The main opponents of the largest flood defence scheme in the history of the State have backed a €10,000 international architectural competition for one of Cork City’s most flood-prone zones.

Save Cork City says it fully support the Morrison’s Island design initiative, which is being organised by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland southern region and the Cork Architectural Association with the support of the National Sculpture Factory. The area has been earmarked by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Cork City Council for one of the first major interventions as part of its €140m Lower Lee flood relief scheme.

The impetus for the design competition is a response to the OPW’s proposals, say organisers. The OPW has proposed several measures to minimise flood risk in the city, including the construction of direct defences such as raised quay walls, embankments, and tidal gates.

Save Cork City has led criticism of the OPW’s reliance on direct defences, which it claims will damage the city’s heritage and character. The organisers of the design competition said the OPW’s scheme is based on a defensive approach to flood relief, which it said will block or reduce river views, and impact on architectural conservation areas, protected structures and historic artefacts along the quays.

It has invited registered architects, engineers, and landscape architects to propose “innovative and considered solutions” for the renewal of Cork’s quays and quayside landscape, and to: n Reimagine and renew the public space at Fr Matthew and Morrison’s Quay; n Design a new pedestrian bridge to replace the existing Trinity Bridge at Morrison’s Quay; n Reveal the historic beauty and material quality of the historic quays at Fr Mathew Quay and Morrison’s Quay; n Enhance and develop the city’s relationship with the River Lee to promote and encourage and reference river activities such as trade, tourism, community activity, sport, and leisure.

It said it hopes the competition will unlock opportunity and potential, and contribute to the city’s future strategy for the quays by revealing new ideas and uses.

It also said that innovative solutions cannot be generated without “informed reference to the past combined with dutiful consideration of the needs of the future, including climate change, social and economic development”.

The competition organisers referenced Save Cork City’s alternative flood defence plan, which focuses on upstream river and dam management combined with a tidal barrier, which they said would remove the “burden of defence from the quays and river banks”.

“This enables a renewal of the relationship of the city to the river and enables new relationships to be created,” said the organisers.

“The repair and reuse of the quayside landscape can increase amenity, encourage city life and tourism and reinforce the city as a place to live, visit and invest.

“There is significant evidence that the authentic repair of the historic areas of cities can lead to substantial economic gain through tourism, increased trade and increased investment.”

The winning entry will be chosen by a jury including Yvonne Farrell, of Grafton Architects, James Howley, a conservation architect with Howley Hayes Architects, Siobhán Ní Éanaigh of McGarry Ní Éanaigh Architects, Tim Lucas, a structural engineer with Price Myers Engineers, UK, and artist and sculptor Eilís O’Connell.

The deadline for submissions is September 22, with the winner due to be announced a week later.

The shortlisted entries will be exhibited publicly and the winner will receive €10,000.

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