Archer's garage rebuilt after razing


Five years after it was illegally demolished on a bank holiday weekend, Archer's garage on Fenian Street in Dublin has finally been rebuilt.

The razing of the distinctive late 1940s art deco building, demolished over the June bank holiday in 1999, provoked huge controversy and its reconstruction became a long, torturous and disputed process.

The new version is a gleaming white building with significant glass frontage, attached to an office block development and adjacent apartment block at the site near Merrion Square.

Before the former garage was razed it was the only surviving building on a largely derelict site.

IIB Bank is scheduled to move in at the end of October, and two final planning permission applications are outstanding - for signs, flagpoles, a clock and a 1.8 metre-high glass screen at roof level on the former garage and adjoining offices.

Archer's has been described as a "revolutionary" building because it was the first in Ireland to be built of reinforced concrete and to be fitted with fluorescent lighting.

Two storeys high, it was a landmark mainly because of its "chunky" corner tower, where the sign was also done in reinforced concrete.

In the wake of the demolition, the planning laws were changed to increase the maximum jail term for the illegal demolition of listed buildings, from two to five years. The maximum fine of £1 million remained unchanged.

The developer, Mr Noel O'Callaghan, who owns a number of hotels in Dublin, including the nearby Davenport, Mont Clare, Alexander and Stephen's Green hotels, forestalled prosecution by signing a legal agreement with Dublin Corporation to reinstate the building.

Reconstruction of the garage, originally scheduled for September 1999, started in 2001 but was halted as the developer, local residents and other associations became embroiled in a series of disputes and appeals in the planning process related to the garage, and the adjoining office and apartment block development.

While An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, welcomed the buildings' reconstruction, it has expressed great concern about the state of other important listed buildings.

A spokeswoman said: "While Archer's garage, a mid-20th century building, can easily be replaced, this is not the case with our older buildings, many of which we will lose through neglect."

The organisation called for Dublin City Council to "to show similar resolve in ensuring that owners of protected structures maintain them properly".

The spokeswoman added that the council's enforcement section should take action "on cases of non-compliance reported to them".

A Dublin City Council spokeswoman said, however, that the council had a very strong commitment to enforcement of the planning code and allocated significant resources to this.

Archer's garage was an example of how "we did use our authority and powers to ensure that a building which has heritage standards was replaced".

The spokeswoman said the authority took appropriate action on protected buildings, but had to abide by the planning laws and the processes involved, which often took longer than desired.

An average of 1,300 complaints per year are submitted to the council, a large number of which are from An Taisce.