Temple Bar

Temple Bar Framework Plan 1991

In 1991 Temple Bar Properties Ltd. initiated what was the most important architectural competition held in Ireland for years, the Temple Bar Architectural Competition. What it was looking for was an Architectural Framework Plan to outline a set of architectural and urban design proposals that would provide the physical basis for the sensitive urban renewal of Temple Bar as a unique cultural quarter with substantial residential accommodation.

The brief asked competitors to put forward ideas to convert the broad objectives for the renewal of Temple bar into a plan incorporating these major elements:

  • The East-West Pedestrian Route and permeability
  • Public Open Areas
  • Pedestrianisation, Traffic Movement and parking
  • Provision of Residential Accommodation
  • Streetscape and Heritage
  • The need to encourage Movement and Activity

The competition was won by a group of young, like-minded and forward-thinking architects called collectively Group 91. This comprised of Shay Cleary Architects, Grafton Architects, Paul Keogh Architects, McCullough Mulvin Architects, McGarry NíEanaigh Architects, O'Donnell and Tuomey Architects, Shane O'Toole Architects and Derek Tynan Architects.

In response to the particular set of issues that Temple Bar represented, Group 91's winning entry suggested 'no single solution, rather a flexible series of integrated responses…to release the dynamic potential of Temple Bar, while reinforcing its unique sense of place in our city.' In other words it was not a rigid, prescriptive masterplan but a general, working design guide.

The plan itself envisaged a community of 3,000 citizens living in this enclave within the city. It endeavoured to consolidate and conserve the existing character of the area whilst simultaneously injecting new life and architecture.

The East-West Pedestrian Route and permeability
In its details, it sought to use the historic street pattern to reinforce a newly pedestrianised backbone (The Fleet Street-Essex Street axis) along which one would encounter 'a sequence of stimulating urban incidents'. This involved introducing social magnets such as cultural centres and housing as well as intensifying commercial and leisure activities along the axis. A network of lanes and arcades cutting thorough existing blocks, a new curved street, residential courtyards and a new bridge (The Poddle Bridge) all served to increase permeability to the city at large.

Public Open Areas
Three new public squares were crucial to the plan, acting as hearts punctuating the East-West pedestrian route. Each was to be created out of derelict space and corresponded to a different function. Temple Bar Square was envisaged as primarily commercial and retail while Meeting House Square was seen as a performance-based, cultural space with Market Square serving as a residential enclave of heritage. Each would lend a distinctive atmosphere to its respective surrounding streets.

Pedestrianisation, Traffic Movement and parking
The pedestrian-priority East-West axis along with a secondary meandering route and a network of north-south 'spines', traffic calming measures and a ban on on-street parking would encourage a free flow of people through the bustling quarter.

Provision of Residential Accommodation
Residential Accommodation would be provided throughout the area with a particular emphasis on the western end beyond Parliament Street. A dynamic mix of refurbishment and new purpose built apartments, incorporating a large element of student and social housing, would be created representing 'a diverse range of residential opportunities…to stimulate a lively social mix.

Streetscape and Heritage
Both the visible and invisible heritage of the area were considered crucial to its residential and tourism roles. There would be a bias against demolition with listed buildings being conserved and the existing range of architecture enriched by imaginative modern infill buildings. Modern street furniture would be designed to be unique to Temple Bar yet rooted in historical and visual associations.

The need to encourage Movement and Activity
Mixed use was the aspiration, both between buildings in the same block and within the buildings themselves.  This lively mix of uses would ensure colourful diversity and encourage around-the-clock vitality on the streets themselves. Commercial and retail activity on the ground floor coexisting with residential accommodation or cultural activity .on the upper floors.

The Development Programme for Temple Bar 1992

This initial Framework Plan was further rounded out in 1992 with the publication by TBP of a broad-ranging Development Programme, which established a fleshed out framework in terms of the architectural, cultural, retail, residential and marketing programmes for the area.

Architectural Programme
See above

Cultural Programme
TBP intended to maintain and develop the existent mix of cultural activities within Temple Bar; to develop a number of major cultural centres; to develop facilities for small cultural businesses; to adopt a public art initiative; to promote the area as a unique quarter of cultural diversity and to source the capital funding for these cultural objectives.

Retail Programme
It was TBP's intention to consolidate and expand the existing 'alternative' retail uses of the area and encourage further investment by small businesses into the area. A priority would be given to unusual retail uses.

Marketing Programme
The development programme would conduct a marketing campaign to communicate the following key messages about Temple Bar:

  • That it is unique
  • That it is alternative
  • That it is a community
  • That it is an area of economic growth
  • And that it has a leading creative role

Environmental Programme
In addition the Development Programme set out the commitment of TBP to respecting the archaeological significance of the area and to conducting a policy of environmental sensitivity.

Overall the Programme would rollout in two phases: Phase 1 (1991-1996) centred mainly on the area to the east of Parliament Street and Phase 2 (1996-2000) involving the archaeologically important land to the west of Parliament Street, most of which was originally owned by Dublin Corporation.

Temple Bar: An Evaluation

So can the redevelopment of Temple Bar be seen as a success, both in purely architectural terms and in more broadly social, urban design terms? Were any mistakes made and if so what lessons do we learn from them? Within the context of Europe, the project was meant to steer the continent towards a more responsible attitude to its historic urban fabric and lead by example, has it succeeded in this regard?

Set against purely architectural criteria, Temple Bar should be and is lauded as a resounding success. The mere presence of so many groundbreaking and award-winning buildings attests to its undeniable quality. Projects such as the Irish Film Centre, the buildings of Meeting House Square and the Green Building are woven into the historical fabric of the quarter yet are unafraid to challenge and create something wholly contemporary in the process. Throughout Temple Bar we see examples of new architecture that respects history without yielding to an over-literal contextualisation and conservation for the sake of itself. Context was a part of the design equation but not to the expense of common sense nor innovation. 

Residential Quality
The sheer quality of Temple Bar's residential developments demands to be mentioned, from loft living in The Granary, through the mixed-use marvel that is the Printworks, to the 'West End' complex, replete with a green combined power and heat system - each firmly places 'people' at the heart of its concerns. The latter notably includes 30 % social housing - the residents are mainly middle-aged tenants who agreed to surrender houses in the suburbs. Needless to say, they are ecstatic about their new abodes. Nearly 2,000 residents make Temple Bar their home now as opposed to 200 before the transformation.

Group 91
Many of the successes of Temple Bar can be attributed to the character of Group 91 both as a collective and as a collection of hugely talented, individual architects. They had, as Thomas Forget has said, 'the vision to understand the city as a work in perpetual flux' rather than attempting to render it in period statis. Crucially they had a single coherent vision that not only incorporated but embraced diversity. This attitude was perfect for and area such as Temple Bar, which contained a wide range of architectural styles within its boundaries. It was within these varying buildings and the gap sites between them that they conducted their dazzling acts of urban dentistry.

Their framework plan had a faith in architectural design and intervention to complement and mould an economic and social transformation and this faith has proved well founded in Temple Bar. An area previously in decline has been rescued from its fate as an Americanised transport depot and reinstated at the heart of the city, as an important link between the too often dichotomised "north' and 'south' cities.

Temple Bar Properties
This process was undoubtedly furthered by the establishment of a state development company, in the form of Temple Bar Properties, to guide the process in the right direction. Left solely to the private sector the profit motive may have eclipsed the more admirable goal of culture. TBP was in turn helped by the fact that much of the land was in state hands already so it could acquire its new property portfolio with ease. Indeed the fortunes of Temple Bar owe much to the responsible attitude CIE showed its tenants and its reluctance to 'railroad' plans for the monolithic bus centre. Originally TBP was run on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach (now it is the Department of the Environment) and the special interest and patronage of the Taoiseach of the time, Charles Haughey, added impetus to the early stages of its growth.

Public Funding
The availability of public funding, both Irish and European, for various flagship cultural projects such as the Ark helped enormously in ensuring in the first place that they would actually be finished and secondly that precedents were established as to how exactly development should progress. Temple Bar received over £41 million in state money, half of it from the European coffers, on top of £60 million from TBP's property portfolio and a further £100 million in private sector investment.

The importance of leaders
From the outset TBP was staffed by highly motivated people and was led from 1991 onwards by the charismatic and persuasive Laura Magahy. Her unflagging commitment to the cultural project was highly instrumental in its overall success but she was by no means alone. Significant others such as Paddy Teahon, her predecessor, or Michael Gough and Dick Gleeson in Dublin Corporation's planning department bolstered innovation and initiated creative solutions to the problems encountered over the 10 years of renewal.

Temple Bar Renewal
Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be afforded to TBP's sister company Temple Bar Renewal Ltd. Established alongside TBP in 1991, its remit was to administer and issue tax incentives for the area to ensure a balance of varying uses. This it has failed to do, to the extent that Michael Smith commented that Temple Bar was fast turning itself into the 'Temple of Bars'. It would be hard to argue that the quarter did not have an excess of licensed premises.  Not only the number but the size of these mega-pubs has increased exponentially - previously traditional bars such as the Norseman have succumbed to the profit incentive and created vast drinking sheds devoid of atmosphere.

When pressurised on this issue during the mid-1990s, when this issue reared its head, TBR claimed it did not have the authority to refuse such applications and that it was Dublin Corporation that had granted permission for all the new pubs. Yet this was shown to be patently false when publican Louis Fitzgerald (of the Quays pub) sued the company on the basis that it had exceeded its powers when it had refused to approve tax incentives for his pub extension. The High Court ruled that TBR always had the statutory power to control the spread of pubs within the area. By 1997, when TBR adopted what amounted to a ban on further tax incentives to licensed premises, it was too late as 'Temple Bar' had already become a firm favourite with 'stag party' tourists. Such low-grade tourism was found to be costing the area £57 million is lost higher-spending revenue streams.

Urban Design
Such problems point towards difficulties in practically implementing Group 91's broader urban design and social agenda. Other criticisms finger the quality of the urban design itself. For example, one of the most lauded parts of Temple Bar, Meeting House Square, has conversely attracted much criticism as well. While there is a broad consensus on the quality of the architecture surrounding the square, a few commentators have suggested that the space does not work as, what Richard Rogers would term, an 'open-minded space' full of human spontaneity. It must be admitted that for the first few years, at least, it was grossly underused as an outdoor performance venue, its supposed function. But lately, owing to a full summer schedule of 'diversions' in the square, coupled with the weekly organic food market, it has become a living public space proper. Less successful it seems have been attempts to create a market on Cow's Lane in the west end. Indeed this area should have had a market square of its own but this remained a sketch on Group 91s ideas board.

Poddle Bridge
The lack of people visiting MHS in the past may have been caused by the absence of the proposed Poddle Bridge, which was to create a linear pedestrian path over the Liffey through MHS into the quarter. The bridge was refused planning permission, yet this imbalance has been somewhat tweaked by the recent addition of the Millennium Bridge.

Other Spaces
Other spaces, such as Temple Bar Square have been more successful in attracting crowds but in this case it has more to with location rather than better design. Other spaces like Curved Street have surprises us by maturing into 'open-minded' outdoor rooms, populated by an alternative youth culture that harks back to Temple Bar's days before the transformation.

Art in Temple Bar
Indeed some long-term residents have said that they find themselves yearning for these days before the transformation when they found things edgier, more creative and with a true community spirit. And while it may be true that the environment before the renewal was more in tune with the bohemian and artistic temperament, Temple Bar was then very much an area in decline. Such decline cannot be sustained and as Hugh Pearman put it 'no city of world-class pretensions can capitalise on a culture of decline'. To go forward Temple Bar had to institutionalise, to some extent at least, that which was previously ad hoc and spontaneous. And as Colm Ó Brian, of the Project Arts Centre has said, this is what the various arts bodies of the area have lobbied for and it is up to them to retain a sharper focus and continue to produce good work.

What has happened in Temple bar, despite its flaws, is a wholly original way of doing things to the extent that it combines cultural development with urban renewal and furthermore this development is totally organic, not 'artificially inseminated' from without. It is this that marks it from other European urban renewal schemes and therein lies the lessons to be learnt for other cities within Europe and other areas within the city of Dublin. Indeed it was Temple Bar's successful development guided by an area-based management committee that prompted other inner-city areas to do likewise in the form of area-action plans that are examined in the other sections.

Temple Bar: Howley Harrington Report (2004)

This Urban Framework Plan for Temple Bar was commissioned and published as a discussion document by Temple Bar Properties in early 2004. Its authors are Howley Harrington Architects, in association with Alan Sherwood (Economic and Tourism Adviser) and Dorothea Burger (Landscape Architect). They  carried out over 60 consultations, with residents, business owners,members of the traders organisation (TASCQ), cultural centres, Group '91 architects, Dublin City Council officials, publicans, hoteliers, public representatives and former and current staff members of Temple Bar Properties.

Temple Bar Properties (TBP) no longer has statutory powers, nor does it alone have the power or resources to implement all the proposals of this Plan. Instead, it works closely with Dublin City Council and other key stakeholders including local businesses, cultural organisations, local residents, commercial firms, government agencies and NGOs, to focus on the continued cultural and community development of the area. TBP published the plan in order  to stimulate a process of public discussion that would result in a significant contribution to the new Draft Dublin Development Plan 2005-2011.

The publication firstly recognised that Temple Bar Bar is internationally admired as a model of urban regeneration yet admitted that problems such as anti-social noise, lack of public order, and a run down appearance had become increasingly apparent. It then set out a number of proposals to improve Temple Bar.

1. Design of the Public Domain

  • Clearly differentiate between traffic routes and pedestrian areas
  • Improve and standardize street furniture/signage
  • Improve ambient lighting, floodlighting and feature lighting

2. Improving the Public Domain

  • Ensure that licensed premises/Gardai/security staff all work together to minimize antisocial behaviour
  • Establish a co-ordinated street cleansing strategy between the City Council, residents, owners, TASCO and management companies
  • Maintaining the upkeep of buildings, streets and pavements

3. A 'Living' City Centre

  • Foster a high quality residential quarter with a vibrant coherent community.
  • Provide facilities for this community, in particular children

4. A Cultural Quarter

  • Encourage active curatorial programmes
  • Encourage an innovative Public Art Programme
  • Encourage pubs etc to promote a cultural agenda

5. Seedbed Project

  • The creation of informal, affordable incubator units (based on industrial container trechnology) for artists that can be used in gap sites and exposed to public view

6. Information

  • Bridge the information gap to the public by setting up an Information Centre and Information Kiosks

7. Marketing

  • Properly market Temple Bar as a desirable brand through joint marketing initiatives

8. Identity & Destination

  • Strengthen the physical identity of Temple Bar as an attractive, safe and interesting destination

9. Energy, Water & Waste

  • Make Temple Bar an environmentally sustainable city district
  • Minimise energy consumption / Maximise recycling and composting
  • Encourage alternative sources of energy such as solar heating, wind power and grey water recycling

10. Greening

  • Soften the environment through a programme of planting trees, flowers and climbers

11. Using the River

  • Open out the district towards the Liffey by providing a tree-lined promenade along the waterfront
  • Reducing quayside traffic to one lane for buses, taxis and cyclists
  • Making new urban spaces along the river

12. Dame Street Edge

  • Improving the Dame Street 'border' by widening footpaths and punctuating it with a string of attractive places

13. College Green Gateway

  • Pedestrianise Foster Place and create an entrance into the district
  • Create a galleria and gateway at the Westmoreland St. entrance

14. Central Spine

  • Develop the Fleet Street / Essex Street axis as an attractive central spine
  • Improve the streetscape of this spine

15. Temple Bar Square

  • Improve the activity of buildings around the edges
  • Improve the usability of the square

16. Meeting House Square

  • Encourage the Ark to use to square and their open-air stage more
  • Encourage the Photographic Archive to improve links with the square
  • Encourage the Eden restaurant to use the square less defensively
  • Encourage an active program of events

17. Gateway to the Old City

  • Improve the linkages between the Old City on the west end, and the rest of Temple Bar

18. A West End Magnet

  • Pedestrianise East Essex Street and create suitable paving from
  • Fishamble Sreet across Parliament Street and down the spine of Temple Bar
  • Position artists' SeedPods along this route
  • Create a Citizenship Centre at the basement area of the Civic offices to encourage footfall through the West End

19. Cow's Lane

  • Re-energise the Lord Edward Street entrance to Cow's Lane
  • Redevelop St. Michaels and St. Johns Church

20. A View from Above

  • Create some vantage point
Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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