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'Building upward has a knock-on effect': Could a high-rise skyline make Dublin more liveable?

And could it happen in the next 10 years? Hear more on episode two of Ireland 2029.

Image: Shutterstock

A LOT CAN happen in 10 years. Where is Ireland going, and what will life be like here in the year 2029? Welcome to Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, a brand new podcast from TheJournal.ie.

Over the next 10 episodes, we’re partnering with Volkswagen to bring you 10 big ideas that could change Ireland for the better. Each week, we’ll talk to someone about an idea they truly believe could work, and find out whether it’s practical, or whether it’s a non-runner.

In the second episode of Ireland 2029, we ask: Does Dublin need a high-rise skyline – and could it happen in the next 10 years?

THE AVERAGE BUILDING height in Dublin’s city centre is four to six storeys. Our capital is often described as a “low-rise” city, but even that term is generous.

Take Paris, for example, another typically low-rise metropolis. Analysis of satellite data by the employers’ group Ibec shows that Dublin’s buildings are, on average, around 30% lower than the French capital. 

And our building heights fall behind cities like Amsterdam and Stockholm too, as Ibec’s Aidan Sweeney pointed out to Fora.ie last year:

Dublin is, in fact, far lower in height than other European cities that anti-height proponents put forward to justify the status quo.

The idea of building up, not out is one that already has political support. In December 2018, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy told local authorities that a height increase in Ireland’s cities was a crucial development if the country was “to meet the many challenges ahead.” The government has since published new guidelines under the National Planning Framework to help make that happen.

But creating a high-rise skyline isn’t as simple as just telling developers they can now build taller buildings, as architect Orla Hegarty points out in the new episode of Ireland 2029.

Hegarty is an assistant professor at UCD’s School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, and says we’re a long way away from a silver skyline of towering skyscrapers:

If we were to decide tomorrow that every vacant site in Dublin could have a high-rise vacant tower on it, the knock-on effect would be enormous. We would see land values skyrocket in those locations. We would see developers in a long process of looking for approval and finance… [And] if you suddenly put 1,000 families in one building, where do their children go to school? That may not have been planned for.

Paul O’Brien, chair of Henry J Lyons Architects, says that a lot of those concerns could be alleviated by simply choosing the right sites for high-rise buildings.

“We do need to go high-rise in Dublin, but it doesn’t need to be in the historic core areas, and it won’t be. It should be in certain areas that can take it,” he tells Ireland 2029 reporters.

Dublin needs greater density, not only in terms of [places to] work but also in terms of living.

Could a high-rise skyline make Dublin a more liveable city – or is it too high, too far, too soon?

Hear more on the second episode of Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, which is live right now:

Full list of providers here 


Source: Ireland 2029/SoundCloud

Ireland 2029 is a podcast from TheJournal.ie, in partnership with VolkswagenThis episode was put together by presenter and editor Nicky Ryan, producer Gráinne Ní Aodha, series producer Órla Ryan and executive producer Christine Bohan. With thanks to Paula Lyne and our contributors. 

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