Frank McDonald, Irish Times
Dublin's Clarence Hotel, owned by U2's Bono and the Edge, in partnership with property developer Paddy McKillen, is to be redeveloped at a cost of EU150 million as "one of the most spectacular city hotels in Europe".
The scheme, designed by international architects Foster and Partners, is to be submitted shortly to Dublin City Council. It would incorporate the former Dollard printing works and four Georgian buildings on Wellington Quay.
Only the quayside facades of the existing hotel and adjoining buildings - all of which are protected structures - would be retained, although the oak panelling from the Clarence's Octagon Bar is to be salvaged for re-use.
The rear elevations of the hotel and adjoining buildings on East Essex Street would be demolished in their entirety and replaced by a undulating glazed facade, with shops and cafes at street level and bedrooms above.
The existing hotel, which has only 34 bedrooms, has lost up to EU12 million since its refurbishment 10 years' ago. Bono (Paul Hewson) and the Edge (David Evans) were advised to sell, but decided to bring Mr McKillen on board.
They set up the Clarence Partnership, which is split 50-50 between the two U2 band members on the one hand and Mr McKillen on the other. His largest project in Dublin to date has been the Jervis Centre on Mary Street.
A hotel for the past 140 years, the new Clarence will have 114 bedrooms and 28 suites, if planning permission is granted for the project. It will also have a 1,360sq m (14,640sq ft) spa - the first on this scale in central Dublin.
Andy Bow, a senior partner in Norman Foster's practice, said the new hotel would be organised around a "skycatcher" atrium - shaped like an elongated hourglass - rising from a 25-metre swimming pool in the basement to the roof.
An elliptical canopy with a reflective surface - a "white hovering halo", as Mr Bow described it - would cover the structure, uniting its different elements, and this would be topped by a fully-glazed "skyroom" with panoramic views.
The development will incorporate a number of sustainability strategies, including natural light and ventilation, to ensure that it will function as an energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive mixed-use hotel, spa and conference facility.
Mr Bow said the city council's planners were "hugely supportive" of the scheme, while conservationists were also positive. "There's a sense that people think it would be great to have a 21st century hotel like this in Dublin."
Norman Foster described it as "an ambitious project - architecturally and structurally [ that] presents an exciting opportunity to regenerate Temple Bar's river frontage, while also creating a bold new addition to Dublin's skyline."
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