Dublin can learn from high-rise London


Sir, – When decision-makers say yes to a tall building, it has to be right – right place, right motive, right design, right height. It must be tested to ensure it causes no harm: to neighbourhood amenity, to resources, to local infrastructure, to sustainability efforts, to established views and to historic townscapes.

Tall buildings can be an uplifting experience, they can also signal the confidence people have in their city and confidence there should be because Dublin offers so much while holding the potential to offer more.

When I agreed to collaborate with Paul O’Brien, his team at Henry J Lyons and with the inspired Ronan Group [on the Waterfront South Central development in Dublin\it was important for me to provide the guidance which would lead to it being right, to it not causing harm and to it providing the qualities of substance, durability and of delight.

The application has all the right attributes and though visible from along the Liffey valley and some related streets, it will not dominate the city centre. Its visibility will be such as to draw people towards it, to be a landmark for the city from sky and sea.

Frank McDonald has spoken with eloquence (Opinion, February 27th) but with incredulity about the Ronan Group’s project. He is right, the project challenges the policy set out for the site by the planners.

All the new and early 21st-century propositions for tall buildings in London did so too. It took the planning system a few years to catch up and now is a little more in tune with the inevitable and necessary densification of underdeveloped city areas.

London now has good examples. At Vauxhall while developers proposed tall buildings, the planners struggled to embrace them but because of them and the regeneration they brought, the new US embassy moved out of Mayfair to this exciting world south of the Thames.

The eastern cluster of the City of London began its current phase with the Gherkin, on which I assisted, when the planners were against more towers there.

I worked with IM Pei and later Cesar Pelli on Canary Wharf which took planners by surprise but which transformed the economy of east London.

Johnny Ronan’s project is not so out of step with the world as some may think. – Yours, etc,


Design Townscape

Heritage Consultant,

Grosvenor Place,