A proposal by Bono to create what has been described as Europe's most spectacular hotel has produced a clash between modernisers and traditionalists in the Irish capital.
The U2 singer has put forward plans for a dramatic structure with a spaceship-shaped glass dome at the summit of an extraordinary atrium extending from the basement to the rooftop. It has been described as a "skycatcher" and a "white hovering halo."
If approved by the authorities, the scheme would undoubtedly provide Dublin with an eye-catching new signature building. The design has been drawn up by the internationally-known London architect Lord Foster, who has said his aim was "to create grandeur".
The scheme involves a radical redesign and expansion of the Clarence Hotel, which is owned by Bono and U2's guitarist, the Edge. It would transform what is at the moment a discreet boutique hotel into an ultra-glamorous new Dublin landmark, on the bank of the river Liffey and adjoining the busy Temple Bar district.
The U2 connection has helped bring famous guests to the hotel: Bill Clinton has stayed there, while models including Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss have been seen eating in its restaurant.
The Irish Republic's unprecedented recent prosperity has seen the opening of dozens of new Dublin hotels in the past decade, but recently some of its largest hotels have closed because of redevelopment.
Bono's plans have aroused opposition since they involve taking over neighbouring Georgian structures and demolishing all but their facades.
Objections have been lodged by An Taisce, the Irish equivalent of the National Trust and the country's most influential environmental authority, and by the Irish Georgian Society, which argues the plans would dwarf neighbouring buildings and dominate the area.
The buildings involved are not generally viewed as exceptional architecture, but they have been described as "individually unremarkable but collectively superb – the essential Dublin, the frontispiece to the city and the nation".
The most outspoken criticism of the new scheme has come from a former chairman of An Taisce, Michael Smith, who has described it as "bastardisation" and "a Fosteresque 21st-century rock star bubble."
Lord Foster by contrast described the development as "an ambitious project – architecturally and structurally – with a confident yet sympathetic civic presence."
He added: "It presents an exciting opportunity to regenerate Temple Bar's river frontage, while also creating a bold new addition to Dublin's skyline."
The new building will, it is said, be no higher than the current Clarence, its developers proposing to maintain the facades of the neighbouring buildings and promising to reinstate their interiors as much as possible.
The developers have just responded to 18 questions posed by the planning department of Dublin City Council, which sought further information on various aspects of the proposal, in particular in relation to the "skycatcher".
The quays where the Clarence stands have been designated a conservation area, with council policy being "to protect and reinforce" what is described as their important civic design character. Planning laws forbid demolition of protected structures except in exceptional circumstances.
An Taisce says the plan is "entirely inappropriate" for protected structures in what is regarded as a historic location, suggesting that it would be more suitable elsewhere. It declared: "It is the sort of scheme which could be developed with advantage on an unconstrained development site, particularly in the docklands."Reuse content