Let me start with this: I am NOT an architect, not an expert in building design and I also am not a structural engineer or a town planer, so I am not speaking from a place of trained or studied knowledge, BUT I do have an opinion.
On Friday it was announced that Hawkins House in Poolbeg Street, near Tara Station will be knocked down and replaced by a new building. The Department of Health will move out and once the building is finished some other department will move in. The Department of Health will move to the former Bank of Ireland building in Baggot Street.
TheJournal.ie had one of the best articles about this development here and they also provide some detail about the new building.
Through my day job, I know the current Hawkins House building reasonably well and I have to say that it is VERY ugly and doesn’t seem to be structurally safe anymore. Scaffolding is supporting the building in many places OR is protecting pedestrians from pieces that might come off. On the inside, Hawkins House is certainly not modern (it is from 1962), but not too bad looking. However, I can see many areas regarding comfort, but also regarding energy efficiency etc where significant improvements would be hugely beneficial.
After the announcement a good few people argued that building projects and the massive amount of money they will cost shouldn’t carried out as long as sick children can’t be looked after well and appropriately and I can empathise with this point. However, I don’t think one is directly linked to the other or simpler put, I don’t think one should exclude the other!
So with Hawkins House needing some significant work anyway, it probably makes more sense to knock it down than to patch it up.
The newspapers write about the “ugliest building in Dublin” and there are many competing for the prize. Hawkins House is a strong contender, so I was curious to see the proposal for its replacement and shockingly (but not THAT surprisingly) the replacement doesn’t look much better at all. It is a more modern ugly building, but it is questionable if any normal office building can ever look good.
I heard (but have no proof for it) that Hawkins House won some prizes when it was built in 1962 and in the same way the new building could win prizes, but in 40 years time, I would expect the new Hawkins House also being declared ugly. So now change there.
What puzzles me the most, though, is the fact that the current 11 storey building will be replaced with a 10 storey building. How does that makes sense? Liberty Hall and the Ulster Bank buildings are quite near and they are all higher than Hawkins House. And with space limitations in the City Centre, we need to make maximum use of the available space, so I would have expected an INCREASE in height, not a decrease. It should be at least 13 or 14 floors high, not 10.
And if you accept that in 30-50 years it will be declared as ugly anyway, then I also wonder if it should be attempted to make it “pretty” for today’s taste!?