Friday, 12 September 2008

'Insensitive' tower design Desmond's sole concern

PLANNING APPEAL: BILLIONAIRE BUSINESSMAN Dermot Desmond was motivated by an interest in architecture and the protection of Ballsbridge, Dublin and Ireland, in his opposition to Seán Dunne’s high-rise development, An Bord Pleanála has been told.

Mr Desmond’s legal representative Michael O’Donnell said the design and location of the proposed development on the site of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels in Ballsbridge was Mr Desmond’s sole concern.

“That concern and that concern only motivates his interest in these proceedings.”

Mr Desmond was “the prime mover” in the docklands area and the quality of the architecture of his developments was one of the main reasons for the success of that area, Mr O’Donnell said.

Design was not just an aesthetic concern, but had a huge economic dimension, he said.

“His concern relates to the insensitivity and inappropriate design he believes will have very significant adverse effects not just on Ballsbridge, not just on the city of Dublin, but in broad terms on the entire economy of the country as a whole.”

Mr Desmond did not attend the planning hearing but was represented by four architects and one town planner, in addition to Mr O’Donnell.

Architect and architectural critic for the Sunday Times Shane O’Toole said Mr Dunne’s development was a “monolith” that would put the coherent development of Dublin “in grave peril”.

Mr Dunne was “in thrall” to the power of iconic architecture, he said, adding that the quality of design of this development was poor. The brick work, which the applicants said complemented the local buildings was “trite” and “the architectural equivalent of painting by numbers”.

“It does not qualify as architecture, let alone iconic architecture, but is a form of development packaging.”

George Ferguson, a British architect and BBC presenter, said the scheme was an oversized commercial development made respectable by a high profile international architecture competition.

The jury which chose the development seemed to have been “seduced by big sculpture” and a “commercial imperative that has driven a brief for a gross over-development of such a site”.

The streets in the scheme were “sunless, cavernous spaces which no amount of architectural illusion will be able to mend,” he said and, close up, the architecture was monotonous.

Dublin-based architect Peter Cody said the light in several apartments would be inadequate and there was no natural ventilation in the kitchens. The scheme was, he said, fixated with its iconic towers to the detriment of its use.

The 37-storey tower “alludes to the rather inflated view that the proposed scheme had of its own relative importance”, he said.

Conservation architect Bill Hastings said the existing hotels were inappropriate in height for Ballsbridge and there was no basis to suggest something even bigger would be sympathetic.

Town planner Kiaran O’Malley said the development contravened the land zoning in terms of height, plot ratio, and land use.

The Irish Times

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