Thursday 17 April 2008

Hotel design a major coup, says Edge

THE DEMOLITION of the Clarence Hotel, Dublin, a protected structure, and its rebuilding to a design by British architect Norman Foster was "an incredible coup for Dublin city", U2 guitarist and one of the owners of the hotel, the Edge, has said.

He was speaking outside a Bord Pleanála appeal hearing against plans to demolish all but the facades of the hotel, its expansion from 49 to 140 rooms, and the addition of a metallic elliptical roof called the "sky catcher".

One of the appellants to the project, conservationist Michael Smith, yesterday described the proposed building as a "cannibalistic behemoth" and said the sky catcher would look like a spaceship had landed in Temple Bar.

The hotel had done an "immense amount of good for the city", the Edge said, but it had run into financial difficulties in recent years and, if it was to be sustained, it needed to be redeveloped.

Although the hotel and surrounding buildings, which have been purchased for the €150 million extension and redevelopment, are listed on the record of protected structures, it is proposed that they will be demolished and only their front facades retained.

The fact that the building was designed by Foster, who created the Swiss Re Tower in London, known as the "Gherkin", was an incredible coup and "outweighed the sacrifice of parts of ordinary period buildings", the Edge said.

The 34-metre high five-star hotel with its "sky room floating above the city" would be "completely commensurate with the scale of that grand street - the river Liffey", Andy Bow of Foster and Partners told the planning hearing.

It would "soften the impact" of nearby buildings such as the Central Bank and Civic Offices and would bring "new vitality to the west end of Temple Bar". The demolition of the buildings and the back facade would rid Essex Street of its "prison-like" look, he added.

An Taisce's Kevin Duff said the applicants had not demonstrated the exceptional circumstances which are legally required to permit the demolition of protected structures.

The design was an "unsatisfactory combination of facade retention and new build", he said, and was the largest proposed demolition of protected structures since legislation was introduced in 1999.

Architect James Kelly said the design came "perilously close to pastiche".

Mr Smith said the architects had shown no awareness of the surroundings. "This building is in the wrong place - like a little black dress on your great aunt," he said.

The Irish Times

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