University's 'joined-up' vision for Limerick


A NEW “joined-up” vision of how Limerick could be developed has been advanced by the University of Limerick (UL) School of Architecture.

The project turns on the idea of looking at the region as a whole with existing boundaries removed. It was devised by award-winning architect and head of school Merritt Bucholz, teaching staff and students.

Yesterday they presented the results of a summer-long “strategic planning think tank” and a specific project to design a new kind of public space for Southill.

“The fundamental thing we are doing is looking at the entire midwest region as one joined-up entity, as if there were no administrative boundaries between the local authorities – Limerick city, Co Limerick Co Clare – as one place”, Mr Bucholz told The Irish Times.

“This is something that each authority is unable to do and the Midwest Regional Authority can’t do successfully because of the competing views of its member counties. So we’re harnessing the intelligence of the university to forge a strategic partnership in the region.”

The UL School of Architecture’s think tank proposed its vision of Limerick based on six policies. It argues that the initiative could change the way local authorities in the area work and deliver important services, like health, education, transport and energy.

Proposals include: a policy for the development of neighbourhoods, rather than merely “housing”; a policy for “the continuity of the urban fabric, instead of “retail/commercial development”, and a policy of “collectivity and shared identity”, instead of art, sport and culture.

Other key changes would include a policy for natural infrastructure to replace “environment, roads, water services”, a holistic approach to strengthening public health and communities, and a policy to “harness intelligence and creativity” throughout the Limerick region.

Mr Bucholz cited the mismatch between Croom National School in Co Limerick, where there are 57 classrooms in prefabs “because it’s so popular” and St Munchin’s College in the city, with four or five playing pitches where the population is in decline.

Referring to the design of a “new kind of public space” for the run- down Southill area, he said there was a need to acknowledge the impact of the environment on the health of citizens and to create public spaces that would “engage people’s bodies and minds”.

The Southill project is conceived as “a catalyst for community participation, a new space expressing directly the relationship between public space and public health”. It is being run in collaboration with the university of Limerick’s Graduate School of Medicine.

Mr Bucholz said there had been a positive reaction to the proposals from senior planners in Limerick when they were presented. The top planning experts included Dick Tobin from the city council and Gerry Sheeran from the county council, and Liam Conneally, head of the regional authority.

Others who attended the launch by the School of Architecture at the university included Dublin City Council’s chief planning officer Dick Gleeson, and Paul Egan, a senior architect in the Department of Education with responsibility for overseeing the design of new schools.