An Bord Pleanála approves redevelopment of ESB headquarters

Sam Stephenson and Arthur Gibney building to be demolished as part of €150m project

The Sam Stephenson and Arthur Gibney designed   ESB Headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street.

The Sam Stephenson and Arthur Gibney designed ESB Headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street.

 

The ESB has been granted permission by An Bord Pleanála to redevelop its headquarters on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Street at a cost of about €150 million.

The work will include the demolition of the existing 1960s office building designed by architects Sam Stephenson and Arthur Gibney, despite appeals to the board that it should be preserved as a unique example of 20th century architecture.

In its ruling, the board said notwithstanding the “high architectural quality and the historic significance” of the building, it was not on the record of protected structures and its demolition could go ahead.

In the 19 conditions attached to the permission, the board ordered a “preservation by record” survey be undertaken by the company on the Stephenson/Gibney building known as Block A.

In 2013, the ESB announced its intention to build new offices on Fitzwilliam Street, but the proposal did not comply with the Dublin city development plan.

This required the Georgian facades of the 16 buildings, which were demolished to make way for the headquarters almost 50 years ago, to be reinstated.

City councillors voted last year to change the development plan, removing the reference to facade reinstatement, and including a provision that any redevelopment “respects and enhances the character and composition of the Georgian streetscrape”.

Objecting to the proposal, An Taisce had said the development, designed by Grafton Architects and O’Mahony Pike, failed to achieve this and was in parts “a frivolous and poorly informed response to an important and highly sensitive setting”.

The development did not protect the existing architectural and civic design character of the Georgian district and due to its size and bulk did not protect the setting of the many protected structures surrounding it, An Taisce said.

Shane O’Toole, an architect and leading expert on 20th century buildings, told a planning hearing on the scheme last June that Block A was a “unique and crucial component” of modern architectural character in the Georgian core, and should be retained.

While the current offices are fronted by the Stephenson and Gibney building, they are actually an amalgamation of several buildings constructed from 1948 to the late 1980s.

The new office complex will be modern but, the company says “respectful of the surrounding Georgian area”.

Instead of recreating 18th century facades, the development will attempt to “reinstate the Georgian rhythm” by dividing the building into five blocks or “fingers” to suggest the width of historic house plots.

The development will be almost 50,000 sq m, including 36,917 sq m of office space. Some 440 bicycles will be accommodated, along with 110 car parking spaces.