'Vertical park' funded by Irish diaspora proposed for abandoned Anglo site


A RADICAL proposal is being made to transform the concrete skeleton on Dublin’s North Wall Quay, once mooted as a future headquarters for Anglo Irish Bank, into a “vertical park” in time for the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

The site is owned by Liam Carroll’s Zoe Developments group, which went into liquidation in 2009 with debts of €1.3 billion, and is now controlled by the National Asset Management Agency.

A Dublin architecture firm is seeking a licence to develop the seven-acre site “on behalf of the people of Ireland” to put in place a landmark on the Liffey Quays that would “nurture sustainable vision-making” and proclaim a new future.

The Trees on the Quays project “is wholly achievable and will happen if the political will is there to support it”, said lead architect Paschal Mahoney, who has been working on it for months.

“A development budget of anywhere between €25 million to €50 million would ultimately be required depending on how much the scheme expands and what it eventually includes,” he said, adding that much of this could be raised from the widespread Irish diaspora. In return, donors would have their names etched in the concrete structure.

Developed by Mahoney Architecture, the Trees on the Quays group is seeking support from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Dublin City Council and – most of all – Nama. “If we get heads of agreement with Nama that the site would be made available for, say, 10 years, that would be a big step forward,” Mr Mahoney told The Irish Times.

The licence would need to be made available free for the proposal to succeed. He added: “Even a tiny fraction of the Irish diaspora would create a huge fund to develop this project and there would also be enormous benefits for nearby buildings, such as the convention centre and O2.

“The continued goodwill and involvement of the expanding project team as well as the necessary seed funding can ensure the project’s ultimate realisation. And once the development is up and running it will be entirely self-financing through a not-for-profit organisation.”

A video has been made detailing the imaginative plans to convert the site into a vertical garden, flanked by a neighbourhood park and a hollowed-out hill for public events.

“The public outcry against the great burden of debt imposed by the collapse of the Celtic Tiger resonates in this forlorn concrete frame. With ruin on this scale, many are looking for a better approach to development and the management of our national assets,” the Trees on the Quays group says.

It believes the legacy of ruin “can and must be transformed into one of renaissance and redemption”, and it opposes the notion “that this derelict structure will be dressed in glass and metal to become yet another anonymous office building”.

Inspiration came from Dutch architects MVRVD’s Netherlands pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover, which featured trees growing at different levels, and the High Line in New York City, where an abandoned elevated railway was turned into a linear park.

The Trees on the Quays group proposes a similar vision, re-imagining Anglo Irish Bank’s concrete structure as a multilevel city park – with its floorplates “punched out” to make room for trees and the resulting rubble reused to form a hill alongside.

New voids in the “honeycombed lattice” would be filled with banks of earth to create a stepped landscape where trees and other plants would grow, while the “labyrinthine floorplates” would form “meandering routes around plant beds and through tree canopies”.

Existing service cores would be adapted to provide stair and lift access in this “controlled recolonisation by nature, rather than commerce, of the abandoned shell of the Anglo Irish Bank building”. There might also be a cable car link to the south quays.

The entire building would be “self-energised”, according to Mr Mahoney. “We’ve looked at this with engineers working in the sustainable energy sector and it would have its own wind turbines as well as solar panels taking advantage of the south-facing orientation.”

Placed on top of the building, overlooking the city, would be an ellipsoid structure containing a “Meeting Room for Very Important Decisions, a highly public and transparent venue within which future issues of national importance can be openly considered and debated”.

This would be counterbalanced by a hill with a hollowed-out core, formed by the concrete rubble – “Hill 2016, resurrected from the ruins of our most recent troubles”, much like Hill 16 in Croke Park was made from some of the rubble from O’Connell Street after 1916.

Its amphitheatre, with space for “thousands”, would provide a venue “where open and public debate can take place.”

The third element would be a neighbourhood park along Mayor Street.

The treesonthequays.com website will be live from Monday