Submission to the Limerick City Development Plan: "In recognition of the special quality of the brick and timber sash windows which defines the character of the major part of the city's historic building stock..."
The Plasticisation of Limerick
Friend's submission to the Limerick City Development Plan Review:
Limerick, mock Georgian PVC window capital of Ireland
"In recognition of the special quality of the brick and timber sash windows which defines the character of the major part of the city's historic building stock..."
Mr. Maurice Moloney, City Manager, 8th.June 1998
Civic Offices , Limerick.
RE; SUBMISSION ON 1998 LIMERICK CITY DRAFT DEVELOPMENT PLAN REVIEW.
For decades the lack of planning control on Limerick's noble streets and
terraces has been a source of frustration and bewilderment to those
concerned about Ireland's cultural heritage and environment. The current
Limerick Corporation Review of the City Development Plan presents the
opportunity to address the matter.
With is impresive Shannonside setting, medieval heart of Cathedral and
Castle, great Newtown Pery layout of steets and Crescent, and new Hunt
Museum Limerick should be poised to take its place in the premier league of
European historic cities of its size. However the Limerick Corporation
Development Plan provisions providing for the maintenance of the city's
architectural heritage have not increased in content or effectiveness over
the last three decades. Limerick's failure of planning enforcement of
Development Plan Listed Building objectives to ensure that detrimental
Material Alterations are subject to Planning Permission, is unequalled not
just in Ireland, but probably in any European historic city. The level of
unauthorised aluminium and uPVC replacement all over its listed Classical
terraces gives Limerick the dubious distinction of being open to
international ridicule as the Mock Georgian Plastic Capital.
The 1998 Limerick City Draft Development Plan shows that Limerick
Corporation is not remotely confronting its responsibilities. Despite the
high quality work that has been achieved in projects such as the Milk
Market, the Hunt Museum, the conversion of the Presbyterian Church, and by
Limerick Civic Trust in different locations, the quality of the overall
historic fabric is spiralling downhill. Uncontrolled gritblasting and
cement pointing is ravaging the city's older brickwork and uPVC windows
dominate most streets.
This situation cannot continue.
Limerick is now seeking to promote itself as a Heritage Tourism
destination, for which huge EU funding has been granted for the
overwhelmingly worthy Hunt Museum project and the very dubious Castle Lane
one. The city cannot continue to market itself in this way and draw down
EU funds, while the quality of its real architectural inheritance is
Since 1997 Ireland has ratified the CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE
ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE OF EUROPE, ( the Granada Convention 1985). This
imposes a European Treaty obligation on Ireland to maintain its distinctive
part of Europe's architectural heritage. Limerick Corporation as Planning
Authority for what is a significant European historic city is obliged in
conjunction with central government to implement a co-ordinated series of
measures in accordance with the Treaty Articles.
The most im- Mediate priority is to ensure that the current Development Plan
review process achieves a comprehensive Listing and planning control
framework for the preservation and enhancement of the city's historic
building stock. Its most im- Mediate objective must be to halt the tide of
plastic window infestation and initiate its appropriately designed reversal. As the same
time the commercial core of the city must be strengthened against the
threat of peripheral development, while reducing the level of dependency on
the motor car as primary means of mobility.
THE PLASTICISATION OF LIMERICK
WESTERNMOST RENAISSANCE CITY IN EUROPE
PLASTIC MOCK GEORGIAN CAPITAL
HERITAGE TOURISM INVESTMENT - SHAM AND REALITY
Limerick has received what is in terms of international significance,
quality of design and huge good value for the EU grant involved, the most
impressive single heritage investment in Ireland; the Hunt Museum. At the
same time it has also received what is probably the single most dubious
"heritage" development in the entire country, the £3.8 million EU and
Shannon Development Castle Lane beside King Johns Castle (above right).
This includes the "reconstruction" of a 19th. century warehouse of the very
type still being demolished in the Milk Market area. It is a Disneyesque
piece of historical conceit basically designed as a large tour bus stop
pub,while the real heritage of the city suffers progressively accelerating
HONKEY TONKEY LIMERICK
As the city and economy grows the dependency on motor car mobility grows
even more dis-proportionally, due to the failure to invest in public
transport and promote cycling. The approach roads around the city are
becoming more like a mid west American city (above centre) . The design
reference for places of social resort are becoming more American (below
left and centre). When the "traditional" style is adopted in pub
refurbishment the result is over blown parody, such as "The Newtown Pery".
This adopts a bogus establishment date of 1806, but in its lumpy teak
street frontage, illiterately used Classical detailing plonked onto the
first floor windows, and kitsch clock, lamp and uPVC windows represents the
total anthesis of the simple design elegance of the early 19th. century.
The appearance of the city's terraces large and small is now dominated by
uPVC or coated aluminium windows,(above right and centre right), poorly
performing and inappropriate materials for the Irish climate as the
deteriorating new Tourist Office shows (below right).
THE NEW CIVIC ARCHITECTURE - AMBITION AND REALITY
Limerick more that any any other Irish city has commendably sought to design
new public buildings in a bold confidently contemporary idiom. The Louvre
pyramid in Paris shows how innovative contemporary design and materials can
compliment and add to the impact of historic buildings. Unfortunately the
new Civic buildings in Limerick have been let down by poor quality
materials and detailing. The Civic Offices (above) are ageing
disappointingly. The rusting gate and girders of the Kings John's Castle
Visitors Centre makes it look like and abandoned factory planthouse.
THE REAL TREATMENT OF LIMERICKS REAL HERITAGE
The real importance of Limerick is the extent and quality of its 18th. and
19th. planned streets and buildings. All over the major terraces original
sash windows with their delicate glazing bars and hand made glass have been
needlessly swept away and replaced by plastic flip out frames of various
incongruous designs. Catherine St.(below left and centre), Villiers
Almshouses (below right). Despite the European status of Limerick as a
major brick Classical city no concern or attention has been directed into
enforcing proper maintenance standards. However while hideous window
replacement can be reversed in the future, the abuse of brickwork through
ill advised grit blasting in the name of cleaning cannot be. This leaves
the surface pitted and its performance lifetime drastically reduced.
Blasted and pitted brickwork in Catherine St. with absurd new add on cement
detailing (above left). Brick facade in O"Connell St. being attacked by an
industrial shot blasting company in the course of a Sunday morning (above
THE LEGACY OF THE 1960'S AND 1970S
Limerick suffered as badly as Cork or Dublin
from poor quality and out of scale buildings
in the 1960s and 1970s.AIB and Royal George
Hotel O'Connell St. (above) and various State
and Semi State offices in the Henry St. area
such as Telecom (below). Many of these
facades have poor quality facing materials
and window systems which will require
total replacement in the im- Mediate future. In
contrast the city still abounds with 150 to 200
year old buildings with brick facades and
timber doors and windows capable of
performing satisfactorily for generations more.
QUALITY OF RECENT COMMERCIAL ARCHITECTURE
Of all Irish cities Limerick has been the most successful in achieving an
overall coherence of quality and scale in the the extensive development
generated by the Urban Renewal Tax incentives from the late 1980s and
throughout the 1990s. A mixture of new buildings have satisfactorily
re-established streetscapes in Henry St. (above right), and Charlotte Quay
(above centre) though the effect of the slate clad plantrooms is
unfortunate. Cruises St. though bringing about the undesirable demolition
of the old Cruises Hotel, has been designed as an open shopping precinct
satisfactorily fitting into the grain of the city (centre and bottom
right). The conversion of the former Presbyterian Church in Henry St. to
offices (below centre) is a model of sensitively designed and creative
CRUDE DESIGN QUALITY OF uPVC WINDOWS
uPVC and aluminium coated uPVC is incapable of replicating the subtle
design quality of Limerick's traditional sashes. It cannot be moulded or
modelled satisfactorily to suit arched window opes as Sullivan Insurances,
4 Hartstonge St. graphically illustrates (above left). A major fault
common to almost all uPVC windows is that the opening section is set within
the main frame, so that the mock pane divisions of the fixed and opening
sections are of different sizes and do not line up, O'Connell St. (above
centre and right). A unique uniform terrace in Hartstonge St. Lwr, exhibits
some of the ugliest window replacement in Ireland (below left). Only No.
8 (centre house below centre) retains its original camber headed Wyatt
windows on the upper floors. The flats converted Nos 9 and 10 and the
corner building forming 29 Henry St., occupied by Colin Marsden Chartered
Accountant, are treated with grotesque flat headed uPVC parodies, even
worse when swung out in an open position. However the hinged windows of No.
7 shows that wrongly designed timber replacement is as bad as anything in
PILLARS OF SOCIETY SETTING THE WORST CIVIC EXAMPLE.
Apart from representing an act of Civic vandalism all of the inappropriate
uPVC windows in the Crescent area are ILLEGAL Material Alterations to
Listed Buildings, which if subject to appeal to An Bord Pleanala would not
be given planning permission. In the 1991 and previous Limerick City
Development plans the Crescent is designated for preservation under List
"A"and the surrounding streets are designated list "B" which requires that
"any proposal to alter or demolish shall be the subject of an application
for permission to the Corporation" While the Corporation's failure to
its Statutory responsibility is indefensible, so to is the behaviour of
some of the most prominent property owners in the city.
THE LEADING OFFENDERS WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER
Limerick Leader Ltd. Newspaper, 54 O'Connell St (above left)
The Jesuit Order, north side the Crescent (above centre)
Belltable Arts Centre/ Arch Confraternity, 69 O'Connell St
The Medical Profession,e.g. Dr. Morgan Costelloe's surgery
13 Barrington St. (below left).
St. Vincent de Paul Hartstonge St. (below left centre).
The Estate Agents eg; Frontline 28 Mallow St , and
G.V.M. 26 Cecil St (below right centre and right).
The Legal Profession. e.g. Lucy Collins Solr. 55 O'Connell St.
THE QUALITY OF LIMERICK CRAFTSMANSHIP AND DETAILING
Limerick adapted the form of the Classical terrace to create a distinctive idiom
of proportion detailing and craftsmanship. The terraces of the late 18th.
and early 19th. century are distinguished by a superb soft textured brick.
There is a hierarchy of door designs ranging from tri-partite in the
grander houses in O'Connell St (above left and right centre) and the
Crescent, where doors are flanked by three quarter columns with pilasters
framing the embellished glazing of the sidelights. Off O'Connell St the
more important terraces such as Mallow St (below left) have full columned
doorcases, while more modest examples such as in Catherine St. have half
columns (below left). The quality and survival rate of embellished
fanlights in the city is outstanding. Original windows indicate an
accomplished school of joinery in Limerick. Sashes are executed to a
carefully considered Classical proportion in the size and number of panes.
Despite rampant plastic replacement there are still hundreds of sashes of
150 to 200 years in age around the City capable with good maintenance of
being given indefinite life. These retain most of their original hand made
crinkled crown or sheet glass (above right) which give the facades an
irreplaceable patina and texture in diffusing and reflecting light, sun and
shadow. All to often old sashes are unfairly written of as jammed, shabby
or even rotten when the problem is only one of over accumulation of paint,
needing to be stripped back.
THE WESTERNMOST RENAISSANCE CITY IN EUROPE
The layout of what was first called Newtown Pery outside the Medieval Walls
in the 1760s, was distinguished by a bold Classical grid plan, recalling
that of Edinburgh but equally the cities of North America with which
Limerick had such close links. The area acquired an impressive sequence of
uniform brick terraces culminating in the uncompleted Pery Square in the
mid 19th. century (above left.) . The greatest achievement was the
combination of the double Crescent and great length of O'Connell St (left)
creating a major axis parallel with the river. Off the west end of this
were streets with well proportioned terraces of the early decades of the
19th. century, notably Mallow St (below) and Barrington St. (above
centre). Newenham St. (above right) contains more modestly scaled houses.
ORIGINAL COMMERCIAL AREAS OF NEWTON PERY
The eastern end of the great New Town layout adjoining the medieval city
was designed with uniform terraces of shopkeepers premises such as Patrick
St (above left) and Ellen St (above right). 4 Patrick St the birthplace of
Catherine Hayes "The Swan of Erin " the most internationally acclaimed
Irish singer of the 19th. century (below left) and 34 Denmark St. (below
right), both of the early 1800s are the best reminders of the former
character of the area.
EXTENSION OF COMMERCIAL AREA INTO RESIDENTIAL
Most of what is known as Georgian Limerick is the legacy of a prosperous
merchant, professional and trading class. The majority would have done
business in their own houses. In locations such as Roches St. stone
warehouse adjoin residential terraces . As the late 19th. century
progressed the area of retail and commercial activity spread westwards
along O'Connell St,(above left) and southwards along William St (below).
Business activity became more prominent in the streets off O'Connell St.
such as Cecil St (above right). However the character of the upper floors
remained largely intact though with the original sashes very often replaced
with larger pane divisions. In some cases facades were plastered and
embellished such as the Chamber of Commerce O'Connell St.
THE PLASTIC WINDOW INVASION
Removal of sashes and replacement with top hung frames begun only in the
1970s initially with tropical hardwood and later aluminium. The window
replacement problem only began to make a serious impact with uPVC coated
aluminium in the 1980s followed by solid uPVC in the 1990s. The phenomenon
is already becoming second generation with plain aluminium hinged windows
installed in the late 1970s or early 1980s being replaced by mock Georgian
uPVC, showing that modern factory window systems have a performance life of
no more than 15 to 20 years. A jarring variety of inappropriate
materials and opening designs now dominates Thomas St. (entire left and
below left), O'Connell St (above left) and the Crescent, Catherine St.,
(above right ) Cecil St., Glentworth St (below left), Mallow St., and all
of the city's other main Classical terraces. The example the treatment of
Adrian Greaney's Solicitors ground floor offices in 8 Catherine Place
illustrates how even the inappropriate alteration of one floor can ruin the
character and quality of an entire building (below right).
FIRE SAFETY PROBLEMS OF ALUMINIUM AND uPVC WINDOWS.
Most prefabricated uPVC or aluminium based replacement window systems in
older buildings are double glazed and top hung. This means that the window
is impossible to climb out through in an emergency ladder rescue evacuation
situation. Because of the air cushioning effect of the double glazed seals
windows are difficult to break without heavy implements either from inside
or outside. The above photograph shows the behaviour of uPVC/Aluminium
frames in a recent fire in 32 Denmark St. Limerick. While new fire
Regulations coming into effect on July 1st.1998 require that bedroom
windows should be openable to facilitate emergency ladder assisted egress,
this is not applicable to the converted flats such as Mallow St. (above
right) and hotels such as in Glentworth St (below right). While the fire
trapped occupant of a uPVC double glazed sealed room would of course die
primarily from loss of oxygen, once sufficient temperatures are reached
uPVC building components such as fascias, windows etc. are subject to
meltdown emitting dioxins posing a risk to firefighters.