It would be a great little city if we could put…

first_imgAwnings were very much part of the streetscape on O’Connell Street in Limerick City during the early Twentieth Century.From the concept of a ‘soft day’ to the cinematic soakings in Angela’s Ashes, it seems that Limerick is synonymous with rain. Spitting rain, driving rain, sideways rain, lashing rain – it’s all part of the local lexicon. But what if we were to put a roof over the city? Rian Mac Giobúin, creator and founder of Eireannachtharlear.com examines an idea that may not be as fanciful as it seems.IN 1999, when Miguel Fernandez Lores presented himself for local elections in Pontevedra, Spain, his proposal was simple – to make the city accessible to everyone, especially to the most vulnerable.Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter Sign Up His philosophy was that owning a car didn’t give you the right to occupy the public space. Within a month of his election, he had pedestrianised all 300,000 square metres of the medieval centre. Since then, CO2 emissions are down by 70 per cent and nearly three-quarters of what were car journeys are now made on foot or by bicycle. There hasn’t been a road traffic fatality in almost ten years, and while other towns in the region have been shrinking, central Pontevedra has gained 12,000 new inhabitants and seen its local economy thrive.Pontevedra isn’t the only city trying to remove cars from its centre. Barcelona has been experimenting with the concept of “super blocks” since 1993 and in 2016 launched a new urban mobility plan which aims to reduce traffic in the city by 21 per cent and free up nearly 60 per cent of the space that is currently being used by cars, turning them into so-called “citizens’ spaces”.The strategy will see heavy vehicular traffic congestion taken out of the city centre, allowing the streets and public spaces to be used by people. Numerous cities, including London, Boston and New York are experimenting with car-free areas and Copenhagen, long-time darling of people friendly urban spaces, saw more bicycles than cars enter the city centre for the first time in 2016.The desire to remove cars from the city centre is also a theme which is central to the Limerick 2030 plan.Zeso Architects impression of O’Connell Street with roof coverIt states that there is a need “to put people before vehicles” and that the city centre transport strategy should seek to remove “as much extraneous car traffic from the city centre as possible”. The plan also seeks “to re-establish the city centre at the top of the shopping hierarchy…….by improving the range and quality of shopping on offer, in the context of a much improved experience of visiting the city centre as a whole”.It goes on to state that “this ambition can only be achieved by radically improving the shopping experience in the prime shopping area.”So how can this be achieved?In terms of the transport strategy, Limerick City and County Council has unveiled plans that will see €9 million spent on redeveloping the city centre. The LUCROC (Limerick Urban Centre Revitalisation of O’Connell Street) project aims to “improve the public realm, regenerate the urban fabric, reduce air pollution, and promote noise reduction”.While any attempt to improve the city centre is welcomed, many argue that the plans do not go far enough.#LiveableLimerick, a social movement led by former Secretary General at the Department of Finance John Moran, maintains that the plans submitted to date lack ambition, vision and sustainability and are a poor use of public finances.The group has proposed the introduction of a “super-block” concept to the city centre and has as its vision an area that gives priority to pedestrians, radically increases the number of green spaces and focuses on communities living, working, visiting and shopping in the city centre.To improve the range and quality of the shopping on offer, Limerick 2030 proposes a complete refurbishment of Cruises Street through a combination of renovation and redevelopment, allowing a wider range of retail outlets.The strategy includes a new square/plaza in the area around Arthur’s Quay and Cruises Street which would be ringed by shops, restaurants and cafés. It also proposes that the units on Cruises Street be reconfigured to create larger ground floor units as well as a complete renovation of the facades.The aim is to remove cars from the city centre where possible, increase footfall and improve the city centre’s retail offering. This makes sense given that both the Limerick City Development Plan 2010-2016 and Limerick 2030 identified the shopping malls located on the outskirts of the city as a key threat to the rejuvenation of the city centre.Shopping malls are attractive to shoppers as they offer free parking, often tend to be more accessible than city centres, and contain a range of leisure facilities to keep consumers there longer, including cafes, bowling alleys and cinemas.Perhaps most importantly however, indoor shopping malls are not affected by bad weather.Limerick city is one of the most westerly cities in Europe and many parts of the West of Ireland can receive up to 225 days of rain a year. While pedestrianisation of the city centre should be welcomed, Irish cities need to be developed in a way that addresses the realities of the Irish climate.One way that can done is by covering some streets to provide shelter for shoppers.Covered walkways and thoroughfares could be designed to link the city’s parking, rail stations, bicycle stations and bus stops with the city’s main shopping districts and public buildings.Limerick wouldn’t be the first city to cover its streets.Milan has the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, while Madrid, Malaga, Seville and Nicosia have all covered streets to protect from the sun. In Bologna, it’s possible to walk in the shade of colonnades and in Toronto a new waterfront development will use real time weather data to determine how to optimize indoor and outdoor spaces.Japan has introduced covered streets and footpaths in a number of its cities including Kyoto, Osaka and Atami, while in London the Borough, Leandenhall and Covent Garden markets have all been covered, as has Burlington Arcade off Piccadilly.In fact, Limerick already has a precedent for this.In 2010 the redeveloped Milk Market was opened as an all-weather, all year round market space. It has been a massive success and a fantastic addition to the city and should be used as an example for what can be done in other parts of the city.Limerick could start with key pedestrian arteries through the city, possibly trialling smaller streets to start with so as to gauge public opinion and to manage costs. Retractable canopies could be used which could be opened back during the summer or dry days.Some streets could be fully covered, some only partially. They could be covered with artistic installations similar to what has been done in Agueda in Portugal, others with iconic architectural designs. The Limerick School of Art and Design and the public could be involved in designing and voting on designs, thereby engaging those who live in the city.#LiveableLimerick was right to call out the city’s original plans as lacking vision. While Limerick City and County Council should be applauded for making real efforts to rejuvenate the city centre, it’s time for Limerick to really step up.Covering our streets would make the city a nicer, more attractive place for people to spend time, provide a practical solution to the weather and really put Limerick on the map.So, what would it look like?Eireannachtharlear.com has been collaborating with Copenhagen-based Zeso Architects, to produce a number of alternative visions for Limerick city centre. The hope is that these will act as inspiration to the decision makers in City Hall and start a conversation about how to really put Limerick on the map.O’Connell StreetO’Connell Street is the main artery of the city and, whichever plan is eventually decided upon, it is vital that Limerick City and County Council get it right. LUCROC and #LiveableLimerick have both put forward proposals and each of them is compatible with covered streets or covered sidewalks. A really simple, practical and sleek design would be to utilise the already existing wide pavements and install awnings on either side of the street. Awnings have been used on O’Connell Street for over a hundred years and would provide shelter to passers-by and a stunning visual impact for Limerick’s main boulevard.Bedford RowOne idea for Bedford Row could be a series of umbrella type structures that would provide shelter to residents, shoppers, tourists and those working in the city on a day to day basis. The structures would provide pedestrian respite and opportunities for rest and reflection and the space could be used to host street markets, community events such as #LiveableLimerick’s street fest or even just a space to sit under while you eat your lunch, read a book or chat with some friends.Todd’s BowThe smaller streets and lanes around Limerick (for example Little William Street, Todd’s Bow, Fox’s Bow and Little Catherine Street) are where we could really get creative. Any number of materials (stained glass, wood, metal, tensile, etc.) or concepts (wooden beams, umbrellas, doors, chairs, hurleys, rugby balls, whatever) could be used. Design ideas could be submitted by the public on the smaller streets and votes cast to find the public’s favourite design. Artistic installations would act as a tourist attraction in and of themselves and really put Limerick on the map as a destination to visit.Cruises StreetCruises Street could be covered in its entirety. This would achieve Limerick 2030’s aim of rejuvenating a section of the city which it has identified as the prime shopping area. It would also fit in beautifully with the new Opera Centre development, dramatically improve the shopping experience, and perhaps most importantly provide Limerick with a truly unique selling point. Covering Cruises Street would create a fabulous atmosphere on the street and allow restaurants and cafes to open out onto the street. Not only would the city have a new shopping centre-type experience that could compete with the malls on the outskirts of the city, Cruises Street under cover could offer an alfresco dining experience the envy of every city in Ireland. Shannon Airport braced for a devastating blow Advertisement RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Print TAGSCommunitydevelopmentEireannachtharlear.comLimerick CityNewsRian Mac Giobúin Twitter Previous articleAnnual Mid-West Bridal Exhibition at UL Arena set to be biggest yetNext articleLowe receives two week ban after Munster red card Editor Limerick on Covid watch list NewsCommunityIt would be a great little city if we could put a roof on itBy Editor – January 3, 2019 2764 center_img Linkedin WhatsApp Thefts of catalytic converters on the rise #crimeprevention Housing 37 Compulsory Purchase Orders issued as council takes action on derelict sites Email Local backlash over Aer Lingus threat Facebook Population of Mid West region increased by more than 3,000 in past yearlast_img read more

‘Africa in Motion’

first_imgThe rhythmic sound of drums echoed through the Northwest Lab building Thursday evening (Oct. 21) as singers, dancers, and several hundred scholars and students gathered to celebrate the growth of Harvard’s Africa programs.The event, “Africa in Motion,” featured comments by Harvard President Drew Faust, who visited Botswana and South Africa last year, and who said that even though Africa-centric programs have grown rapidly in recent years, she was looking forward to seeing what’s coming. One of the great strengths of Africa programs at Harvard, she said, is that they span the University, pulling expertise from a variety of fields, departments, and schools.The event was “about what we’ve achieved, about all the places we are going. It’s also about how together we can do so much more than we can alone,” Faust said.Other speakers included Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher Jr., University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research; History Professor Caroline Elkins, director of the Harvard University Committee on African Studies; and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, chair of the Department of African and African American Studies, and Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies.“This is an exciting time at Harvard. It’s a wonderful time to study Africa and [to study] in Africa,” Higginbotham said.The celebration featured Thursday’s opening ceremonies, held at The Laboratory at Harvard, and a daylong symposium Friday of panels discussing key issues affecting the continent, including health, economics, and government. There also was a closing round table, moderated by Elkins.The opening ceremonies featured singing by Harvard’s Kuumba Singers, dancing by the Harvard College Pan-African Dance and Music Ensemble, and information tables set up around The Laboratory by various Africa-focused groups. Visitors were immediately enveloped in sounds and sights, which included a large reproduction of the continent on The Laboratory’s floor, with markers for people to sign and post thoughts about Africa.In his Thursday evening address, Gates hailed the growth of Africa-centered programs at Harvard in the 20 years since he arrived. He said that history was being made as Harvard throws its weight behind the importance of African studies.Gates and Elkins, who hosted the event, thanked Faust for her leadership on the issue, and Gates presented her with a bound volume of images of people of African descent in various places in Western culture, drawn from a photo archive at the Du Bois Institute.Harvard’s strength in Africa programs has been noted externally, with the Harvard University Committee on African Studies being named a National Resource Center for African Studies by the U.S. Department of Education, Elkins said. The designation comes with grant money for programs, student travel, and outreach.“Africa in Motion” featured a daylong symposium of panels discussing key issues affecting the continent, including health, economics, and government. There also was a closing round table, moderated by Professor Caroline Elkins (pictured).last_img read more

Who could lead Japan after Abe?

first_imgTopics : As Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces his plans to resign over health problems, attention turns to who could succeed the country’s longest-ruling premier, with no consensus yet clear on a candidate.Here are some of the potential contenders: Shigeru Ishiba, popular ex-defense ministerFormer defense minister Shigeru Ishiba is considered a military geek but is also a self-confessed fan of 1970s pop music.The 63-year-old former banker is the scion of a political family and seen as a strong orator with significant experience — he entered parliament at just 29.Like Abe, Ishiba is a defense hawk who wants to strengthen the role of the country’s Self-Defense Forces in the pacifist constitution, and he has even mused about whether Japan should reconsider its policy forbidding nuclear weapons on its soil.He has served in several cabinet posts and is a popular choice to succeed Abe among the public.Ishiba is less favored by his fellow ruling party lawmakers, partly because he once left the LDP.He was the sole challenger to Abe in the party’s 2018 leadership contest and was heavily defeated. His long political career has been punctuated by repeated gaffes, including comments that the elderly should “hurry up and die” instead of costing the government money, and that Tokyo could learn from Nazi Germany when it comes to constitutional reform.But he has weathered the multiple furors over his comments, and leads a major faction in the LDP.He backed a massive stimulus program in the face of the 2008 global financial crisis, but later shifted to stressing the importance of reducing the country’s snowballing debt. Yoshihide Suga, power player and adviserYoshihide Suga, 71, rose to national prominence as a trusted Abe adviser and was a key proponent of his bid for the premiership after a disastrous first term.After Abe returned to power in 2012, he appointed Suga chief cabinet secretary, a powerful position that coordinates the efforts of government ministries and the ruling party.He is also often the face of the government, delivering regular press briefings and famously revealed the name of the new imperial era declared with the ascension of Emperor Naruhito in 2019 — the Reiwa era.He is a rare self-made lawmaker in a ruling party filled with hereditary politicians and former technocrats, and is the eldest son of a strawberry farmer.Suga moved to Tokyo after high school and worked odd jobs to put himself through night college.He was first elected in 1987, as a municipal assembly member in Yokohama, and won a lower house seat in 1996.center_img Taro Aso, gaffe-prone finance ministerIn his dual role as finance minister and deputy prime minister, 79-year-old Taro Aso is a Liberal Democratic Party old-timer.A close Abe ally, Aso was prime minister from 2008-09 and has been deputy prime minister and finance minister since 2012.Aso stepped down as premier after his ruling LDP was booted from office in a historic defeat in 2009, and has long been rumored to nurse hopes of another chance at the top office. Fumio Kishida, favored successorFormer foreign minister Fumio Kishida currently serves as the ruling party’s policy chief and is often described as Abe’s preferred successor, but his soft-spoken, low-key presence and alleged lack of charisma are seen as possible obstacles.Elected from Hiroshima, Kishida worked to invite then-US president Barack Obama for a historic visit to the city that was devastated by the world’s first war-time atomic bomb explosion.He has been credited with helping cement a deal between Japan and South Korea in 2015 that was meant to end the long-running dispute between the countries over the use of sex slaves during Japan’s occupation. Taro Kono, colorful Twitter userDefense Minister Taro Kono was once considered an ambitious and independent-minded political reformer, but the 57-year-old has toned down his rhetoric in recent years as a key member of Abe’s cabinet.After a stint as a government reform minister, Georgetown-educated Kono served as foreign minister between 2017-2019 before becoming defense minister.He travelled extensively as Japan’s top diplomat, but also oversaw the deterioration of ties with South Korea over unresolved wartime disputes.In recent years, he has largely avoided discussing his passionate opposition to nuclear power, given the government’s official support, and despite his independent image he is seen as close to both Aso and Suga.Often contrasted with his father, political dove Yohei Kono, he has also set himself apart with his online presence, maintaining personal Twitter accounts in Japanese and English.last_img read more