Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Contemporary' new Briery Gap 'ugly and tasteless'

Mixed reactions to plans for revamp of fire-hit building

Maria Herlihy

The design of the proposed renovation of the Briery Gap in Macroom received 10 submissions, among which there are complaints about the facade of the building along with the 'lack of a pit' for an orchestra.

At the Blarney Macroom municipal District meeting, Architect Mary O'Brien said they would be in discussion with the concerned parties along with the neighbouring properties.

"It is important that everybody is on board with this project and that it keeps moving," she said. 

She also suggested that a model of the proposed design could be done so that people can see it for themselves. 

In a detailed report circulated at the meeting, the part eight planning application drew both positive and negative observations. As has been well reported, the Briery Gap suffered a serious fire in late May 2016 and it has been closed since then. 

The proposed works aim to refurbish and upgrade the existing three storey theatre and library building, which is located within the Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) of Macroom.

The proposed works aim to consist of a four storey contemporary designed street elevation along with the demolition and removal of the existing fire damaged structures to the rear. In short, a brand new building is to be put in place. 

As stated, the proposed design is not to everyone's taste as one submission from musicians noted that there wasn't a inclusion of an orchestra's pit. Another outlined their concern about the facade of the building, which was described as being "totally out of character" with the listed buildings adjacent to the Briery Gap theatre. 

"In other words, the traditional shop fronts and heritage of the market town of Macroom are being ignored in this proposal," outlined one submission. 

A consulting engineer, on behalf a client, outlined that with the new proposed building that the roof at the front of it has been raised "which means that the chimney on the eastern side" of their client's property would be well under the eaves level of the new proposed building. 

"This would cause a major problem in the future due to down draughts in the chimney. There is nothing on the proposed drawings to show how this problem would be dealt with, so prior to any work being carried out the proposed alterations in respect of this chimney would need to be agreed" with by the owner of the property.

Another submission, while welcoming the restoration of the Briery Gap, did describe the proposed facade as being "ugly and tasteless and not in keeping with the surrounding buildings and the main street generally." 

Another submission noted that at present the Briery Gap has "a facade that requires little alteration in that it is fit for purpose and therefore does not warrant the incremental spend from the public purse." 

A letter circulated in the report by Niall Ó Donnabháin, Senior Planner at CCC, and dated February 2, stated that the building itself is of unusual presentation and despite its former public function does not sit incongruously in the street from an architectural perspective given its high profile location within a designed ACA (Architectural conservation Area). 

He stated that the proposed design "will not detract from the wider character of the streetscape or the Architectural Conservation Area." 

He also outlined that the rhythm, form, height and design of the surrounding streetscape is such that a building of this nature and scale, given the high quality of design and materials proposed, will make a positive impact to the street and introduce a contemporary reference that should be supported." 

Mr Ó Donnabháin further stated that the public use of the building as a community arts and cultural building in a high profile location "should be celebrated and the design proposed will, in my view, help to achieve this". 

He also felt that the proposed building would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity and would be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.