Design versus Conservation and the Value of Time. What is the meaning of place? Session 1.

Session Chairs: Fintan Duffy and Colm Murray

Fintan Duffy is an  architect and teacher of architecture in Waterford, Ireland. He has over 30 years experience in practice in France and Ireland and has been teaching in WIT’s Department of Architecture and Technology since 1998. He is a member of ICOMOS as well as a regular participant in the EAAE’s Conservation Workshop seminars. His current conservation research interest is on the the problem of the re-use of redundant churches, particularly around the question of continuity of meaning.

Colm Murray is the Architecture Officer of the Heritage Council, with qualifications in architecture, planning and building conservation. His current work areas include the heritage-led urban regeneration, the development of traditional building skills training provision, and the role of values in conservation decision-making. The process of ascribing value to places was the subject of his research scholarship at the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, in spring 2016. He has extensive experience of the practicalities of building and urban conservation through the grant-giving and policy-advocacy roles of the Heritage Council.


Understanding character: the case of heritage towns in Ireland.

Arthur Parkinson, University College Dublin, Mark Scott and Declan Redmond.

Despite the shelving of Ireland’s Heritage Towns Programme in the late 1990s, the local public has often continued to use the designation in a variety of contexts. However, this use is often at odds with both the original scheme, and with more recent attempts to refresh the broad concept of a ‘heritage’ town. Based upon a critical discourse analysis of planning archival and interview material, the paper examined the competing representations of ‘heritage town’ status used in a specific small town in Ireland, to develop a better understanding of its impact, appropriation, and use by the public. The paper concludes that the continued public embrace of heritage town status is significantly underpinned by non-expert representations of ‘character’, rooted in the role of historic places in identify formation and maintenance. This presents a challenge to policymakers working with the public towards heritage tow designation, but also an opportunity to enhance place-making strategies that seek to make use of heritage assets, both in Ireland and further afield.


A TIME THICKENED PLACE: The Tenement Museum Dublin Project and the collision of oral history with conservation best practice at 14 Henrietta Street.

Dr Ellen Rowley, IRC Post-Doc Fellow.

Charles Duggan, DCC Heritage Officer

‘No, no, Henrietta Street in those days, in my time, was known as Hentown.  And it was a figure of love, loyalty, pride; people were proud to say they came from Henrietta Street… Definitely not that tenements were run down… We were very aware that the ceilings and the coving was all Georgian… it wouldn’t be unusual for American tourists to knock and ask to see the ceiling, because Georgian ceilings were in place … but we were not aware that people of say ‘a better quality’ lived there before us, no.’         14 Henrietta Street resident, 1961-1972

The conservation mantra of ‘do as little as possible: as much as necessary’ chimes through the stablisation works at No.14 Henrietta Street, a speculatively-built house from 1749 which, since 2007 has been in the portfolio of Dublin City Council’s Heritage Office. Bit by bit, as windows were reinstated (2012) and the structure improved, the conservation team extended the mantra, adding ‘walls can surely talk’. Because across its five floors, the house’s walls were pock-marked with nails, wallpaper layers, partition junctions, mid-C19th florid stencils and C18th plaster friezes, barely discernible under coats of paint.

This paper presents the idiosyncratic conservation and adaptive works necessitated within this extra-ordinary house as it is being made into a museum – the Tenement Museum Dublin Project. As planning permission for a museum was granted in 2015, the house’s own testimony of its past –house as primary artefact – was joined by those of former residents. In 1911, after all, 100 people lived here. The conservation direction shifted according to the memories of those last families, moving out only in the 1970s, so that along with preservation, the project was underpinned by adaptation and story-telling. Controversially, the original front stair and hall is being reinstated, and the house as a time-thickened place with talking walls is opening to the public in early 2017.


The Development and Archaeology Strategy for King’s Island, Limerick (DASKIL).

Maria Donoghue, architect with Limerick City Council.

Limerick’s Medieval Fabric is close to the surface. With little or no effort, we can see remnants of Limerick’s rich and long history, connecting us very tangibly to our forebears,
their lives and our own past. To understand where we have come from helps us to recognise ancient ideas that are embedded into our contemporary culture, our built environment and our practices. This awareness shapes our identity, enriches the spaces we live in and creates a convivial sense of place and wellbeing.
However, this archaeological resource was identified as a constraint to badly-needed physical and socio-economic development in the King’s Island area. To mediate between
these positions, the Development and Archaeology Strategy for King’s Island, Limerick
(DASKIL) was commissioned and developed by Limerick City and County Council to help
mediate successfully between the protection of King’s Island’s rich extant archaeological
fabric and the need to respond proactively to necessary socio-economic and physical urban revitalisation.
In 2014, the DASKIL, which was researched and compiled by Aegis Archaeology and Fourem Conservation Engineers, was launched. This document is intended as “an articulation of a strategy for ensuring that the development of sites considered in [the Regeneration] project could be delivered in a manner that could maximise the conservation of the archaeological resource (in line with current government policy), while recognising the urgent necessity for the physical regeneration of the area within the study.”
The DASKIL provides a baseline to develop a pilot townscape heritage initiative in King’s
Island, which includes dealing with the condition of historic and protected buildings within the Council’s ownership, and encouraging future maintenance and use of these buildings.
By adopting the Design Process guidelines put forward in the DASKIL, the design of each
building project where substantial work is required will be strongly influenced by the extent of archaeological remains identified, in that the extent, type and position of foundations, drainage routes, and so on, would form part of a fully-integrated solution.
If effectively executed, this initiative will have a national and international impact in addition to local significance for the residents of King’s Island, Limerick. Limerick City and County Council would like to present the DASKIL as an agile element of the design process that can respond to the mores of 21st Century construction industry while working to retain ‘place’.