enforce planning policy and civic design character by decree – hardly the best method of producing creative design solutions: both +1 and -1 to the planning system.
Architects come back with a thoroughly dismal redesign that could not express in bricks and mortar the concept of a mean-spirited, begrudging sulk any more if it tried. The O’Connell Street frontage attempts little distinguished sense of urbanity or clarity of expression, never mind anything that approaches a civic-minded outlook for the first major intervention on the capital’s main throughfare in nearly a century: -1 to architects
An Bord PleanÃ¡la now reassesses, and grants permission on the basis of a raft of conditional redesign measures that attempt to address the refusal of the promoters to engage in a meaningful manner with the critical planning and design issues at stake. The result is a compromise that does nobody any favours, and where the energy that is expended in the whole arduous process would have been immeasurably better spent concentrated on a thoughtful and engaging urban design proposal – critically, had the guidance been there from the outset.
‘Systems failure’ – I agree wholeheartedly with this point. At the root of this failure is the archaic culture of the built environment professions and the weakness of local government.
Primary role of plannners in Ireland: to draw up a development plan for the city every 6 years and to regulate development proposals, based on the zoning map and standards listed in the plan. (little or no design training required; hence lack of any interest/involvement from architects in the drawing up of plans and assessing developments; antipathy between professions and difficulty speaking on the same wavelength).
Primary role of planners in continental Europe: to initiate, steer and coordinate proposals (as well as regulate). Design training prerequisite; high % of architects specialise in planning/urban design during last years of primary degree. High % architects hired in public sector.
Tho get us out of such disillusionment, confusion and antipathy between planners/architects/ABP/DCC/developers, etc the city needs a comprehensive strategic spatial plan which would incorporate pilot projects, mechanisms for delivery, monitoring, etc. A more public sector-oriented process with proactive planners and architects working in tandem to entice investors into building the right projects would go some way to reconcile the ‘adversarial’ nature of planning that is embedded in our culture.jesus_o_murchuParticipant
That market, so far, is an absolute joke. For the past three Fridays I have passed by the sum total of two stalls that sell expensive bread and pastries. Passing by after work at around 5:30 have I already missed the ‘rush hour’? Anyway at that time they look very lonely indeed. They dont even trade on the square – instead they’re somewhat hidden under the group of trees next to the luas stop, presumably as this is the only space that might offer any potential to drum up some trade from the luas stop. What genius thought of the Friday afternoon slot anyway? People with jobs dont have the free time and people without jobs dont have the money.
DCC and DoEHLG: Take note of what the British Government are doing at the moment to inject life into their rapidly deteriorating high streets – ie relaxing change of use planning laws and providing micro-finance initiatives for the development of temporary community facilities in vacant retail units. Alas, this sort of proactive planning is alien to our culture but it is exactly whats required to save Smithfield. Could even become a highly innovative form of planned de-gentrification in Ireland! Im sure the arty types up in Stoneybatter and would be delighted to take on the programming of all the empty units. A handful of art studios/workshop/performance spaces would enliven the place no end. The presence of new social groupings on the square might even encourage the working class kids and the yuppy residents to interact a bit more and reduce some of the latent tension that exists when they cross paths.