A vision for Sligo Docklands in 2040
An ambitious re-imagining of Sligo's Docklands in 2040 has been proposed, featuring a landmark Museum of Irish Mythology, Armada artefacts, a boutique hotel, public plaza and 'crannóg' style buildings on the harbour front.
Singapore-based architect Darragh Murphy previously worked in Sligo in the mid-noughties. He's just submitted to the Government a detailed vision of what Sligo could look like with a new Docklands Quarter in the Lynns Dock area of Sligo town.
He made the proposal on his own initiative in response to the Government's call for public submissions in respect of the National Planning Framework - Ireland 2040.
Darragh's design is by his own admission, "at the ambitious end of the scale" and contains "an element of blue sky thinking."
Although Sligo is a small town at present with a hinterland population of 40,000, he looks 30 years into the Future when Sligo may grow to 80,000+ people and where the Regional Catchment Population of the North West may be as much as 400,000.
His plan makes the case for a substantial Museum of Irish Mythology and Regional Archaeology, of international significance, which would attract cultural tourists from all over the world.
He's proposing to relocate the previously planned County Museum from the Niland Quarter to the Docklands and house the Spanish Armada artefacts alongside a Museum of Irish Mythology.
The museum design references a Megalithic Dolmen or Cairn and would be primarily orientated to the waterfront and open onto a new Public Plaza.
The harbour front would become a launch point for boat tours to complimentary attractions such as Inismurray Island, with crannóg style buildings as ticketing/waiting areas.
The roof of the museum could allow for public access to a landscaped area. A central courtyard or enclosed atrium space could house larger exhibits.
Visitors could walk around the courtyard to galleries and auditorium space.
The commercial element of the new quarter would comprise a Tower, perhaps containing a boutique hotel with a bespoke rooftop lounge bar/restaurant with 360 degree views over the Sligo Hinterland.
The Docklands Quarter is readily accessible for pedestrians from Sligo town centre and looking ahead to 2040, provision could be made for a tramway route connecting Quay Street to a future Innovation District in Finisklin.
The area to the immediate west of the Museum and Plaza would likely be a cluster of buildings comprising a Creative Design Hub, an Archaeological Department Annex for Sligo IT and a mix of commercial space such as cafés and restaurants.
Darragh argues that Sligo and the North West need an urban attraction to give tourists an incentive to stopover in Sligo.
He believes a man-made tourist attraction such as this, focussed on our Megalithic and Mythological heritage, would not only tap into the existing UK/US and European tourist markets but also act as a catalyst for developing the growing tourist markets in Asia.
But who would fund such a plan? Darragh says any cultural element of international standing would sot in the range of tens of millions of euros.
Funding might come from a range of sources such as a local business consortium, high net worth investors, Government funding organisations, EU or philanthropic sources including the diaspora.
A Phase 1 commercial element such as a hotel, while having stand-alone potential would derive significant financial benefit by virtue of proximity to a successful museum.
The whole project would create jobs too.
Darragh says that apart from the local jobs and revenue generating potential from the Quarter itself, there is potential for spin-off businesses in tourism, hospitality and leisure.
He also points to the recent popularity of Game of Thrones (shot in Northern Ireland) and Vikings and says there is potential for a commercial association via an Irish mythology themed TV series to draw visitors here.
The most prominent natural landmarks - Knocknarea, and Benbulben - are associated with well known characters from Celtic Mythology such as Queen Maeve and Diarmuid and Gráinne which are worthy of some form of film or animation series.
Darragh's proposal is based on the 'Build it and they will come' approach, also known as the 'Bilbao Model' of economic development where a major cultural development has the potential to transform a region's economy. The Bilbao Museum in Spain paid for itself in only three years.
He believes if Sligo aspires to grow into a city, then the Docklands is the only sensible option. A future Sligo would comprise of an Old Town full of charm and a modern eco-friendly Docklands Quarter, he maintains.
Now that he's submitted his proposal to the Government, will anyone pick up the ball and run with it?