Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Well-known architect and TV presenter Hugh Wallace, pictured at the North Quays groundbreaking ceremony on the South Plaza on March 6.  

“Is that Hugh Wallace over there,” two curious types asked this reporter prior to the formal groundbreaking for the North Quays project on March 6.  

Once I’d quickly confirmed the well-known architect’s identity, both almost skipped away towards the Clock Tower in delight, safe in the knowledge that there was a television personality in their midst.  

During the project presentation held at the Granville Hotel, Pat Power of Harcourt Developments, which will develop the Strategic Development Zone (SDZ), acknowledged the role that Douglas Wallace Consultants will play in the pending project.   

“It’s now our role to get on with the development itself; Hugh Wallace, our architect is here with us today… we’ll have a lot more to do vis a vis presenting in due course and I know Hugh is better at this kind of presentation and loves the camera, and he’ll be able to tell you about it in due course.”  

With Mr Power declaring his hope to have the planning application for the SDZ’s first phase (hotel, offices, residential and ground floor food and beverage outlets) submitted before year’s end, the Douglas Wallace team ought to be busy very soon.  

While greater specifics will be shared on a future date, the RTE ‘Home of the Year’ judge and ‘Great House Revival’ presenter is looking forward to taking so sizeable an architectural task.  

“It’s amazing,” he told the Waterford News & Star. “To be given the privilege to be involved in a project of this scale and its importance to the city where it will make the difference is just amazing. In the office, the excitement about this project is just palpable and you just want it to be right – it can’t be wrong.”  

Mr Wallace continued: “In being right, it’s very important about the emotions that the architecture creates, particularly at ground level and I think an awful lot of modern buildings don’t have that connection today so it’s something we’ve very aware of in Douglas Wallace and that’s what we’re going to deliver – the tactility, the ‘touchy-feely’, the comfort, the calm, the interest.  

“When you look at architecture, the canopies are gone – you know like shop canopies – they need to come back because it causes visual chaos and that visual chaos is what stimulates us to enjoy a space.”  

When put to him about how advantageous it was to be working, following a host of demolitions, with a blank site across the river, Hugh Wallace replied: “Funny enough, I think it’s a shame that there aren’t older buildings and protected structures because in a way they give the grain and the heritage to a site. But it’s our intention to bring elements of the docks back into the site so that there is that connection with the past.” 

Commenting on the scale of the project facing his team, Mr Wallace commented: “We’ve probably only worked on something half the scale of this previously up in Dundalk and also some schemes in Dublin and Galway as well. But this scheme is pivotal to Waterford being the best city in Ireland and it can be. The buildings are amazing, the museum area – you’ve already got so much – but it just needs that little bit more to be THE destination in Ireland.”  

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