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June 13, 2012

My Top 5 Losses – Ciarán Cuffe

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Archiseek invited various people involved or interested in the fields of architecture or heritage to nominate their top five losses and why. This week, architect and former Minister of State for Planning, Ciarán Cuffe.

The Dublin Gas Retort House building was a fantastic modern bolted together structure that stood near the current Grand Canal Square in Dublin’s Docklands. It was made from steel and brick,with the brick panels contained within large square steel frames, and towered high over the surrounding buildings. It seemed like the closest we had in Dublin to a Russian Constructivist building and was a huge loss.

Archer’s Garage was a solid early twentieth century Art Deco building that stood on the corner of Fenian Street and Sandwith street until its demolition over a bank holiday weekend some twelve years ago. It was a listed building, but that failed to halt its destruction by hotelier Noel O’Callaghan. Subsequently the building was rebuilt, but the detailing isn’t a patch on the original.

The Carlisle Pier in Dún Laoghaire is remembered mostly for an unloved mid-twentieth structure that greeted travellers on the Holyhead boat. However the modern structure was wrapped around an elegant Victorian railway shed that stood on cast-ironLcolumns that stood on the granite pier. It was illegally demolished by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour company and in its place there’s now boat storage and a car park, with palisade fancing to keep visitors at bay. Had the railway building been kept it would have been a great festival venue in the heart of Dún Laoghaire.

A terrace of early Georgian building stood on Essex Quay until its demolition by Temple Bar Properties in the early Nineties. When they were demolished, the thick rear walls appeared to have been part of the original Dublin City Wall. The buildings could have been refurbished, but sadly the wrecking ball sealed their fate. The buildings were replaced by two mixed-use blocks, one designed by Athur Gibney’s office , and the other by Des McMahon. The McMahon scheme, designed with the help of Sean Harrington has stood the test of time, and is an elegant addition to the Liffey Quays.

I never knew the Aspro Building, but it often figures on lists of modern buildings that were demolished far too soon. It was designed by my uncle Alan Hope, and I wish that I has seen it before it was lost.

There are many other buildings that have been demolished for all the wrong reasons. Had they been properly maintained they could have lasted for centuries more. The Wiggins Teape building on East Wall Road was replaced by a non-descript modern block, but at least its demolition led to changes in the law that favour retention. In recent weeks two buildings were demolished on Benburb Street, that may have been original Dutch Billy building hidden behind Georgian facades. We need to strenghten the Derelicts Sites Act and other laws to make sure that we don’t lose further historic and modern buildings for all the wrong reasons, and to put the onus on owners to maintain their property.

Ciarán Cuffe is an architect and planner. He served two terms as a Green Party TD for Dún Laoghaire and was Minister of State for Planning in 2010-11. He current lectures in urban planning in the School of Spatial Planning at Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street.

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