FANS of U2 swear that the Irish rockers have changed the face of music, but the band members Bono and The Edge have just won a long legal battle that adversaries claim will fundamentally worsen the landscape of their native Dublin.
The multi-millionaire singer and guitarist are co-owners of the Clarence Hotel, an art deco establishment that once catered to country dwellers visiting the capital but which they transformed a decade ago into a fashionable boutique hotel.
For the past four years, Bono and The Edge have fought for the right to remodel the Clarence on a grand scale, incorporating adjacent buildings of historic interest in the city’s lively Temple Bar.
They commissioned Norman Foster to contrive a futuristic landmark for their new venture. The British architect came up with a £120 million ($250 million) plan to rip out the present buildings and more than triple the number of the hotel’s rooms to 166.
Crowning the remastered building is a vast, floodlit glass roof atrium, which he dubbed the Skycatcher, but which conservationists and local critics have referred to as a flying saucer.
The U2 band leaders and their property developer partner, Paddy McKillen, said in a statement that the verdict was “great news for Dublin and for Temple Bar in particular”.
That view is not shared by a wide range of opponents to the scheme, who point out that the planning decision runs roughshod over legislation intended to protect buildings of historic, architectural or social importance.
Even the state planning authority, An Bord Pleanala, which gave its approval, produced a damning report last month, describing Foster’s development as “conceptually brilliant but contextually illiterate”.
In a compromise, the planning authority ordered the developers to preserve the facades of six buildings, including the original 1930s hotel and five other Georgian and Victorian buildings.
The Clarence sits at the heart of the Liffey Quays, a piece of urban design set out by the Duke of Ormonde in the late 17th century and to whom the architectural historian Maurice Craig attributed the arrival in Ireland of the Restoration.
It is this legacy that its opponents argue will be seriously undermined by the U2-Foster project.
“The Skycatcher will dominate Dublin’s skyline and it’s a pub, basically. What does that say about our city?” said Emmeline Henderson, conservation research manager of the Irish Georgian Society.
An Taisce, Ireland’s heritage protection authority, also condemned the decision.
“It undermines national legislation on architectural heritage because of the number of protected sites being demolished,” said its spokesman, Ian Lumley.
In its final ruling, An Bord Pleanala said the planned hotel would “provide a building of unique quality and architectural distinction”.
Even Dublin City Council was not a fan. It hired a conservation architect to conduct an impact assessment that argued: “Dublin’s beauty as a capital and its claim to being one of the greatest of surviving Georgian cities depends on its whole fabric of streetscapes rather than a collection of resounding buildings – the quiet ease of understatement, something rarely found in Europe.”
News Source: The Times