Irish Georgian Society

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The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

Book of the Month: Making Magnificence

05.05.2017

Posted by IGS

Book of the Month: May 2017
Making Magnificence: Architects, Stuccatori, and the Eighteenth-Century Interior by Christine Casey

This book tells the remarkable story of the craftsmen of Ticino, in Italian-speaking Switzerland, who took their prodigious skills as specialist decorative plasterworkers throughout Northern Europe in the 18th century, adorning classical architecture with their rich and fluent décor.  Their names are not widely known – Giuseppi Artari (c.1690–1771), Giovanni Battista Bagutti (1681–1755), and Francesco Vassalli (1701–1771) are a few – but their work transformed the interiors of magnificent buildings in Italy, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, and Ireland.  Among the interiors highlighted in this deeply researched, beautifully illustrated volume are Palazzo Reale in Turin, Upper Belvedere in Vienna, St. Martin in the Fields in London, the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, Houghton Hall in Norfolk, and Carton House in Ireland.

For the month of May, you can purchase this book at the special price of €50 (RRP €60)

Published by Yale University Press

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Limerick Chapter: Tour of Abbey Leix House

19.04.2017

Posted by IGS

Abbey Leix: A rare opportunity to visit & lunch at this splendid house 

You are invited to join the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society on a tour of Abbey Leix House in Co. Laois. This country house dates from 1773, and is surrounded by gardens and woods; our visit will coincide with the spectacular bluebell display. 

An incredible opportunity to visit and lunch at the spectacular Abbeyleix House. All proceeds of this tour are going to our Small Works Scheme to repair historic architectural street features in Newtownpery, LImerick City. You can read more about that Scheme here.

Drinks and buffet lunch will be provided. Numbers are strictly limited and booking is essential. 

Price: €100 per person. Book online via this link.

Meet outside No. 1 Pery Square Hotel, Limerick at 9am. Carpooling is encouraged. Arrival at Abbey Leix at 11am. 

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Cork Chapter Presentation of an ‘Irish Georgian Society Commemorative Glass’

11.04.2017

Posted by IGS

Glass Gilding has long been revered in Cork, as is evidenced in towns such as Clonakilty and Skibereen. The City Council’s rebranding of Mac Curtain Street as ‘The Victorian Quarter’ should prize its availability in authentic refurbishments. Traditional Sign Crafts and Decorative Painting Skills have long been championed by the Cork Training Centre. The upcoming retirement of instructor Gerry Fitzgibbon prompted a renewed commitment to such valued tuition through the launch of its City and Guilds accredited course on Decorative Painting Skills. Recently, members and friends enjoyed a lecture and demonstration, by Gerry, organised by the Cork Chapter. Needless to say, they were resolute in their support of keeping such skills alive.

To find out more about the Traditional Sign and Decorative Painting Skills courses offered by the Cork Training Centre, visit www.corktrainingcentre.ie

Image: Geraldine O’Riordan (IGS Cork Chapter) presenting an ‘Irish Georgian Society Commemorative Glass’, to Donough Cahill, Executive Director, on behalf of Gerry Fitzgibbon and the Cork Training Centre in acknowledgement of their support to the Traditional Decorative Arts.

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IGS submission RE: Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme

10.04.2017

Posted by IGS


Re:       Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme

The Irish Georgian Society welcomes this opportunity to comment on the Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme as part of the on-going public consultation currently being held by the Office of Public Works. 

The Irish Georgian Society is a membership organisation, which encourages and promotes the conservation of distinguished examples of architecture and the allied arts of all periods in Ireland. These aims are achieved through our education programmes, by supporting and undertaking conservation works, publishing original research, planning participation and fundraising. The Society has had a marked and widely acknowledged impact on the conservation of built heritage in the state and has wide experience of the problems associated with the restoration, repair and maintenance of the fabric of historic property.

The Society considers that that the implementation of appropriate flood protection measures is of critical importance to ensuring the long-term conservation and viability of the historic core of the City of Cork. The Society acknowledges that difficult choices will have to be made in choosing the appropriate flood protection measures for the River Lee and that it is inevitable that a balance will have to be struck between the negative impacts of works on the historic built environment and landscape and the positive impacts associated with the management of flooding incidents of the River Lee (including the positive impacts reduced flooding will have on buildings of architectural and cultural heritage importance in Cork City). It is clear that pursuing a “business as usual” approach to the on-going problems associated with the flooding of the River Lee is unsustainable.

However, the Society is concerned about the extent of intervention to the historic quay walls of Cork City Centre proposed under the Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme. The removal of original historic fabric and the construction of proposed new structures is likely to result in both a significant negative impact on the architectural heritage of Cork City and a significant change to the character of river corridors. The experience of the Netherlands, considered to be world leaders in flood protection, is particularly instructive. Heavy criticism and strong opposition to intrusive flood defence works in the river area of the Netherlands, which resulted in the demolition of historic buildings and loss of historic character, triggered the establishment of numerous commissions of review (e.g. the Becht Commission in the 1970s and the Boertien Commission in the 1990s) and resulted in several revisions of approach in order to reduce the impacts of reinforcement on, inter alia, the cultural and historical value of the landscape. Intrusive, structural flood protection works in the historic city centres of the Netherlands are notably absent, with an emphasis instead on a system drainage ditches, canals and pumping stations.

While the Society welcomes proposals the repair, cleaning and repointing of historic quay walls, which will result in positive impacts, the Society has serious concerns about the following works proposed under the Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme due to the scale of loss of historic fabric and the extent of change to the historic built environment:

·         Removal of low limestone ashlar parapet walls at Grenville Place, Batchelor's Walk, Kyrl's Quay and Coal Quay and replacement with concrete walls, which in some areas will be clad with concrete.

·         Removal of open parapets consisting of nineteenth century cast-iron bollards and horizontal bars and replacing these with concrete walls. This will obstruct the views to the river, which, at some points, are of considerable cultural and historical importance.

·         Removal of open parapets consisting of nineteenth century limestone bollards and horizontal bars and replacing these with concrete and in some places glass walls. This will obstruct the views to the river, which, at some points, are of considerable cultural and historical importance.

·         Removal of modern railings and capping walls and replacing these with concrete walls and railings.

·         Many of the proposed public realm enhancement works, which are at odds with the character of the historic centre of Cork.

Heritage and Ireland’s historic environment is estimated to account for €1.5 billion or 1% of the State’s Gross Value Added (GVA) and some 2% of overall employment (approximately 65,000 employment positions).  The Heritage Council’s 2011 publication Economic Evaluation of the Historic Environment Ireland sets out the following:

‘In addition to the contributions of the historic environment sector 'inner wheel' and built heritage construction components, the historic environment also has a significant impact on people's decisions to visit Ireland.

Fáilte Ireland's Visitor Attractions Survey provides much valuable information on visitor attractions in Ireland and highlights for example that no fewer than 4 of Ireland's top 10 paid admission attractions fall within the strict definition of the historic environment…

While substantial direct expenditure accrues as a consequence of these and other historic environment attractions and sites (including admissions fees and ancillary spend on souvenirs/ retail etc.), on a fundamental level the historic environment also serves as a central motivating factor for wider tourism to and within Ireland…

Notably, results from a recent survey of visitors to Ireland reveal an overwhelming majority alluding to elements of the historic environment as being 'very important' in their consideration of Ireland for a holiday…

In summary:
Including indirect and induced effects, it is estimated that tourism expenditure attributable to the historic environment supports more than 17,000 (17,129) FTE employees in Ireland.

In terms of national income, this translates into an economic impact of approximately €650 (645) million towards Ireland's GVA.’

Proposals set out in the Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme for significant structural works along historic quay walls would not seem to be consistent with international best practice for flood protection in and around historic urban cores. The historic centre of Cork is a unique urban landscape, which is the result of centuries of interaction between humans and nature. While it must be acknowledged that the character of the River Lee corridor cannot remain static, works which result in a significant or profound change to the historic character of the river corridor should only be pursued as a last resort in circumstances where there is no other alternative. Moreover, aside from the importance of preserving our cultural heritage for future generations, the importance of the interrelationship between the historic built environment and the historic River Lee corridor to the tourist economy cannot be underestimated. In this regard, it is considered significant that other European countries have achieved successful flood prevention and mitigation along river corridors without the need for the destruction or profound alteration of the historic built environment. The Irish Georgian Society respectfully submits that the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Lower Lee Cork City Flood Relief Scheme does not clearly identify why there is no other alternative but to remove or alter so much of the historic quay wall in Cork City.

The Society would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss the issues outlined above. If we can be of any further assistance to this important initiative, please not hesitate to contact us.

(Image: Proviz Creative for OPW)

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Book of the Month: Brought to Book: Print in Ireland, 1680-1784

07.04.2017

Posted by IGS

Book of the Month: April 2017
Brought to Book: Print in Ireland, 1680-1784 by Toby Barnard 

Brought To Book considers what was written, printed, published, owned and sometimes read in Ireland between 1680 and 1784. It seeks to evaluate the ephemeral and what has subsequently vanished in order to challenge some common assumptions about the nature and impact of print during the period. It is based on the surviving texts and the letters and comments of contemporaries. Peopled with authors, publishers and readers, it offers a novel approach to the history of the book in Ireland. Also, it places print in the mental and material cultures of the eighteenth century, and among the efforts to subordinate Ireland more firmly to England. It suggests how enthusiastically Ireland plunged into the cultural currents of the eighteenth century – cosmopolitan rather than introverted and insular. 

For the month of April, you can purchase this book instore at the special price of €40, or online for €50, with free international postage.

Published by Four Courts Press

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IGS submission RE: ‘Ireland 2040: Our Plan – National Planning Framework. Issues and Choices’

05.04.2017

Posted by IGS

Re. Ireland 2040: Our Plan – National Planning Framework. Issues and Choices.

The Irish Georgian Society welcomes this opportunity to comment on the Issues and Choices Paper published in this first phase of consultation by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government on the National Planning Framework. 

The Irish Georgian Society is a membership organisation, which encourages and promotes the conservation of distinguished examples of architecture and the allied arts of all periods in Ireland. These aims are achieved through our education programmes, by supporting and undertaking conservation works, publishing original research, planning participation and fundraising. The Society has had a marked and widely acknowledged impact on the conservation of built heritage in the state and has wide experience of the problems associated with the restoration, repair and maintenance of the fabric of historic property.

Management of built heritage is a key pillar of sustainable development  - it must not be viewed as a stand-alone consideration or constraint when formulating the spatial strategy for Ireland
The Society welcomes the following comments at Section 5.4 of the Issues and Choices Paper, which recognise the vital importance of the importance of the active use of built heritage assets to proper planning and sustainable development:

“Ireland has a rich vein of heritage ranging from the iconic historic buildings and sites within our towns and cities, to the natural heritage of our countryside. The NPF is an opportunity to refocus on the sustainable and adaptive reuse of our existing and historic assets, regenerate existing areas and reduce pressure for unsustainable expansion on the edges of our settlements.”

The Society acknowledges that the drafting of the National Planning Framework is at an early stage and that the Issues and Choices Paper is not necessarily a reflection of the final content of the NPF. However, the Society is concerned by the fact that reuse of existing building stock (particularly when so much of the existing building stock is vacant or underused) is barely mentioned in the 54 page Issues and Choices Paper. Specifically, the two sentences quoted above from Section 5.4 comprise the only reference in the Issues and Choices Paper to reuse of Ireland’s existing building stock, with the clear emphasis of the document being placed on the construction of new development (e.g. “There will be a need for an absolute minimum of half a million new homes, which is at least 25,000 additional homes, every year”). It is of concern that the only reference to reuse of existing building stock is included under a section, which mostly sets out “threats” and constraints to development. This is misleading and grossly undervalues the importance of the historic environment in proper planning and sustainable development.

The 2011 publication The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse of the Preservation Green Lab (a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation) provides that “reuse of buildings with an average level of energy performance consistently offers immediate climate-change impact reductions compared to more energy-efficient new construction”.  The document goes on to state that:

“Most climate scientists agree that action in the immediate timeframe is crucial to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Reusing existing buildings can offer an important means of avoiding unnecessary carbon outlays and help communities achieve their carbon reduction goals in the near term”.

Similarly, Built to Last: The Sustainable Reuse of Buildings, published by Dublin City Council and the Heritage Council in 2004, found that “constructing new buildings on brown-field sites is more expensive than retaining and re-using existing buildings except in situations where the extent of building repair and refurbishment required is extremely high”.

The NPF must make it clear that the sustainable reuse of existing building stock will be a key element in ensuring that the core objectives of the National Planning Framework are achieved. As alluded to in Section 5.4, reuse of existing building stock will not only ensure the protection of our built heritage by keeping it in active use, but will contribute to urban regeneration; the revitalisation of our village, towns and city centres; and combat urban sprawl. In short, the most sustainable building is the one that already exists.

Moreover, the contribution of heritage to the economy is significant. Heritage and Ireland’s historic environment is estimated to account for €1.5 billion or 1% of the State’s Gross Value Added (GVA) and some 2% of overall employment (approximately 65,000 employment positions)[1]. Achieving balanced economic development will be a core goal of the NPF and heritage can play a significant role in this.

For these reasons, it is of crucial importance that consideration of heritage (including built heritage and historic landscape) is not side-lined, but is a central considertion in the formulation of the new National Planning Framework. Perpetuating the view that built heritage is a constraint on development and failing to provide clear statements in spatial planning policy about the importance of the historic environment to achieving key strategic goals is likely to frustrate the implementation of the adopted NPF.

National Planning Framework must be informed by the National Landscape Character Assessment

Much of Ireland’s most distinguished architectural heritage is to be found in its landscapes, whether it be National Monuments or protected structures, ecclesiastical buildings and ruins or country houses, whether grand or modest in scale.  What is distinctive for all of these structures is their siting and setting.  Furthermore, their associated lands and/or demesnes had been designed, elaborated, planted and inhabited to enhance the setting.  Rivers, loughs, hills, magnificent valleys and mountains are all engaged and embraced whether as framed views or as elements within the designs.

The gardens and designed landscapes of the 17th through to the 19th century were extensions of the plan of the house, to be experienced through all the senses as one inhabited outside spaces or moved along walks or rides.  House and landscape were often a single coherent design.  Ancient monuments and sacred places along with ruins and churches have been engaged in a visual dialogue across the land with country houses and their designed landscapes, each renewing their importance and redefining their significance.

In the attendant landscapes of country houses, ancient woodlands have been greatly valued.  Individual groups of trees, avenues, boundary zones and new woodlands have been planted for both utility and amenity value.  They have created microclimates, providing shelter for buildings and productive land.  They have heightened the experience of the setting, and they have composed views, framing significant natural and manmade features.  Natural watercourses and features were augmented with man made versions for utility and beauty and water was managed for supply and productivity in a way that contributed to the landscape.  These landscapes, large and small, along with the fields enclosed with walls or banks and planted with hedgerows that now contain mature trees, all coalesce to make collective creations of singular importance.

Woodlands, wooded valleys, boundary planting and hedge rows form important ecological corridors and networks, so important not only to maintain biodiversity but also in their contribution to carbon sequestering.

The final National Planning Framework will direct growth at a national level, including the necessary major strategic infrastructural development necessary to support that growth. Having regard for the potential for such development to result in impacts and cumulative impacts on sensitive landscapes, it is essential that any future spatial strategy for Ireland be informed by a detailed analysis of Ireland’s landscape in order to ensure that the final strategy can be implemented. The Society acknowledges that the Issues and Choices Paper makes reference to actions in the National Landscape Strategy to “develop a National Landscape Character Assessment in Ireland… on a trans-boundary basis … [to] … complement Northern Ireland’s Landscape Charter.” However, there is no suggestion in the Issues and Choices Paper that this work will be undertaken in advance or in tandem with the preparation of the emerging National Planning Framework. It is unclear how a robust spatial strategy for Ireland can be adopted in the absence of a comprehensive assessment of the national landscape character. The completion of the NIAH Survey of Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes will also be of significant importance in determining preferred locations for major infrastructural development.

Other important initiatives relevant to the drafting and implementation of a new National Planning Framework:

  • Creation of a database of assets of national and international heritage importance: the existing system for the protection and management of Ireland’s historic environment comprises a fractured and convoluted system implemented by means of multiple enactments, regulations and statutory guidelines. Numerous bodies hold responsibility for elements of architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage and these bodies pursue different approaches to the protection and management of structures, sites and landscapes of heritage importance. Information on assets of architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage importance have been assembled into a number of different resources (e.g. the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, the Survey of Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes; the Record of Monuments and Places; the Sites and Monuments Record; the list of National Monuments; county Records of Protected Structures; the UNESCO World Heritage List, etc). The existing system is opaque and difficult to navigate. Consideration could be given to collating a database of sites, monuments, buildings, gardens and landscape of national and international heritage importance. A number of these resources already identify the importance of architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage assets (i.e. identify whether an asset is of national or international importance). Such a database would have numerous benefits including:

(i) informing the drafting of the NPF by identifying areas of particular architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage sensitivity;
(ii) improving public engagement (including tourist engagement) with Ireland’s historic environment; and
(iii) providing a clear and simple resource for developers and investors so as to promote certainty and help direct investment appropriately.

  • Resourcing: Many relevant bodies, including local authorities and An Bord Pleanála, do not have a dedicated conservation officer or do not have adequate staff resources in terms of suitably qualified conservation professionals. This acts as a barrier to the effective implementation of national strategic planning policy for many reasons, including:

(i) Insufficient resources at local authority can be an impediment to developing planning policy at local level (i.e. in the statutory plan) to a sufficient level in order to provide adequate direction and certainty in relation to development within or in proximity to the historic environment or within historic landscapes;
(ii) In the absence of the expertise of a suitably qualified conservation professional, assets of architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage significance can go unidentified and can be lost or damaged due to be inappropriate, albeit well-meaning development; and
(iii) Lack of access to suitably qualified conservation professionals can cause significant delays in the adjudication of planning applications of all sizes, preventing issues related to the impact of development on assets of architectural, cultural and archaeological heritage being identified at an early stage during the planning process (e.g. at pre-planning consultation) and increasing the likelihood of appeal and, ultimately, refusal of permission on heritage grounds.

Given this, the Society submits that the NPF must include a clear objective that all consenting authorities and authorities with forward planning function (e.g. planning authorities, An Bord Pleanála, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, etc.) be adequately resourced with suitably qualified conservation professional.

Conclusion
The Society calls on the Government to demonstrate the central role of Ireland’s historic environment to the achievement of sustainable development and the achievement of balanced economic growth in the National Planning Framework. If we can be of any further assistance to this importance initiative, please not hesitate to contact us.

[1]    Please see the Heritage Council’s 2011 publication Economic Evaluation of the Historic Environment Ireland for further details on the importance of heritage to the Irish economy.

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