31 Jul 2008
31 Jul 2008
From the Trib a couple of months back, sort of about the Clarence Hotel
30 Jul 2008

I know it's not funny to make light of LA's recent earthquake, but I can't resist this, from Heather The Cosmos Gal

29 Jul 2008

On July 10th  last, Tom O’Donoghue, of Nenagh, County Tipperary, (did the right thing and) lodged an objection with an Bord Pleanala against approval of the Private Hospital Co Location project in Dooradoyle. An Bord acknowledged receipt of his objection that same day. A couple of days later the cheque he was obliged to include with his submission was drawn from his account: proof, you would think, that An Bord were satisfied they were dealing with a valid appeal.

About a week later, word began to spread around the medical community that Tom’s appeal had been ruled invalid. How people had gotten word of this news was anybody’s guess, but when the gossip finally reached Tom ear he called the Bord for clarification at which point he was informed that, indeed, the rumours were in fact true: although he himself had received no communication of any kind from An Bord to the effect (nor has he yet received anything in writing), his appeal had been considered invalid. The reason given was as follows:

When submitting a planning appeal, the appellant is obliged to include proof that s/he made a valid observation during the five week period directly after the planning application was originally lodged with the Planning Authority. To comply with this requirement, Tom submitted a copy of the receipt he had received from Limerick City Council acknowledging the submission of his observation and the payment of the requisite fees. However, the people Tom spoke to at An Bord explained that this ‘receipt’ did not constitute sufficient proof. They needed more. And on this, the whole thing turned.

How extremely convenient: on absolutely the flimsiest of technicalities, a very well put together objection raising pertinent and probing questions on such an incredibly important issue is considered invalid, leaving the Government miraculously free to press on with their (in my own view, ludicrous and hair-brained) health service provision ideas. I’m sure some of the more paranoid amongst you are thinking to yourselves right now that something untoward must certainly have happened. All I can possibly say is: how very extremely suspiciously unbelievably incredulously dubiously and spectacularly convenient it all is.

28 Jul 2008
I’m going to start writing little reviews of the various Draft Development Plans from around the country as and when they come on stream. First up is Kilkenny City. The Kilkenny and Environs Development Plan 2008 -2014 is currently in Draft and available on the internet. First up is Kilkenny City. The Kilkenny and Environs Development Plan 2008 -2014 is currently in Draft and available on the internet.
25 Jul 2008

This...

... led to this

I’m sorry for my lack of opinionating in the past few days. Truth is, I’ve been up to my neck in stuff and just haven’t had as much time as I’d like. But I do have a few pieces nearly ready to go on a range of topics including hospital co-locations in Dublin and Nenagh v An Bord Planala, the Clarence Hotel, Gormley’s plans to devolve more power to local communities by paradoxically dedevolving it, as well as that whole situation in Wicklow where the council is both threatening to demolish part of a garden centre while at the same time encouraging the owner to keep using it, and so on, which I’ll polish up and post next week. 

But I can’t pass up the opportunity to express my disappointment at how the RIAI’s survey from last week caused so much less of a stir than it should have and has already dropped off our radars.

This, remember, was a survey of about 400 members of the architect’s professional representative body. Now, I’m not going to bore you by trawling through its complicated findings all over again, but I will remind you that nearly 90% of those who responded thought that the planning system, as it stands, is not having a beneficial effect on the built environment in this country; Clare County Council received a satisfaction rating of 3 out of 10 for the provision of its planning service; the same Council put out a press statement to the effect that it simply didn’t accept the results of the survey – a complete spit in the eye for the Institute, if you ask me, and worthy of stern rebuke.

My problem is this: having gone to the trouble and expense of putting the survey together in the first place and having then discovered that Institute members were raising serious, serious concerns about the role of the Local Authority in our system of planning and development, and having then heard the Local Authorities use spurious arguments in the media to defend themselves against points raised in the survey, the Institute didn’t do a tougher job in defending its own work. In various snippets of interviews I happened to catch in the days after publication, some institute voices seemed to me almost apologetic for the findings of their organisation’s survey leading in one case – RTE’s Morning Ireland – for the show’s host to bring a discussion to an end because the pro-survey architect and the anti-survey local authority planner were engaging in a ‘lovefest’ (presenter’s phrase, not mine). Another radio station didn’t cover the issue in one of their news shows because, according to them, in pre-recorded interviews there didn’t appear to be enough areas of disagreement between the participants. If they’d called me first, I don’t think they would have had the problem.

I realise that diplomacy is the route many of us, especially when speaking publicly, are inclined to take when dealing with issues of potential conflict. However, on matters of public import sometimes a more Machiavellian approach is necessary. First, state the nature of your problem in uncompromising terms; then, once there are no more prisoners left to take, adopt your diplomatic tone.   

We architects are not really a confrontational bunch and, I suppose, a certain naivety in public discourse is to be expected from a group of people so unused to defending their corner in the media. But the problem we have now created is that for the likes of you and me, people with real fight and motivation on the planning debate, the steam has somewhat been taken out of the argument. My fear is that future efforts made by people like us to bring planning problems to a wider public audience will be hampered by the fact that the Institute’s own survey failed to be taken seriously. We'll be like Chicken Licken.  

How do you all feel about this?

*

But, hey, forget your planning skirmishes, stop worrying about the fact that the banks are threatening to repossess your computers, curse  the client who’s refusing to honour your invoice as he ignores your calls to him at the golfcourse in the Algarve, and turn your mind to more appropriate Friday-like diversions…

Do you know that programme on the BBC called Room 101 where people get a chance to talk about the ten things that really get up their noses and which, if they had the power, they’d banish forever? I’d love to go on that show.

But how to limit my peeves to ten? Here’s my current list but I’m much more interested in hearing what yours would be. Go on. Give us all a laugh.

1   Terry Wogan.
Nothing in my karma tool kit protects me from the psychological distress of seeing Sir Terry unexpectedly pop up on TV sitting in the Royal Box at some event which gets wall to wall coverage on UK telly but which, meanwhile, the rest of the world has never even heard of. Like the Badminton Horse Trials. 

2   Apple computers.
All that stuff about ‘stickies’ and ‘choosers’? That’s for geeks who’ve always resented not being as popular as jocks. And the design isn’t as great as they say it is. It’s not German.

3   Organ grinder music.
Makes me sad.

4   BBC weather forecasts.
The best of the weather will again be in the south east where temperatures will soar to 24, but feeling decidedly chillier in Glasgow where temperatures will struggle to reach 23… ‘

5   Clowns.
Give me nightmares.

6   Guff sent home to you in your child’s schoolbag
about the school’s new healthy eating policy as the kids, meanwhile, are being educated in Portakabins

7   David Bowie.
What did we ever see in him? If his parents had given him a more normal upbringing he’d be in Abba.

8   BBC game shows which
have one team on either side and the presenter in the middle reading jokes from a teleprompter in a sing-songy voice while canned laughter links one unfunny segment with the next (They Think Its All Over, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and such.)

9   Weekend newspaper magazines which
have close-up photographs of unnaturally tarted up food and/or photographs of bottles of wine lying artfully vertically and/or lists of things which are Going Up and things which are Going Down. Sort of like what you see in the Irish Times, which is (like everything else in the Times – themes, opinions, etc) ripped off from the Guardian.

10   That colour hair dye which
is most accurately described as ‘Male TV Presenter/Politician Brown But Which Has Glints Of Copper Under Studio Lights ’ (apparently you find it on the impulse-purchase rack by the cashier in the RTE canteen.)

This will distract you

 

21 Jul 2008
I’m starting a list of The Scariest Places Of The Celtic Tiger – those weird new parts of town which grew unchecked during the Tiger Years and are the built manifestation of the imaginations of those who have no business imagining places. Sandyford is the first on my list.
18 Jul 2008

The Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, is pursuing his commitment to devolving power to local communities…  by further reducing what little power County and City Councillors currently have. That’s right. The Minister has drawn up amendments to the planning legislation which will limit Councillors’ abilities to approve development plans which are adjudged (I don’t yet know how this is to be decided) not to comply with the terms of the National Spatial Strategy. Other changes to the legislation will make approval of retentions more difficult obtain. If I get any more details I’ll post them.

*

I read in the Independent that Lidl are considering taking a lease on the former Habitat store on St. Stephen’s Green near the top of Dublin’s Grafton Street. This, after the toney Abercrombie + Fitch decided the area wasn’t shmancy enough for their line of duds.

Anyway, the Indo says that An Taisce are lining themselves up to do what they can to block Lidl’s arrival.

‘An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland that deals with sensitive planning issues, are opposed to Lidl leasing the illustrious property. An Taisce spokesman Kevin Duff said upmarket retailers, rather than discount supermarkets, were required to make the street more attractive.

"The aim of the conservation area initiative for Grafton Street was to improve the tone of the area with an increased number of so-called 'higher-order' shops," Mr Duff said. "If Lidl leases the building in question, it will be a step back from whatever progress they had made."

Now, this kind of thing makes me feel real uncomfortable. Architectural Area designation is intended to protect the architectural fabric and overall character of parts of town - no matter what economic demographic they are located in - which have exceptional architectural qualitiy. To abuse the conservation legislation simply to attract 'upmarket' retailers and 'higher-order'' shops is perverse.  

I suppose we can take it now that if ‘higher-order’ is the technical definition for shops which are posh, exclusive and unwelcoming of North Siders, it's safe to presume that the other technical term An Taisce are fond of - 'unsustainable' - simply means houses designed not to their taste. 

*

Did Communications Minister Noel Dempsey more than hint yesterday that while the Government remains fully committed to the completion of the Gort by-pass, the project may be about to slip down it's list of NDP priorities in these money scarce times? What does this mean for the various repaving/landscaping initiatives which some of you – in heated emails to me after the post I ran on Gort about a week ago – said were due to be carried out when the by pass was complete? 

*

Do you remember that whole thing where I couldn’t buy a VW Eos because Tadgh had bossed Mike and Mike had bossed me into not buying it because Mike said that Tadgh said it was a bit 'girly' even though I had never even met Tadgh?

Well, I went ahead and bought the Eos. It took a while, but Mike is over it now and we’re more or less back to the way things were. Nevertheless, we decided to take our time before Mike finally got around to introducing me to Tadgh. 

Well, the big intro happened yesterday. And I have to say Tadgh is a very sound lad and only a tiny bit intimidating. As it happens, (I’m being serious about this) he’s building a totally carbon zero, eco friendly, passive, low energy, locally sourced, double A rated, triple glazed, hemp and goats-hair house for himself on a very nice site in the country. So the three of us drove down to see it yesterday… in Tadgh’s double turbo, G(-) rated, 650 bhp, 48 valve Golf GT TDI DSG. I do declare, he could probably heat his house for all eternity for the carbon we consumed going to visit it. (Thankfully, Tadgh is an excellent driver because, at the speed we were travelling, anyone less skilled would have spun us into oblivion. But the experience did prove useful in confirming something I’ve always been curious about: yes, it is possible to have a conversation in a car when you’re travelling faster than the speed of sound.)    

17 Jul 2008
Here we go, a few more nuggets from the recently published RIAI survey of their members on the performance of the planning system. First, how the various authorities fared, starting with the least popular (score out of a possible 10):
16 Jul 2008

Just got my hands on the RIAI's survey of members regarding the quality of the planning service. Here are the main points:

  • In general, high levels of on-the-spot validation service provision equate to high levels of satisfaction with the management of planning applications (e.g. Sligo Co. Council; Limerick Co. Council), although this is not always necessarily the case (e.g. 41% of those dealing with Clare Co. Council claim it provides an on-the-spot validation service, but overall satisfaction levels with this Local Authority are just 3.82 out of a potential 10).
  • There is near-unanimous agreement (84%) that the great majority of Local Authorities use LAPs.
    When asked what they felt the greatest source of delay is in processing planning applications, a significant majority of RIAI members immediately cite the planners in the Local Authorities.
  • The second greatest perceived sources of delay are the drainage departments, and roads departments.
  • All in all, neither the Parks Departments nor the Environmental Impact Assessment functions are perceived as significant sources of delays.
  • Almost eight in ten of all RIAI members feel that planning decisions taken are not supportive of good quality design in the built environment.
  • Almost two thirds (62%) feel that the primary responsibility for planning process improvements lies with the Department of the Environment, with 28% suggesting this responsibility should be that of the planners in Local Authorities.
  • Opinion is more evenly divided as to precisely who is primarily responsible for quality in the built environment. Thus 43% suggest architects are first and foremost responsible in this regard, followed by 31% mentioning the Government, 23% clients, and 19% planners.
  • Very few RIAI members suggest that builders are responsible in this context.
  • While most (91%) feel that the planning process is dealing efficiently with demographic shifts and future population projections, only 14% feel the system is well positioned to cope with changes regarding energy performance, accessibility, sustainability, etc.
  • Opinion is almost evenly divided as to whether the six year timescale for future statutory development planning is adequate, although almost three quarters of the 41% suggesting this timescale is inadequate feel it should be longer, at on average 16 years in total.
  • Finally, respondents were afforded the opportunity to volunteer additional comments/issues they might like to register in relation to Local Authority planning in general.
  • The greatest criticism emerging at this question related to a belief (held by 17% of respondents) that planners in the Local Authorities are under qualified/under trained.
  • A further 13% referred to a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the planning system, while one in ten spontaneously suggested that there is too much inconsistency in planning between Local Authorities.

I'll ferret out more juicy bits when I get a chance and post them tomorrow.

15 Jul 2008

Oh, I was going to write some snippy stuff about godknowswhat planning situation when I suddenly thought that I was so fed up with all the bad news going around lately I just didn’t feel like adding to it.. ‘Write something,’ I said ‘that puts everyone in a good mood.’ So hear here (God, you're all so picky!) goes.

Apparently, in some town in Southern California there’s an annual tradition of, em, mooning the passengers of passing commuter trains. The tradition began as a dare, I don’t know, ten or fifteen years ago and was commemorated the following year by a small few. Its popularity grew and grew (this is one of these posts where just about every word you write has another meaning) with each passing year and at its most recent commemoration this weekend gone by, a crowd of 8,000 people showed up to stand in a mile long line mooning the suburban trains which passed by at twenty minute intervals. The revellers, many of them ordinary middle class, middle aged folk who had travelled out to the event from suburban Los Angeles and were ‘new’ to mooning, told reporters how liberating an experience it was. Train passengers also said they made a point of riding the train on anniversary day so that, even thought they hadn’t got the nerve to moon themselves, they could in some way participate in the spectacle.

Unfortunately, this year’s event made the news for the wrong reasons. When some of the participants decided to moon more than just their derrieres, the train riders cried foul, and that’s when the cops moved in. The mood turned sour as the police tried to bring things to an end. The mooners went down fighting, however, battling to save a tradition as they lowered their pants even as they were being arrested.

Just the kind of thing we need in Ireland right now to get us back in a good mood. So who’s up for starting a new tradition? And where will it be – Luas or Dart?

I'm feeling generous - I'll just throw this in for good measure. We all know someone who thinks this is really a good idea.

14 Jul 2008

This is floating around the internet, don't know which news agency it comes from:

'In a move that is either insane or the most awesome thing ever, the mayor of Megion in Western Siberia has banned the use of excuses by city officials. Bureaucrats are no longer allowed to say the following phrases: "I don't know," "It's lunch time," "It's not my job" and "It's impossible" amongst a list of more than two dozen other phrases that generally annoy people when coming from the mouths of government officials.

The official word on what happens if someone uses one of these phrases is that it will "speed their departure".

9 Jul 2008

Following on from the last post about planning figures in County Clare, Vivien Cummins has sent us some intriguing figures from Kildare, Laois and Carlow. These are the bare numbers for applications received:

Local Authority

January – June 2007

January – June 2008

Variation

Kildare County Council

+/- 1518

+/- 1216

-20%

Laois County Council

+/- 1302

+/- 860

-34%

Carlow County Council

+/- 732

+/- 414

-44%

As I myself was going through the figures for County Clare I noticed there appeared to be a spike in new applications for early 07. Vivien says there's anecdotal evidence to suggest this may be related to applications for agricultural buildings stemming from a grant scheme - apparently there was a spike in new apps in Laois, Kildare and Carlow last year as well.

Vivien's breakdown of the following figures from Kildare is fascinating:

 

A

Number of applications

Received

B

Number of decisions made in the time period (not

necessarily on

applications in A)

 

Percentage

January – June 2007                       

+/- 1518

861

57%

January – June

2008 

+/- 1216

604

50%

Says Vivien:

'Analysing statistics is a complex business but:

(i) The number of planning decisions made by Kildare County Council between January and June 2008 fell by 30% from the same period in 2007. Have they made 1/3 of the planning department redundant? Are the same number of staff processing less work?

(ii) The percentage of decisions being made in relation to the number of applications received fell  by 7% when the number of applications being made fell by 20%.

As with Clare County Council it appears that the only applications determined within an eight week period are domestic extensions, modifications to previous planning applications and agricultural buildings.'

Thanks a million Vivien. This is really useful stuff. If anyone else has similar information they feel like sharing, just press send.                            
    

8 Jul 2008

I’ll be on the John Cooke show on Clare FM tomorrow (Wednesday 9th) after 10.00 a.m. talking about the following:

I did a little research in the past few days and discovered that planning applications for Clare County Council (excluding Ennis, Kilrush, Kilkee and Shannon [correction: Kilkee and Shannon are included in the County Planning stats]) for the first six months of this year are down 40% on last year, from 1,750+/- in 2007 to 1,050+/- in 2008.

However, a quick review of the statistics shows that, despite the starkly lower numbers, the Council aren’t getting better at processing applications any faster.

Of 725 +/- applications lodged to the beginning of May only about 25 could be described as being medium scale or larger and of these, from what I can make out, only one – an apartment complex in Sixmilebridge – was approved. All others have been refused/withdrawn/stalled/sent for Further Information, etc.

About 250 applications were lodged for single houses. Nearly half of these are in FI.

It seems the only types of planning application Clare is capable of handling within the '2 month' period are house extensions, retentions or other inconsequential developments.

Anybody out there up to doing a little review of your own local Council’s recent performance? I’d be glad to publish.

*

Remember last week I posted about an applicant who can’t (for quite a few reasons, in fairness) get planning permission for a house in a visually sensitive area in Wicklow, one of which reason is somehow related to the fact that you can see the Sugarloaf Mountain from the site? Well since then, folks from (God, this is getting embarrassing) County Clare are telling me that planners recently objected to the construction of a beautifully designed house because it would be visible from the East Clare Way. The ECW is a walking route which takes you way off the beaten track. In other words, you see things from the ECW that most people wouldn't normally get to see. Don’t get me wrong, the East Clare Way is very beautiful, but being able to see the odd house as you amble along it is no reason for a refusal of planning permission.

Elsewhere in the Banner, planners had a problem that a house proposed for an elevated site would be visible from Lough Derg, even though the house in question would have been quite a distance from the shoreline.

So, the view of the countryside as experienced by weekend party groups on ugly rental boats who spiritedly gad about, generating noise and garbage (and who not infrequently end up over the side) is protected? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

*

This is a funny one: a Dublin solicitor decided to add an extension to the back of his house. Because the proposed extension would block light into his architect-neighbour’s house, the pair came to an agreement: the solicitor would pay to install a skylight in the architect’s house to allow more light into the architect’s stairwell and in return the architect would not object to the solicitor’s planning application.

Except, the architect’s house was a Protected Structure, so when it came time to get planning approval for the skylight, the Council refused. The solicitor, therefore, was not in a position to keep his side of the bargain. Things, as they always do in easily-insulted-and-perpetually-indignant South Dublin, ended up in court. The judge found in favour of the architect (but only technically, it would apear) and made the solicitor (who actually got what he wanted) pay all sorts of compensation. You’ll find the details here:
 
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0708/1215380381079.html 

I didn’t think the right to object to a planning application was something which could be bought or sold or made contingent on something which one party – in this case, the solicitor – had no power to deliver? If it isn't, it shouldn't.  

Obviously, we’d need details before we can comment… but when I someday get around to committing a murder, I hope I end up before Judge Linnane.

(And why is it that the tiniest little skylight problems in South Dublin always end up in the courts?) 

4 Jul 2008

It's Fourth of July, so, God Bless America:

I spent a bit of time lately checking out various planning situations in Wicklow which folks had brought to my attention.  Mainly, I was interested in getting my head around that Abwood mystery you might have read about where a factory owner on the N11 extended his premises, was ordered by the Council to stop, lodged an application for retention, site rezoning required, everybody singing from different hymn sheets and whatever and so on and such.

Anyway, more on that next week. In the course of my perusals I came across a predicament where an applicant was looking for permission to build a house in a visually sensitive area. ‘Local/rural need’ rules applied as well. Now, I don’t know how someone with a degree in spatial planning is considered qualified to rule on a housing matter based on an opinion of people’s personal circumstances – surely this is something that can only really be decided by the courts: or, at least by people with some kind of professional background in community law: or, at least by some non-partisan authority. Anyway, leaving aside all of that (which one day will be the subject of a massive Tribunal), one of the things the planner’s report mentioned was that, while the proposed house wasn’t visually intrusive in the visually sensitive area, the Sugarloaf Mountain was visible from the site. And this, somehow… contributed to the fact that the planner was recommending a refusal. 

Now. Can you imagine proposing a housing development in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown from which site the Dublin Mountains wouldn’t be visible? If visibility of the Dublin Mountains, Howth Head, Lambay Island and the Wicklow Mountains were a criteria for future development, Dublin wouldn’t exist. In fact, no matter where your site for proposed development is located in this country, some natural feature is going to be visible.

The applicant in question doesn’t have the resources necessary to make the planning authority see things in the way that resources tend to make planning authorities see things. So his only hope is to wait for a change of personnel where, as usual, there’s a fifty/fifty chance that some new planner will interpret ‘local need’ and ‘visual sensitivity’ guidelines in a different way.

*

Just a quick word on a ‘local need’ story in Clare (where else?). This week’s Champion has an article about a young man, Robert O’Neill, who, in 2006, applied for permission to build a house for himself adjacent to his parents’ house in a rural area. The 27 year old suffers from an exceptionally debilitating genetic skin disease which will lead (if it hasn’t already) to him having part of his leg amputated. In other words, his case is extremely special. The Council dragged their heels and eventually indicated that they would be refusing his application. Robert says that the stress of dealing with the Council actually made his condition worse. He eventually got planning.

No way to run a country. We’re all complicit.

*

Only a couple of months back, Dun Laoighre Rathdown announced what amounted to a moratorium - a ban, in other words - on pretty much all future development in the Sandyford area because the sewage and water supply systems were stretched beyond capacity. The Times report from February ran as follows:

Developments of more than two residential units, or the equivalent amount of commercial space, will not be granted planning permission. The drainage problem was identified when sewer pipes of an inadequate capacity were found between the Sandyford / Stillorgan catchment area and the West Pier pumping station.

‘‘These pipes will need to be upgraded,” Keegan (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Manager) said. ‘‘The council is proceeding to plan the necessary upgrade work. (A previously published) study has also recommended the construction of foul water storage facilities at different locations in the catchment area with a possible new overflow to the surface water system during significant rainfall.”

Does anyone know the precise reason why this moratorium – which applied to some of the most overpriced-yet-to-be-developed land in the country – was so suddenly turned around just a couple of weeks ago? Were the pipes upgraded? Is the sewage system improved? Has the local authority got its act together? What’s the deal here - anybody know what happened? Point me to some file and I’ll go looking. 

Meanwhile, happy planning!

3 Jul 2008

Before I forget, does anyone know what building Bertie’s new offices (for which more than €220,000 (cost of building a standard house) has been spent on renovating) are located in? By any chance are we talking ‘Protected Structure’? If so, did anyone lodge a planning application for approval? I'm not being rhetorical, I'd genuinely like to know.

Anyway, when I was passed on the link to Bertie’s new self promoting website http://bertieahernoffice.org/video.php , I, like everybody else I’m sure, thought to myself: ‘has that nice spoofy-comedic set up, but I’m seeing any punchline?’ (unlike the excellent ‘Cowen’s Downfall’ which has been doing the rounds on YouTube this week: sorry - too many rude words in it for me to post on this site, but if that kind of thing doesn’t offend you, it’s really worth Googling). Turns out it’s not an intended joke after all but, rather, the start of Bertie’s campaign to become our next president! Apparently he feels comfortable about doing this because of something to do with the peace process…

Anyway, Bertie was forever justifying personal pay increases, perks and the like on the basis that, were he working in the private sector, he’d be earning so much more money than he was as Taoiseach.

But doing what, I’ve often wondered? Even if it were possible to make the kind of money he was talking about in his old job totting up figures in some back office at the HSE, on the strength of his evidence to the Mahon Tribunal, during which he showed no aptitude to handle any kind of account whatsoever, I couldn’t imagine him rising to the top of that particular career ladder.

So what, exactly, would Bertie do in private life to make the kind of money he thinks he’s worth…

How about this: does anyone agree that he’d make a great (with the utmost respect to all you Quantity Surveyors whom I consider to be amongst my closest friends and who these days are more Project Delivery Strategists than the old fashioned Quantity Surveyors of yore, so please don’t be offended) Quantity Surveyor? What do you think?

Can’t you imagine him – the guy at the Design Team meetings, forever destined to almost fall asleep when the architect and services engineer get to the part about ‘embodied energy’? Occasionally interjecting ‘we might just want to explore the capital cost consequences (of, say, having each individual piece of glass hand made in Murano) before confirming that order’ (as nobody else pays the slightest bit of attention)? Overcompensating for the fact that doesn’t do black cashmere polo-necks by sporting a made to measure Louis Copeland with Peter Sutherland cufflinks and an oversparkly tie? Arriving at site meetings in the car with the best resale value?  Politely showing up at team-bonding Bloomsday picnics wondering why on earth the bird on the stage keeps shouting ‘yes!’ over and over again.

1 Jul 2008

I received an email from architect Russell Moffat, of Butler Moffat Architects in Cork. Russell, it turns out, was raised in Zimbabwe and maintains contact with friends still living there. Recently they sent him some photographs of Robert Mugabe’s just finished house which they are eager to have published on the web. They’d like people to know how much energy Mugabe can put into realizing such palatial pap while the rest of the country falls to pieces.

 

If you feel strongly about it, there’s a petition you can sign to assist those who are trying to get Mugabe out of Zimbabwe: 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_zimbabwe/97.php?cl_tf_sign=1

What I really want to know is, how did he get around their One Off Houses In The Countryside guidelines?

 

1 Jul 2008

This is a new public art project which has just been opened in New York. I know they've put giant waterfalls directly underneath the Brooklyn Bridge against the piers but, obviously, they've put them elsewhere in the East River.