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The “Restore the Dublin Georgian Mile” Campaign

The original Fitzwilliam facade

The original Fitzwilliam facade

A few months back, we ran an article on the new proposed development of ESB headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street (viewable here) .  The original building caused massive controversy when it was first proposed in 1961.  Its development saw the end of the historic Georgian mile, an unbroken mile of authentic Georgian houses, and the only of its kind in the world.   In recent times, Dublin City Corporation announced in 2011 a city development plan that placed conversation of Dublin’s historic buildings at its core.  A new proposed building design for the ESB headquarters put forward by Grafton architects will see a Georgian esque facade but not full restoration.  Once again, 53 years later, the Georgian house issue is causing controversy anew and a new campaign has been launched to bring back the original buildings.  I spoke to one of their organizers, Declan Dunne, to find out what it’s all about.

Interviewer – “I suppose I would like to start to get a broad overview of what your campaign is all about?”

Declan – “The campaign is all about restoring Fitzwilliam Street to its former glory. The demolition of 16 eighteen century houses in 1960’s Dublin destroyed the longest expanse of Georgian architecture in the world. The insertion of the modernist ESB building, by Sam Stephenson, into the centre of Fitzwilliam Street robbed Dublin of one of the great set pieces of 18th Century urban design.  The ESB plans to demolish the 1960’s office block and redevelop the site. Dublin City Council policy is to reconstruct the facades and return this great urban vista to its original grandeur. However, the ESB plan is a half hearted faux Georgian response rather than an authentic reconstruction. To facilitate this, an amendment has been proposed to the Dublin City Development Plan – which is going to a vote at the March 2014 Dublin City Council meeting. Stop the ESB – Save Dublin’s Georgian Mile.”

Interviewer – “What do you think specifically is right/wrong about the facade idea as proposed by Grafton Architects?”

Declan – “Very little detail is available on the design. It has some references to Georgian elements such as brickwork and window openings. But the essential elements of an authentic reconstruction are missing – windows, doorframes and ironwork.  The ESB has never attempted a plan that would fulfill the Council requirements for reinstatement of the facades. The project was awarded to Grafton Architects – a modernist architectural practice who would be philosophically opposed to historical reconstruction. The project should have been given over to a more sympathetic architectural practice based on the elements of classical architecture.

Interviewer – “Where is your campaign at this moment in time? And is there any events or meetings you would like to direct our readers to in the coming weeks/months?”

Declan –
“The main focus of the campaign is the Facebook page (click here) . The page is used to draw the public’s attention to the proposed Variation 16. Facebook fans have been encouraged to object to the Variation and lobby their Councilors.  The Variation 16 will now go to a vote at the Dublin City Council meeting on March 3rd. The people of Dublin must lobby their Councilors in favour of retention of the existing City Plan. A full list of email addresses have been published on the Facebook page.

Interviewer – “And if you have any additional comments?”
Declan – “This is the last chance the people of Dublin will have to right the wrongs done by bad planning decisions in the 1960’s.”


We will keep you updated with more news on this hot topic!

One Response

  1. Peter Lynch says:

    A representativve of ESB told me this week that their Architects had tried to use “grainy photos” of the original 1960s facade when designing but apparently that didn’t work out.. My belief is that it was always the policy of ESB senior management to rebuild a non-Georgian facade, despite what a majority of people want, namely the restoration of the Georgian facade. Only that approach will look authentic, not the Grafton-O’Mahony Pike design. A key problem is that architects are notorious for trying to impose their own “stamp” .on a building unless the client stops them. In this case the client will not stop them as the client does not want the Georgian facade restored either, partly out of guilt for the 1960s demolition fiasco. ESB senior management views restoring the original appearance as admitting their 1960s predecessors got it wrong by demolishing. Corporate ego will win out over the wishes of the ESB billpayers who will have to finance the project.

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