Contrasting 'classical' and contemporary buildings cheek by jowl at Cork's Horgan's Quay and Penrose Quay

Contrasting 'classical' and contemporary buildings cheek by jowl at Cork's Horgan's Quay and Penrose Quay
The Dean Hotel under construction beside Kent Station, Cork with developments at Horgan's Quay and Penrose Dock also in shot. Pic; Larry Cummins

As the pace of docklands development in Cork city picks up, on both the north and south quays, Wilson Architecture MD, Frank O’Mahony, has praised Cork city’s Planning Department for allowing significant height variation.

“The different building forms add variety and interest to the skyline. This is in contrast to the ‘crew-cut’ that was imposed on developments along Dublin’s North Quays, resulting in a level, and uninteresting, parapet height there.”

Looking over Cork city from Penrose Dock. Picture Denis Minihane.
Looking over Cork city from Penrose Dock. Picture Denis Minihane.

He made his comments as the black cladding wraps around the Wilson-designed, 116-bed Dean Hotel next to Kent Rail Station, as part of the Horgan’s Quay/HQ, €160m, mixed-use development, which, alongside the JCD-developed Penrose Dock office scheme, has dramatically impacted on Cork’s skyline.

Views up and down the River Lee, and across the city and even along historic thoroughfares like MacCurtain Street, have been ‘filled in’ by the two adjoining developments, one for BAM/Clarendon, the other for JCD.

Picture: Denis Minihane.
Picture: Denis Minihane.

And the side-by-side developments, worth close to €300m between them, are the first of any scale on the north docks, providing a counterbalance to the developments on Cork’s south quays, such as the Elysian, Webworks, One Albert Quay, and O’Callaghan Properties’ Navigation Square.

Unusually, in the north quays, Wilson have designed two contrasting buildings — the Dean Hotel and the 250,000 sq ft Penrose Dock office development — that are simultaneously under construction, on sites almost rubbing shoulders and facing one another across a new public realm and only 100 metres apart.

A view of Cork city centre featuring many bridges taken from Penrose Dock. Picture: Denis Minihane.
A view of Cork city centre featuring many bridges taken from Penrose Dock. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Mr O’Mahony said design at the €125m Penrose Dock picked up classical elements and proportions, such as spandrels and pilasters, from the historic, preserved Cork Steam Packet building on Penrose Quay, “from which we drew our concept for the classically proportioned facades of the new buildings. The overall development contributes not only to the architectural quality of its immediate environment, but also to the wider city centre experience.”

In contrast, the dark, wedge-shaped Dean Hotel, by the entrance to the rail tunnel at Kent station and the sandstone city escarpment by Summerhill North, eschews any such classical references, and even deviates markedly from the current norm of ‘glass and steel’ boxes.

Looking over Cork city. Picture Denis Minihane.
Looking over Cork city. Picture Denis Minihane.

Mr O’Mahony says “the Dean Hotel is designed as a strong sculptural shape within the overall development, and with its dramatic, parapet profile, reflecting the sloping land forms to the north, it will be a signature building on the approaches to and from the railway station.

“The building is faced entirely in bespoke, profiled black cladding, which was developed specially for the building, and which emphasises its monolithic form.”

The 50m high crane around which Penrose Two was constructed and which will be removed in January. Picture Denis Minihane.
The 50m high crane around which Penrose Two was constructed and which will be removed in January. Picture Denis Minihane.

The on-site progress on the two buildings wraps up a successful year for Wilson Architecture. They won the BDA Irish Building and Design Award 2019 for Public Building Project of the Year, in collaboration with BAM and BODA, for their design of the Cork criminal courthouse on Anglesea St, and received a Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) award for innovation in design.

The new Dean Hotel is to be operated by Dublin-based Press Up Entertainment, in its first Cork foray. Press Up operates 46 venues/restaurants and hotels nationally, and is building ‘Dean’ branded hotels in both Galway and Cork. Their related development company, Oakmount, will oversee the Cork Dean Hotel fit-out, with interior design by O’Donnell O’Neill.

The Port of Cork as it looked in the 1800s
The Port of Cork as it looked in the 1800s

DETAILS: www.wilsonarchitecture.ie.

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