Monday 19 March 2007

Objections to Foster's 'skycatcher' plan for Clarence

An Taisce, the Irish Georgian Society and planning activist Michael Smith are among objectors to the €150 million revamp designed by celebrated London architects Foster and Partners of the Clarence Hotel on Dublin's Wellington Quay.

Nine individuals and groups have written to Dublin City Council to object to the scheme, which will see the Clarence transformed from a 44-bedroom boutique hotel into a five-star 141-bedroom hotel, with a large spa, signature restaurant, bar and freshfood market laid out over nine storeys.

The new expanded hotel will incorporate the former Dollard printing works and four Georgian buildings on Wellington Quay.

The quayside facades of the existing hotel and adjoining buildings, all of which are protected buildings, will be retained.

If planning permission is granted, a quayside café deck is also planned.

Owned by U2's Bono and the Edge, the hotel is to be developed in partnership with property developer Paddy McKillen.

Although refurbished 10 years' ago, the hotel has had poor commercial success in recent years.

A key feature of the new design by architects Foster and Partners, who were behind London's iconic Swiss Re building (the Gherkin), is the "skycatcher" atrium.

The aerodynamic shape of a Viking boat inspired the crucible shape of the skycatcher.

It will rise from a 25-metre swimming pool in the basement to the roof, where a publicly-accessible sky room will offer views over Dublin.

A polished mirror surface at the top of the skycatcher will allow natural light and passing clouds to animate the entire interior of the hotel.

Aside from providing light to the building, the skycatcher will also heat, air and power the building.

The hotel will aim to be the most sustainable five-star hotel in Europe and will include natural ventilation, zero energy cooling and combined heat and power generation on site.

The skycatcher concept, however, did not impress Michael Smith, former chairman of An Taisce, who describes it as a "greedy cybership".

In a letter to the council, he objects to the demolition of Georgian buildings which, he said, "are among the most distinguished quayfront buildings in the city, protected structures and in excellent condition. In an era of aspirant sustainability their proposed destruction, particularly at the hands of rock musicians (and their friends) is execrable."

The impact of the proposed hotel along the quays would "dwarf adjoining buildings and dominate the Liffey quays", according to the Irish Georgian Society.

In its submission, An Taisce suggests the proposed development would be more suited to an unconstrained development site, such as in the docklands area.

Other objectors to the scheme include the Irish Conservation Group and Conor Martin, owner of the Purty Kitchen in Dún Laoghaire, who has just purchased Bad Bobs pub across the road from the Clarence.

A decision is due later this month.
© 2007 The Irish Times

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