How to make Dublin better: The architects
Michelle Fagan, president of the RIAI (Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland) and partner in FKL Architects
Small apartments are unsustainable, says Fagan. “Those buildings will always be for a transitional population, and never a community. It is important that places where people live are sustainable.”
The sprawl at the city limits is unsustainable too, she says. “The hinterland has a particular function, to supply the city with food, water and energy supplies. We should be protecting that as a resource and not an area of extension.
“Ghost estates were built in the hinterlands and that’s why they failed, they were unconsidered and built in wrong place.”
Fagan would like to see Dublin become carbon neutral: “We can have buildings that are capable of creating energy… That is what we should be driving in a world where diamonds are more valued than water, yet water is what we depend on to live.”
Mee sees the recession as a time to rethink Dublin. “Architectural education prepares you for lateral thinking. The future is very challenging but it is really interesting learning to use skills better on less.” In the 1980s he lived in Catalonia and witnessed architects banding together as a political force:
“In Barcelona architects were absolutely critical in making fundamental changes in the city.”
He also says change is down to all of us. “I would call for small communities of interest to do it themselves. Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you in next 10 years.”
Mark Turpin, partner at Donnelly Turpin Architects
“Dublin’s size is an asset. It is manageable. The central spine of the city is beautiful – running from Parnell Square, down O’Connell Street up Westmoreland and Grafton to St Stephen’s Green. The greatest untapped potential is how to go from O’Connell Street to the seafront.” With the lack of money people will need to invest time in improving Dublin, he says. “We could do really simple things. Dublin could be cleaner and that’s something we can all do. Dublin could be greener. We need a Boris to focus on what can be done and what’s gone wrong. It is hard for the council, which has a civil service job to manage and run the place, to step aside and reimagine and reinvent in the process.”
Yvonne Farrell, partner in Grafton Architects
“Let’s say there was no building at all over the next few years; what would a society do with the building stock they have? There are cubic metres of empty space. It is really important that we asses the buildings,” she says, adding that it could involve wrapping or reconfiguring them.
She cites a project architects Dermot Boyd and Dominic Stevens have done at the architecture school in DIT Bolton Street coming up with ideas for Nama buildings.
“We are in a changed world. It is about making life meaningful. Pleasure is not related to a bank balance.”
Free activities she points to are Culture Night; Dublin walks, including those by the Dodder, around Bray Head and Howth Head; the Open House architecture weekend, which “shows people are hungry and curious to experience architecture”, and the DublinBike scheme. “It has been one of the most important transformations of the city. It changes scale, changes the sense of connection and pace. Linking Howth to Bray as cycle track would be amazing. Whats critical is how we become involved in our city and not just leave it to policymakers. It isn’t us and them. We are citizens of a republic. It’s our city.”