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This topic contains 4 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  MT 12 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #707601


    Hi again,

    As well as signs and signals there are a number of other differences I notice between northern and southern streetscapes. Strangely, despite the fact that Northern Ireland is considerably poorer than the Republic the standard of finish on the streets of towns and cities is frequently superior IMO. The North’s stagnant economy may not have manifested anywhere near the same quality of architecture in recent years but for the renewal of many public spaces the reverse is often the case.

    Anyway, a few observations to begin with:

    Tarmac versus concrete footpaths. Outside of decoratively paved town centres the former is used up north, the latter down south. In short concrete simply doesn’t compare – in this climate it never retains its colour turning an unsightly green/brown shade. On top of this it has a tendency to crack. The result after a number of years is that all pedestrian areas in residential areas, bus stops etc. are left with a jaded, even dilapidated appearance. I mean concrete surfaces are best suited to farmyards. Black tarmac has none of these discolouration/cracking problems. Provided its robust high quality stuff it ages much more gracefully.

    Leaning telegraph poles. You’ll rarely find a town or even village centre up here that doesn’t now have modern lighting and all telephone wires piped under ground. In comparison its still common enough to find many central streets down there strewn with lopsided telegraph poles supporting a cat’s cradle of lines. Add to this an interesting variety of streetlights attached to these and you have a visual blot on the appearance of even the most picturesque town.

    Boundary walls. There seem to be far more of these in general down south and they’re a pet hate of mine. Houses everywhere seem to have these bordering their properties – often they’re of a completely disproportionate scale, frequently seem to be unfinished, rarely repainted etc. Whether it’s just that they require separate planning permission up here, or something else, hedges and fences are much more prevalent. In any suburb or housing cluster these have a much less harsh appearance on the eye. And aside from their unrivalled kitsch factor walls often seem to compete visually with the house rather than supplement it – until they fall into disrepair and just detract from everything. Anyone fancy driving a bulldozer past some front gardens in Donegal’s bungalow jungle?!!

    Walls in the middle of nowhere. There seem to be an alarming number of these down there, particularly along roads leaving towns. What are they for?! Do fields surrounding towns have a privileged status that requires their separation from traffic by a grimy breeze block wall? Surely townie cows aren’t on steroids. Again, like boundary walls they’re an eyesore and should be replaced with fences or hedgerow.

  • #749852


    in my experience it’s not money that affects the quality of public space finishes, rather it’s sense. my home town is a prime example of what not to do. the cabling for christmas decorations is left up all year, the power lines and telephone cabling is haphazard and unservices, frankly ugly.

    my biggest gripe is with groundworks and service works. walking down oliver plunkett street last weekend i was mildly impressed by the decent stone finish that had been used at the pedestrian junctions. casting my mind forward six months i can see a team of esb/eircom/contractors ripping up the road to lay a watermain or cable, and replacing the brand new stone with uneven tarmac. drives me to drink.

  • #749853


    It takes an outsider to notice those odd things we take for granted in our environment. I couldn’t disagree with any of your observations and some I had never thought about such as leaning traffic lights and lamp posts.

    My impressions from time spent in the North a few years ago are as follows:

    looks like the UK
    (obviously) letterboxes and phoneboxes, ads for products not sold in the Irish market, colour of roads, signage

    better cars and roads
    probably not so much any more

    Urban battlements
    crazy military building in every town with turrets and razor wire (turns out to be police stations)

    pedestrian lights
    that change in a few seconds instead of minutes

    Everything is tidier – even the people were better groomed and more neatly dressed

    tribal paraphernalia
    PLO flags, painted kerbstones, murals

    not very relaxing
    being told to keep my voice down all the time in case anyone heard my accent

  • #749854


    I find alot of Northern villages disturbingly twee. I like wild countryside, i hate trimmed hedges, then again my mum from kildare likes trimmed hedges, guess its down to where your from!

  • #749855



    Urban battlements
    crazy military building in every town with turrets and razor wire (turns out to be police stations)

    Yeah, as well as the lower standard of architecture up here we also have to contend with the legacies of the troubles. There’s no doubt the south clearly leads the way where architectural design – both quality and quantity – are concerned.

    Everything is tidier – even the people were better groomed and more neatly dressed

    I really couldn’t comment on how people dress but there is IMO some truth in the impression with regard to urban development at street level. Thing is, I’m not sure why this difference exists, any thoughts? But it does seem to be the case – whether it be dilapidated signs, leaning street lights, pavement maintenance etc. there does seem to be a more lax approach down there. In my view this is a bit of a pity as I feel that a dilapidated streetscape detracts from the often high standard of building design it frames. Should add here that both NI and the Republic are left trailing by the quality of architecture and streetscapes in many European countries. Having said that, if you could combine the qualities of both respective regions in Ireland you’d have a big improvement all round. I’m a believer in the idea that a high standard of urban design and maintenance – whether it’s street furniture or 20 story buildings – contributes greatly to civic pride with all the attendant benefits such as communal confidence that generates.

    In respect of maintenance, here’s a specific point: Donegal Sq. and St. Stephens green. Both of the extensive footpaths around these where not that long ago repaved with granite flags stones. However, the surfaces of the latter have long since lost their attractive appearance through not being cleaned regularly, if at all. This is a great shame as they now look little better than your average concrete slabs. Why the disparity – surely DCC has more money at its disposal for maintenance than BCC. I mean, why expend all that public money in the first place if after a few years you allow the granite pavement to deteriorate to the appearance of a regular city footpath.

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