Urban Futures: Cities and Towns in Transition

I recently attended The Academy of Urbanism conference at Dublin Castle which brought together over 200 architects, Urbanist and Engineers from Ireland and Internationally to discuss the theme “Urban Futures: Cities and Towns in Transition”

Dublin certainly was an appropriate location for the conference. Our city is likely to go through a significant urban transformation in order to combat the challenges of an acute shortfall in quality housing stock, particularly to meet the demands of students and social housing.

Minster for Housing Simon Covney opened the conference by discussing his radical changes for the planning system. His proposal will mean planning applications of greater than 100 residential units will now enter an 18 week fast track process where the application is sent directly to An Bord Pleanála. He noted the onus would be on the applicant to submit an “exceptionally” high quality application or risk a rejection without grounds for appeal. I totally support his initiative to speed up the planning process to ease pressure here, but there was a feeling around the room he was actually making it more difficult, but over a shorter period. It is something I will watch closely to see if it does form a part of the solution or just add to the problem.

Over the two days I was particularly interested in Yvonne Farrell’s & Shelley McNamara’s lecture on the UTEC building in Lima. I visited the building in June this year and I found it fascinating to learn the challenges they faced designing a building where there was going to be an absence of public realm in the near vicinity of the building. They described their decision to put the shared spaces within the building, several floors up, as a risk but one that was a huge success for the building.

Overall I left the conference with a real sense there is some very exciting future opportunities ahead for us in Ireland and I was comforted by the fact the room was filled with talented individuals ready for the challenges. I look forward to seeing the direction that Dublin takes and being part of the solution.