Readers View: Navigation Square does little to chart the road ahead

I write to communicate the dismay of many regarding the “Navigation Square” development on lower Albert Quay, Cork City, that is now nearing completion.

“Navigation Square” is a white wash externally and internally. In two years it could rename itself 'Compass Corner' or 'Mariners Triangle' and few would notice.

It is Navigation House that should have been the jewel in this development and the centre piece of a compound that is landscaped around it and from which all office blocks rise with sympathetic finishes at ground level. Look at the fantastic design work regarding the Met. Hotel for example.

Instead we have squares of glass and lego blocks massing out onto the footpath maximising square footage and surface area with no space for light, trees, heritage or culture in-between and with the bare bones of Navigation House`s frontage left only as a carcass on the footpath.

The geology of this city is comprised of red sandstone layers mixed with white limestone and it is these two stones, along with a later combination of brick, that was deliberately used by the city`s founders to impart an attractive polychromy to the principal quayside buildings that would often be reflected in the luminosity of the river.

As such, these buildings are doubly important. These buildings were so distinctive that they gave the city its banner colours on its red/white flag.

The destruction of Navigation House and its twin fronted warehouse from the 1850's has wiped this section of the quay of its heritage and the remaining limestone facade is meaningless without any context.

Navigation House was a very small, quirky little building that had already been gutted internally so it wouldn’t have taken much effort to conserve its external shell intact and, then, let its footprint serve a mixed use function as an exclusive restaurant or company showrooms within the massive compound that is Navigation Square.

It is Navigation House, Custom House and Penrose House that are the three heritage anchor points across this area of the river. It seems Dockland Developers are of the opinion that high tech industry and high brow culture / heritage don’t mix. Really?

Its stunning such a mistake as to wipe the quay of a proud heritage and sense of place which had remained intact for well over a 100 years.

It is the uniqueness of a site that attracts the top commercial companies to an area and the name Navigation Square is meaningless without the conservation of Navigation House or its historic warehouses.

E. Hunter, Cork City

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