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Glenamoy Lawn

Historical Context

When I started work for Cork City Council in 1985 as City Architect large employers such as Fords, Dunlops, Sunbeam and Verolme had closed and the majority of people who had worked in those industries were living in Local Authority Housing Estates. At this time the Government had recently introduced the Remedial works scheme which provided capital funding to Local Authorities to improve the standard of their tenanted properties through renovation of the building fabric.  

In looking at my native City with a new purpose, I considered it essential to invest in the deprived suburbs in parallel with, or even ahead of, investment at the centre. That is why, over the past sixteen years, I have concentrated the work of my Department in those areas. If the deprived suburbs were not re-generated we could expect serious social problems in our City in the years ahead.

Our work started with the remedial work to system built housing of the 1960s and 1970s. We first picked six of our strongest families in Mayfield, The Glen and Togher and gave them a slide show on the history of architecture. This, we hoped, would instil confidence in the form of their housing. We set up Architect’s offices within the estates so that they did not have to visit City Hall to talk to us. We gave them options, involving them in refurbishing their own dwellings. They selected bricks, doors, roof tiles, glazing and planting for their gardens. In doing this we encouraged them to feel ownership of their houses. There is now a noticeable change of attitude among residents of this housing. There exists a sense of pride in their own environment.

Before we started work on the flats in Mayfield, some of which were almost derelict, we asked for a written brief from the Flats Committee. I have always believed it is difficult to get good buildings without at least 50% input from the client. As a young Architect designing one off housing for a husband and wife, I considered it essential to find out who really wants the house, or, is it wanted at all? Does he want it? Does she want it? Do both of them want it? Do neither of them want it? The best way of discovery is to ask for a written brief. As this was their first attempt at briefing, the Committee sought the help of the North Lee Partnership Company, a Government Development Agency, who provided an Architect to the Flats Committee to help them prepare their brief for us.  

The flats themselves are refurbished to a high standard internally and for instance, with no living rooms facing north. Infill housing is provided between the blocks of flats controlling access and creating an enclosed play space. Gardens are provided front and rear which did not exist previously. A Community Resource/Estate Management Office building has been provided nearby as part of the refurbishment of Ard Bhaile.

Following the preparation of the brief, which included a request for local estate management, there were meetings between the Mayfield Flats Committee and the City Architects Department on many issues including the maintenance of the refurbished flats and the management of the estate. It was as a result of these meetings and further more detailed discussions with the Housing Management that estate management was introduced. As estate management was new to the Republic, the working group agreed that training was essential for both Local Authority staff and residents. The working group contacted University College Cork and a detailed course was designed to cover all aspects of estate management. The course was run under the auspices of the Department of the Environment and The Department of Adult and Continuing Education U.C.C. at a local venue at Mayfield and University College Cork. Apart from the educational value of the modules, the interaction between residents and agencies was a major impact on improving relations and many perceived barriers disappeared.

There remains, however, at the City’s edge, many of what I would call derelict sites. We are all familiar with derelict sites in town centres, however, there are many derelict sites in suburbs also. Left over pieces of land often contributing to anti-social behaviour. In 1994, in consultation with local communities, the City Council started addressing these problem areas in Mayfield.

Glenamoy Lawn before refurbishment

The first stage in the process is that we produce a draft proposal for the derelict sites based on our own surveys and representations that have been made to us over the years. We then meet with the chairperson of the local community sub-groups who distributes a document outlining the proposals to each of the householders within the proposed area

The document is handed to one house in six and that person then explains and distributes it to their neighbours. The reaction is fed back to the chairperson of the community group and then to us. Mayfield has very strong community groups and they were able to react without help.

Architects in the public services should work from the bottom up, listening to the needs of their clients, the citizens. We are commissioning public art as part of this refurbishment process and these new works are a great catalyst for encouraging neighbour to talk to neighbour. Parallel with the refurbishment, estate management and infilling of derelict sites we introduced planned maintenance for the remainder of our housing stock to ensure that the problems of tenants with their housing is dealt with in a structured way and all our dwellings will be attended to on a five year cycle.

Our aim is to reduce conflict between citizens and make lives less stressful and to make people proud of where they live and proud of their City.

Physical design contributes to residents satisfaction. However, it must also be understood that residents’ satisfaction is adversely affected outside the designers control – especially by social and economic forces. Good management and maintenance are extremely important in the success of multi-family social housing projects.

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Cork City Council appointed an Estates Officer in March 1993 to the Mayfield project area and has now expanded the service to a total of seven officers. These officers are in daily contact with residents and follow up problems. This line of communication is working for the City Council and the residents.

Renewal of System built housing

Glenamoy Lawn is system-built Local Authority apartment complexes designed by the National Building Agency in the late 1960’s and completed under their supervision in the early 1970’s along with other apartment and housing complexes in Mayfield, The Glen and Togher. Their design was similar to other social housing projects constructed by Governments throughout the developed world, at the time, their purpose being to provide low-cost rapidly constructed dwellings, with proper sanitation, water supply, heating and lighting etc. for eligible Local Authority applicants, who otherwise may have been forced to rent accommodation from private landlords in inner city slum tenements.

Within a decade of their construction the shortcomings of system building and “open planning” were apparent. The “open” nature of the external space surrounding the buildings left ground floor tenants with little sense of security in their homes. In addition to this the gable ends provided ideal gathering points for unsocial behaviour. These conditions amongst other lead to occupants having little pride in their homes resulting in a transient population with no sense of stability or community.

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 In Glenamoy the City Council has renovated the 90 existing apartments by removing the external screens and replacing them with brick insulated cavity walls, with double-glazed windows, and adding a layer of asphalt to seal the roofs. By “privatising” the space between the road and the apartment blocks and by providing individual entrances to the ground floor apartments a sense of security for the whole block can be achieved. The courtyard area between the 5 blocks is divided into individual plots providing each of the 90 apartments with a small rear garden for clothes lines and a common play area. To secure these areas 16 new houses have been built between the blocks, with bedroom extensions to gable end apartments where possible, providing a mix of 2 and 3 bedroomed units within the blocks. Sustainability and health has been improved by moving living rooms from north and east as planned to south and west. These measures along with a comprehensive management programme should make Glenamoy Lawn an area where residents take pride in their dwellings, which in turn is hoped to lead to a greater sense of community.

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The total accommodation is 106 housing units consisting of: 63 No. two-bedroomed apartments, 27 No. three-bedroomed apartments, 1 No. one-bedroomed single storey house, 7 No. two-bedroomed single storey houses, 1 No. three-bedroomed single storey house, 5 No. three-bedroomed two storey houses, 2 No. four-bedroomed two storey houses.

Glenamoy Lawn completes the regeneration of the system built housing in Mayfield which involved the refurbishment of a total of 918 units and the construction of 64 new infill units on various sites within the area. This is an investment of approximately €90,000,000.00 at todays cost.

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Client: Cork City Council
Architects: Cork City Architect’s Department
Architects: Neil Hegarty, Paud O’Mahony.
Technicians: Gerard Horgan, Charlie O’Donovan, Vincent Browne
Site Supervision: Wilson Associates
Quantity Surveyors: James Sheehan and Associates – John Sheehan, Denis Breen
Structural, Mechanical, Electrical Engineers: Malachy Walsh and Partners
Landscape Architects: Mitchell Associates
Main Contractor: Kilmoney Construction Ltd.
Project Director: Jim Cotter