Dubliners, who have witnessed immense changes to their city as it has prospered in the last decade, will likely soon see vertical development on a more intimate scale to provide orientation to the city's otherwise horizontal spread. The development follows the erection of the Dublin Spire, perhaps the slenderest tower to beat all slender towers:
DEGW's John Worthington, author of Managing Intensification and Change - A Strategy for Dublin Building Height, made a number of points about high rise cities which appear to have been taken on board by the powers that be. "High rise" and "tall buildings" are relative terms, he says. "In a city quarter of predominantly one or two-storey buildings, those of three to five floors could be considered of significant height." DEGW identified four key heights: low-rise (up to five floors or 15 metres); mid rise "groundscrapers" (up to 15 floors or 50 metres); high-rise "skyscrapers" (up to 40 floors or 150 metres) and super high-rise (above 150 metres).
Worthington's contention is that high-rise buildings have a role to play in intensifying and signposting cities. "Used sparingly, they can become landmarks to navigate an increasingly complex urban landscape and provide spectacular views both for those who live in and visit the city, and those who actually inhabit them."
"I wasn't a supporter of the Spire but now that it's there it does mark the centre of the city," says Dublin City councillor Kevin Humphreys (Labour). "So areas can be defined by landmark development. Such a building at The Point, for instance, would draw the eye down the Liffey telling people where a shopping and recreation area is, as well as marking the gateway to Dublin for those arriving by boat."
Interestingly, the insertion of the Spire into a formerly seedy central neighborhood along O'Connell Street mirrors deeper cultural changes taking place in its shadow, where the nature of Irishness is being transformed with the influx of immigrants:
Historically and geographically, O'Connell Street is the heart of Dublin. The boulevard, which runs south about five blocks to the River Liffey, has emerged from several decades of seediness, thanks to a continuing refurbishment that aims to create a Hibernian version of the Champs-Élysées, centered around a 394-foot-tall steel needle, the Spire of Dublin.
But step off O'Connell Street in almost any direction, and you glimpse a different Dublin, a parallel city that is neither homogenous nor traditionally Irish. In a tiny enclave within two blocks of the main artery there are a nascent Chinatown, a budding Little Odessa and even touches of West Africa, all catering to a recent influx of immigrants drawn to the country's economic prosperity.
Meanwhile, in the sprawl that currently characterizes the city of Mississauga, Ontario (Canada's fifth largest city; a suburb of Toronto), a recent competition for a 50-story condominium tower carries similar identity-defining weight. The city's Absolute development seeks to center Mississauga in a way not dissimilar from the way the Dublin Spire provides orientation to its surroundings: (via, also)
Everyone's heard of the Bilbao Effect, but what about the Mississauga Effect?....
Created by a young Beijing-based firm, MAD, this is no ordinary architectural icon. It's a statement about the power of design to establish a sense of place and context.
"Suburbs around the world want to become metropolises," Yansong Ma, founder of MAD, said yesterday. "But we don't think they should. They have their own character. They should create their own identity."
I'm curious how locals receive additions like these, that literally loom on the horizon. Consider the way monuments that the Arch transformed the image of St. Louis, or how the Eiffel Tower (perhaps a more apt comparison is the Tour Montparnasse) has done so for Paris. What are the implications of such a provocation? What about when the place in question is known to be one of the most unlovely anywhere?