Galway city councillors have voted to preserve the facades of a number of early 20th century art deco facades on William Street West. The facades, located beside the junction with Munster Avenue, were added to the city's Record of Protected Structures this week, despite several councillors expressing their dislike of the architectural style of the buildings.
The RPS lists buildings which are considered to be of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical merit, and those structures included on the list are afforded protection under planning legislation.
Numbers 23, 24, and 25 William Street were listed for inclusion in the Record of Protected Structures, but the owners of the buildings objected to the move on the basis that the interiors of the buildings had no architectural merit. Councillors unanimously supported the owners' request that only the facades be protected.
In a discussion on one of the buildings, the Silke's Cash and Carry premises, Helen Coleman of the Galway City Council's planning department said the council recognised that the interior had no architectural value but warned the councillors against "facadism".
The council's heritage officer, Jim Higgins, pointed out that listing the building for protection would not preclude the redevelopment of the site at any future date.
"This group of three buildings here consitute a landmark site that represents half of that street, and to lose them would be to lose some very good examples of modern architecture in Galway," he said.
However several councillors were less than impressed with the design of the building.
"I appreciate what planners are trying to do to, to preserve the streetscape, but I cannot for the life of me agree that that building has architectural merit," Cllr Colette Connolly opined.
Cllr Frank Fahy was equally unimpressed. "It looks like something was dragged out of Soviet Russia many years ago," he said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I don't see any beauty in it."
Cllr Cathal Ó Chonchúir, who said he was a regular visitor to the cash and carry, said the family who owned the buildings liked the facades and felt they should be preserved.
"The family want to preserve the streetscape," he said. "They like the front of the building themselves, and that's the reason why we're going with the owners' submission."
Director of services Joe O'Neill told the councillors that the art deco buildings were "well worth preserving", and pointed out that protecting the buildings in their entirety would not preclude any future development of the site.
"There is a fundamental difference between trying to preserve something for all time and trying to protect it," Mr O'Neill said. "There's no reason why a protected structure cannot be developed. There are a number of protected structures in the city at the moment which are fully developed and fully in use."
Councillors voted unanimously to add the facades to the List of Protected Structures and omit the rest of the building structures, in line with the owners' request.