Monday 1 October 2007

U2 hotel 'elevation' hits hurdle

THE former chairman of An Taisce has vowed to fight in the courts radical plans to redevelop the U2-owned Clarence Hotel into a city landmark.

Michael Smith expressed outrage last night at what he calls the "illegal bastardisation" of the protected building, which is to be revamped by Lord Foster. And he said if An Bord Pleanala allowed the application to go through, he would take legal action to save the antique streetscape of the Quays.

Renowned architect Lord Foster has promised that when he revamps the U2's Clarence Hotel it will "define Dublin" in the same way the Savoy is synonymous with London.

In contrast to the existing Clarence -- which has 49 rooms -- the redeveloped hotel will have 140 rooms on eight floors.

It will be topped by a "skycatcher" glass dome and a Viking boat-shaped atrium running up to the roof.

Along with a spa, gym, swimming pool, creche, basement and music venue and a range of bars -- Foster also hopes to have Michelin-starred restaurant The River Cafe.

Although the outside facade of the protected buildings will be kept, the interior will be demolished to make way for contemporary fittings and fixtures. However, Mr Smith accused owners Bono and the Edge of being involved in the "biggest demolition of protected structures" in years.


"The Planning Act of 2000 meant that listed buildings can be demolished in exceptional circumstances," he told the Irish Independent.

"Upgrading a hotel from a four-and-a-half star to a five star does not fall into this category. We have to be careful about what we do to alter the balance of such an important streetscape. This is the biggest demolition of protected structures in years.

"I would hope that An Bord Pleanala would refuse this application, but if they don't I am prepared to litigate it myself and challenge it."

In a statement, developers Foster & Partners said "To make a standard hotel work and to be serviceable, significant surgery needs to be made to the existing fabric. The original concept is the same. The outside of Georgian buildings on Wellington Quay will remain intact.

"Inside, the rooms will be rebuilt to their exact current dimensions and all internal woodwork; panelling will be conserved and refurbished."

Foster & Partner have said that in order to turn the hotel into a rival of the greatest luxury hotels in the world the plans have to be drastic. "If we were to keep the building as it is we would have no scope to create the grandeur and interest that would be demanded."

Foster & Partners hopes the development will achieve the same status as Singapore's famous 120-year-old Raffles Hotel, which was declared a national monument in 1987.

Irish Independent

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