- Location: Dublin
- Traffic Loading: Heavy
- Client: Dublin County Council
- Elements: Granite Setts
- Completed: July 2004
O'Connell Street is a bustling thoroughfare that sits at the centre of Dublin's Heritage efforts. Throughout a colourful history, it has been a unique and symbolic place which has informed the character of the city as a whole.
The street was transformed more than a decade ago with paving sett in tuffbau’s Tuffbed pre-mixed mortar, which was delivered to the site in silos for the redevelopment project. Today, despite the onslaught of heavy traffic – including 500 buses – seven days a week, 365 days a year, the base stands firm as a testament to the strength and quality of the Steintec solution. What's more it's durability is matched by its aesthetics.
Compare this to some of the side streets branching off, such as Henry Street and Grafton Street. These have had to be upgraded subsequently because while they were laid using similar natural granite paving, the use of inferior bedding materials has meant they are already show signs of fatigue and failure.
Once one of the grandest thoroughfares in Europe, after four decades of neglect, O’Connell Street went through a form of renaissance as part of Dublin City Council's O'Connell Street Integrated Area Plan (IAP) which was unveiled in 1998 with the aim of restoring the street to its former status.
The first plan of its kind to be used in Ireland, the IAP sought to go beyond the often cosmetic changes undertaken by local authorities in addressing rundown areas, seeking to intervene and exert control in as many aspects of the street as possible, ranging from pedestrian and vehicle interaction, the governing of retail outlet type and buildings' upper floor uses, the protection of architectural heritage and wider historic character of O'Connell Street, the regulation of signage and decorative state of private property, as well as radical improvement works to the public domain. Work to realise the plan was delayed by approximately four years, and finally started in 2002.
The main features of the plan included: The widening of footpaths to double their previous width on each side of the street and a reduction in road space to two traffic lanes either side of a slightly narrower central median. The removal of all London plane trees and the installation of over 200 replacements of varying species. The creation of a central plaza area in front of the GPO to address the street's principal building and provide a space for public gatherings and national celebrations.
New street furnishings included custom-designed lampposts, litter bins and retail kiosks. The Spire of Dublin project, the world's tallest sculpture erected in January 2003, occupying the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar. The restoration of the street's monuments, including those of late 19th-century Irish political leader Charles Stewart Parnell, radical early 20th-century labour leader Jim Larkin, prominent businessman and nationalist MP Sir John Grey, and the most challenging of all - the conservation of the O'Connell Monument standing guard at the southern entrance to the thoroughfare. This project was worked on for a number of months by an expert team of bronze and stone conservators in the first half of 2005.
All public domain works were completed in June 2006, finalising the principal objective of the IAP at a cost of €40 million. Work was disrupted by a riot centred on the street which erupted on February 25, 2006. A protest against a planned Loyalist march degenerated into vandalism and looting, with building materials from the works in progress being used as weapons for smashing windows and fixtures.
In efforts to protect O'Connell Street from the planning mistakes of the past, the thoroughfare has been designated an Architectural Conservation Area and an Area of Special Planning Control – both of which safeguards strictly govern all aspects of planning and development on the street. In most cases, not even comparatively minor alterations can be made to any structure, or changes in use, such as to fast-food, without the planning permission of Dublin City Council. The majority of the buildings on the street are now also protected structures.
Dubliners, who are famous for giving blunt nicknames to monuments, used to nickname this street 'the street of the three adulterers' because of the Victorian allegations of adultery made against the three principal figures on the street commemorated by statues: Parnell, Nelson and O'Connell. It was noted humorously that the statue of Charles Stewart Parnell, on which appears his famous words "No man has a right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. To say to his country 'thus far shall thou go and no further’", points to the Rotunda Hospital nearby, once Dublin's main maternity hospital, as though he was encouraging the Irish nation to outbreed its enemies!
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