Temple Bar – An architectural view

Archiseek – Irish Architecture Planning Forums – Temple Bar

from “Devin”. I thought that you may be interested in such a high quality post. I have minimum knowledge of this area so I cannot comment sensibly. A fool is an instant expert in a complex or difficult problem. I try to avoid that.

There’s no real thread for Temple Bar, so starting this cos I want to make a few grunts about street furniture and surfaces in the area. Please add whatever you like. I’m sure there are myriad issues.

The general thrust of this is that the place is falling apart. There is no plan, no vision, noone in charge; DCC roads engineers and other operatives are deciding on and executing works to the public domain without planning/architect/conservation input.

If you’re around town at the moment you will have noticed that the failed cobblestone / sett surface on Eustace Street is being relaid.

Just for reference, this is an authentic traditional or “flexible” sett surface on John’s Lane, off Thomas Street, probably dating to the late 19th century.

The sett surfaces in Temple Bar date to the 1990s. The technique used – setts laid on a sand base, not tight together but with gaps, then gravel inserted between and then a tar sealant poured to create a “rigid” surface – is not a traditional method and breaks down after some years so you’re left with this horrible mess (above) and something has to be done. Hence the relaying work now.

Apart from having poor longevity, being non-traditional and comparatively ugly, the tar method is uncomfortable and impractical to cycle on, walk on, or push a buggy or wheelchair over. And in fact a 2004 report – the Temple Bar Urban Framework Plan – recommended relaying the area’s setts to achieve a tighter, smoother surface for these very reasons.

So what’s happening now? Yes, you guessed it: they’re relaying the setts now using the same crappy tar method …. which will break down again and need to be relaid in 15 years’ time incurring further time, cost and disruption to the city.

A section of pavement on the east side of Temple Lane between Cecelia Street and the Temple Bar pub was widened last year in cheap white Chinese granite. They didn’t even bother their arses getting yellow granite for the kerbing in order to keep the consistency of paving in the area and preserve its historic character, which as well as being the right thing to do would also comply with the objective for Temple Lane as a street “with granite kerbing … to be retained or restored” (Appendix 10 of current City Development Plan).

The widening results in this awkward, arbitrary jut-out north of Cecelia Street. The streets around here are very old. The traditional ratio of carriageway-to-pavement should be maintained, unless there’s some overriding public realm gain. It’s not necessary to widen pavements in a pedestrian area with little or no traffic anyway. It just highlights the fact that no plan is being followed and work is being decided on a random basis.

Around the corner on Cecelia Street, DCC’s traffic department managed to cut into two different types of historic stone to put a pole in; the north side of Cecelia Street has an unusual sandstone pavement, probably laid in conjunction with the adjacent Cecelia House, a 7-bay structure built as a medical school in 1836, later owned by the Catholic University and now housing the Urban Outfitters clothing store. As can be seen, the insertion is a shockingly crude display cutting into both the sandstone flagging and an adjoining granite kerb in white cement, and another testament to the fact that Dublin despite its “historic” credentials does not employ the necessary expertise to deal with its valuable heritage street surfaces.

At the junction of Cecelia Street and Fownes Street Lr., a newly installed stainless steel bollard – the only one in Temple Bar? – is set in some sloppy concrete.

Just across from that, a H-bar designed for a large traffic sign has two small parking signs attached to it, with poles projecting above and below the signs.

The jist of all this is that it’s going to cost us. Temple Bar is a major cultural/tourism/historic/entertainment district giving significant vitality and revenue to the city – both much needed at the moment – but there seems to be noone in charge and it’s being hacked to pieces. If we don’t employ the necessary expertise in handling the historic fabric, and if we let the lifers in the roads department relay the setts the way they’ve always done it, it will be degraded and will not continue giving us that vitality and revenue. If we don’t look at getting the more expensive specialist advice and contractors to get surfaces and an overall design of a standard you would see in Finland or Germany it’s going to cost in the longrun.

Groups of international visitors still come to Temple Bar to see what can be learnt about urban regeneration ….. I wouldn’t like to be learning anything from the place at the moment in terms of the detail, presentation and historic character of the public domain.

Incredibly, all the streets mentioned here – Eustace Street, Temple Lane and Cecelia Street (along with the whole central area of Temple Bar) – are within a designated Conservation Area, where the stated development plan policies of Dublin City Council include: “to protect and enhance the character and historic fabric of Conservation Areas in the control of development” (Policy H13) and that “particular consideration will be given to any new signage erected [in Conservation Areas] in order to preserve the character of the area.” (Policy H14)