UCC to retain and refurbish landmark Cork Distillers building in riverside redevelopment

UCC to retain and refurbish landmark Cork Distillers building in riverside redevelopment

An exterior view of the unique architecture of the former Cork Distillers bottling plant designed by Frank Murphy in 1964.

University College Cork (UCC) plans to retain, refurbish and integrate the “noteworthy” elements of the landmark former Cork Distillers' bottling plant on the North Mall into its ambitious redevelopment plans for the riverside site.

The decision to retain what has been described as a superb example of 20th-century industrial architecture is outlined in a submission by UCC of revised plans and significant further information linked to its planning application for a major nanoelectronics research building for its Tyndall institute at North Mall.

Planning was lodged last year for the proposed 16,750sq m research facility, ranging from four storeys at the east to six storeys at the west, to include a mix of research laboratories, office accommodation, start-up incubation and amenity spaces.

But concerns were raised about the plans to demolish the disused bottling plant and a petition was launched to save it.

UCC will integrate the “noteworthy” elements of the old bottling plant in its new riverside development. 
UCC will integrate the “noteworthy” elements of the old bottling plant in its new riverside development. 

Not protected

It was designed in 1964 by architect Frank Murphy, and is widely regarded as a fine example of classic 1960s architecture. Murphy, a mid-20th century modernist and conservationist, won a Europa Nostra medal in 1975 for his body of work, including 1 South Mall and Thompson House on MacCurtain Street, both in Cork City.

Several structures on the North Mall site are formally protected — Alderman Reilly Bridge, the former Distillery House and the base of a large chimney. Others, including the cooperage and the warehouses behind Distillery House are on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH).

But despite its architectural significance, the bottling plant is not formally designated a protected structure, but it is pictured in the Buildings of Ireland volume on Cork City and was given an NIAH reference number.

Last June, council planners requested further information about the UCC plan amid concerns about a number of elements of the proposed redevelopment.

They said while the principle of a research facility for Tyndall is broadly acceptable at the North Mall campus, they had concerns “of a very serious nature” about the proposal to “entirely demolish a structure such as the former bottling plant”.

The demolition approach was not “an integrated development strategy that retains the essential character of the land whilst facilitating redevelopment at scale”, they said.

They said the planning application had not properly assessed the significance of the site’s built heritage and landscape setting, and that a master plan for the entire lands was required.

“Therefore the applicant is strongly advised to reconsider this element of the proposal and meaningfully integrate the proposed building with the existing bottling plant,” they said.

The modernist design of the Cork Distillers bottling plant circa 1964.
The modernist design of the Cork Distillers bottling plant circa 1964.

Now, in its revised plans, UCC says that following the completion of a heritage significance report and a measured building survey and a structural survey on the former bottling plant, it is proposed that the "entire noteworthy southern elevational composition" of the glazed yellow brick, chimney, loading bay canopies and the wall behind them are "retained, refurbished, and integrated" into the new design for use as part of the Tyndall facility.

Planners will now consider the further information submission over the coming weeks before making a decision on whether or not to grant planning.

UCC says the new building will allow “Tyndall to expand current research operations into important new technology areas that reflect current and future societal challenges in a new ‘state-of-the-art’ facility”.

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