Re-Berth reconnecting city with River Lee

In the fifth part of our series on the redesign of Morrison’s Island, the team Re-Berth Cork outlines what it suggests for the city centre

Our Re-Berth concept will rejuvenate and revitalise Morrison’s Island and surrounding areas, restoring the public’s connections with the River Lee as a recreational resource, and expose the inherent beauty of Cork’s historic quay walls and maritime heritage.

Central to this concept is a softening of the quays, providing space and access for pedestrians and cyclists, improving connectivity, and the use of targeted interventions that will activate the quay as an important transit corridor to the island of Cork.

This concept will set a new course for a modern re-awakening of Morrison’s Island and surrounding areas to Cork’s rich cultural roots and historic foundation on an island marsh at the mouth of the River Lee.

The New Trinity Bridge will be crafted in traditional ship-building materials such as bronze, steel, and timber to resemble berthing vessels, permanently anchoring Morrison’s Island to South Terrace — the Mainland.

The ethos of the bridge is to instil a new sense of arrival to the city, elevating the existing space from a mere thoroughfare to a reimagined gateway to a new urban space.

The concept that the island is berthed at the mainland is expressed through the design and material references to the historical functions of the quays. The splayed shape of the bridge generates a confluence point, with the double bow and cables referencing the form of tall ships that were once moored on Cork’s quays.

The rustic textures of weathering steel, timber, and bronze will evoke strong feelings of journey and adventure in space and time. 

More contemporary stainless steel elements echo a sense of arrival in Cork’s bustling, modern downtown core.

The westward view from the bridge deck will frame the architectural splendour of Trinity Church in the setting sun, while north-easterly views will establish visual connections to a newly revitalised Morrison’s Quay, renewed river activity, and City Hall beyond.

A transparent, hardened-glass mid-section will figuratively immerse voyagers in the rushing water, drawing attention downwards and towards the historic quays, and create a sense of crossing a threshold — a new gateway to Morrison’s Island.

The taught cable stays, a nod to the tall ships, will conjure a sense of strong, permanent anchorage.

Newly softened spaces and interventions on the adjoining quays will provide convergence points for a diverse range of activities encompassing the river, recreation, commerce, academia, the arts, and ecclesiastical.

Súl na Laoi 

Nestled in the left bank of the river as it meanders past the School of Music, Súl na Laoi or the Eye of the Lee, will be a haven for commuters, lunch-goers, sight-seers, and voyagers.

The proposed deck and tiered seating, curved to reflect the existing river bend and designed as an extension of historic quay steps, draws on the analogy of “giving a child a cardboard box” — providing public unscripted space for a variety of activities.

Separated from the existing quays, to limit impacts on river hydraulics while preserving visual connectivity and a vantage point from which to behold the beauty of the restored quays.

Directing views towards the right bank, Súl na Laoi will illuminate an expanded quayside jetty at the School of Music — reusing the language of the existing quayside projections at George’s and Patrick’s Quays.

This sensory connection with Union Quay will provide opportunities for interaction with the School of Music, enabling students’ thoughts and fancy to take flight.

Landing and berthing areas for river-boats will be integrated, with sculpted cast-iron bollards and mooring dolphins for securing vessels, together with the many fine, existing examples of historical quayside furniture and fenders, which will be conserved in accordance with the principles of the Venice Charter and the Nara document on authenticity.

The Marsh Lily 

Reflecting Cork’s foundation on a vegetated tidal marsh, the 9m-high Marsh Lily installation will serve as a beacon, steering the public towards the city and the quays at Súl na Laoi.

Designed to function as a tidal clock, a pressure gauge integrated in the stem will cause the petals to remain open at low tide, closing gradually with rising waters.

Subtle interventions will expose, conserve, and celebrate the existing limestone quays with sensitivity and authenticity. Rendered unnecessary by proposed grade separations and terracing back from the quays, the existing concrete upstands and deteriorating handrails will be removed to expose the underlying materials — particularly the existing quay capping stones.

Existing timber pile fenders will be rehabilitated and, where necessary, replaced. Warm uplighting will be used to expose the historic limestone blockwork and to enhance nighttime atmosphere.

The quay corridors connecting the new focal points will benefit from dedicated quayside space for pedestrians and cyclists, replacing existing car parking zones.

New quayside furniture will include cast-iron sculptural seats with forms influenced by mooring bollards and cleats. Quayside lighting will be sculpted to resemble native rush vegetation, a purposeful reference to the tidal estuary.

Stepping down towards the Lee channel, grade separation will be used to provide a safe environment for pedestrians, enhance accessibility, promote cycling, facilitate vegetation planting, and draw attention to the historic quays.

The tiered concept will also serve to isolate critical infrastructure from infrequent extreme flood waters, while maximising everyday interactions with the water.

A seamless transition to the new small craft berths at Súl na Laoi will create potential for future enhanced multi-modal transport options. Bike stands and shelters will be strategically placed to draw attention to heritage features where possible.

Greening the Banks 

The proposed greening and vegetation of the quays serves multiple purposes within our Re-Berth concept, including a softening of the space and diversification of textures.

Plugs of native riparian and salt marsh species such as rush (Juncus gerardii) will draw Cork’s intertidal marshlands and authentic natural beauty back into the downtown core.

Plant species with varying tolerance to sea salt and flood waters will ensure biodiversity and survivability of vegetation, provide remediated habitat for birds and other fauna, while serving as an interactive educational reminder of the roles and interactions between physical and biological processes in a tidal river ecosystem.

Deciduous trees and shrubs such as elm will provide terrestrial shade and shelter for pedestrians and cyclists and autumn colour. A new public garden will be created in the vacant space adjacent to the College of Commerce.

Sunken vegetated swales will contribute to sustainable urban drainage and facilitate nutrient uptake from run-off, a small but highly visible step towards enhanced water quality in the Lee River Tidal Estuary.

The overall winner in the competition will be announced in Monday’s ‘Irish Examiner’.


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