- 16 May 17
Planning in Ireland has always been inadequate – with the result that our cities and towns have a Gerry-built quality. But with iconic buildings and better civic spaces on the way, that may be about to change…
All of a sudden we’re hearing of plans for tall buildings. For so long, Liberty Hall (59metres) has been Dublin’s one and only. Then came Monte Vetro, Google’s headquarters in Grand Canal Dock at 67m. Now we’ll have the Exo in the Point Square and Johnny Ronan’s Tara House opposite Liberty Hall at 73m and 88m respectively. The last time these heights were aimed for, we were smack dab in the middle of the Tiger years.
Of course, such heady heights are old hat in Belfast where the Obel Tower and Windsor House top 80m. And in Cork, Tower Development Properties will soon seek planning permission for a building rising to around 120m. On Hog Heights, we have no major problem with all this if the buildings are as good as planned. But it doesn’t always work out that way. The Central Bank building on Dublin’s Dame Street was intended to have a plaza, a pedestrianised urban space of a kind we just don’t have. But it soon became something else – an exclusive space with fortress steps and railings.
That was not what architect Sam Stephenson had in mind – but it was absolutely consistent with the way urban space has been planned and managed in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, where the emphasis has long been on keeping people moving and on controlling, and where possible eradicating, spaces where crowds might congregate.