Cork Flood Defences - Option 1: The future of Morrison’s Island according to the CRJA-IBI group

In the first of a series featuring entries to the Morrison’s Island design competition, the CRJA-IBI group outlines the thinking behind its proposals

Cork Flood Defences - Option 1: The future of Morrison’s Island according to the CRJA-IBI group

Since ancient times, Cork people have had a close relationship with the River Lee and its surrounding marshes.

As industry and technology has evolved along and around the Lee, each great leap forward has always triggered a change in the relationship between humans and the river.

Our design concept, inspired by the ever- changing nature of the river, extends a dynamic approach to the urban fabric surrounding the quays, creating a destination where people can meet, explore, and fulfil an innate desire to be up close with the water. The three pillars of this approach are to Revive, Reveal and Restore.

Revive The Lee

Create and craft a destination by breathing life into the city centre. The success of this project can serve as a catalyst for change along the Cork waterfront.

In addition to supporting overall pedestrian connections along the Lee, these approaches may include thoughtful programming ideas such as pop-up cafes and restaurants, engaging the music school for small scale music festivals, and promoting floral/horticultural events in a newly designed “Floating Gardens” system.

These revived quays could also serve as a destination along the existing Festival Cork circuit.

Flooding on Morrison’s Island in February 2017
Flooding on Morrison’s Island in February 2017

Reveal The Lee

The tidal nature of the Lee dramatically alters how it is perceived throughout the day. Our proposal offers visitors multiple ways to get close to the river, either along the Floating Gardens system or by generous seat steps down to the river by the bridge.

The geometry of the Floating Gardens and walkway allow visitors to observe the historic character of the walls and signature details such as the wooden boat fenders.

The walkway, which floats with the tidal changes, allows for views focused on the historic stairs.

Restore The Lee

The Floating Gardens system is composed of floating walkways through a series of gardens with native Cork plants.

The Floating Gardens, which pay homage to the historic marsh landscape of Cork, also enable visitors to observe the historic character of the quay walls and signature details such as the wooden wailers.

The walkway, which floats with the daily tide, frames views of the historic limestone stairs.

Culture Quay

Cork is a popular destination city for tourists thanks to its beautiful countryside and its unique urban character, developed over centuries.

Cork also has a rich and unique heritage in sport and in the arts, with passionate fans and a vibrant arts scene.

Unfortunately, this stretch of the quay is not utilised to its full potential given its close proximity to many local cultural institutions in the vicinity.

The Trinity Church, CIT Music School, Triskel Arts Centre and other higher education institutions could serve major roles in breathing life into this area, which in turn would promote local businesses. We foresee a rich programme to activate the quay year-round.

We surveyed our studio as well as Cork natives to assist in developing programmatic ideas that could help support and strengthen the character of this neighbourhood.

The results centred on thoughtful interventions such as weekly music school performances, weekend farmers’ and art markets, floating horticultural exhibits, dance and projection art festivals celebrating the River Lee.

The Floating Gardens and walkway can also be staged for small music performances, seasonal art installations, and water sports such as swimming and boating.

Historic Quay

Our design team, including our staff landscape historian, collaborated with a local Cork archaeologist to help us unwrap the long history of Cork.

One of our most inspiring discoveries was the evolution of Morrison’s Island from Dunbar’s Marsh; a transformation of an estuarial marsh island to the post-industrial landscape we see today.

The most defining element that has remained standing since Edwardian Ireland is the historic quay wall.

However, through years of neglect, the quay wall presence has been significantly diminished.

Our design intends to refurbish the existing structure where necessary and continue this established vernacular when adding height or detailing.

These new elements respectfully integrate historic and modern construction methods in a way that beckons people down to the river so they can see this historic feat of engineering up close.

The Floating Gardens and walkway have been arranged so that the historic quay walls and stairs are on full display.

This design adds three key details to the wall: The addition of a capstone to reach the desired flood mitigation level of 2.7m; the line between the old and new wall will be highlighted with a bronze shadow line.

This line or reglet serves as an historic marker celebrating the timeline between the past and future. At each of the three historic stairs we have imagined a wayfinding element that would identify the intersecting street at the quay, or the quay name itself.

This wayfinding element would be engraved into a new piece of limestone or salvaged stone that is set into the wall carved and inlaid with bronze lettering.

Stroll the Lee

We have reimagined the roadway and car park at Father Mathew and Morrison Quay to be a natural historic stone surface.

We have removed elements that inhibit pedestrian movement, such as curbs and parking, to give the right of way back to people and strengthen the connection between humans and the Lee. This will create an entire area for pedestrians to move freely and experience the quay in a park-like setting while still allowing deliveries and emergency vehicles to access the quayside.

Currently, the quay is underutilised at night and there is a perceived safety issue after sundown.

A thoughtful lighting strategy that compliments evening uses along the quay is key to making people feel safe and at ease.

This lighting strategy is based on developing a hierarchy to site lighting by proposing consistent area lighting, artistic landmark lighting at the new bridge, Gateway Park and Parliament Bridge, and thoughtful architectural and seasonal lighting along building facades to create dynamic public spaces in the evening.

Connect Cork — The New Triad Bridge

The Triad Bridge concept derives its form from the river itself and the natural motion of pedestrian movement from the city centre to the southern neighbourhoods. The form represents the coming together of the north and south Lee as it heads for the sea. The bridge form also makes a gesture towards the ubiquitous ancient triquetra symbols used throughout the ancient world and particularly in Ireland.

The simplicity and elegance of the materials and design allow the modern form to knit together both sides of the river seamlessly.

The shape and orientation allows people to easily enter from the south and north and congregate at its centre point. The graceful lines of the rail will be subtly lit at night, while the underside of the bridge lighting will interpret current events in Cork, such as major sporting events, with lighting evoking the red colour of the home team.

Quay Gateways

The rehabilitation and redesign of the park at the eastern end of Morrison’s Quay will serve as the green portal into this project.

This park also offers the opportunity to further strengthen the urban fabric by providing small community-oriented buildings such as a small tourist information centre or community boat building that could offer kayak or boat rentals.

At the western end of Father Mathew Quay a gateway would be added to signify the entrance to the quay and bring needed improvements to the Parliament Bridge intersection.

See tomorrow for the second part of the series

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up