Opinion

The View of the City from Spaceship DCC

Paul Kearns portrait
Paul Kearns

Paul Kearns is the co-author of the books "Beyond Pebbledash" and "Redrawing Dublin", which explore Dublin urbanism. His most recent book, "Seamless Neighbourhood – Redrawing the City of Israel", focuses on Tel Aviv. He has worked in the past as Israeli-Palestinian correspondent for the Sunday Tribune. And, of course, as a planner at Dublin City Council.

It’s a truism that if you work too long in any large organisation, your understanding of reality gradually warps. Working in Dublin City Council however is special.

This is an organisation whose primary function, after all, is the understanding, organisation and planning of SPACE.

It is therefore only natural that all things spatial – distance, scale, time – gradually but inevitably infuse and confuse, upend and ultimately risk, as happens in most great space movies, a kind of personal planning madness.

Too long inside the “Spaceship DCC” and one’s sense of time and space slowly becomes distorted to the point of hallucinatory imaginations, a world where reality becomes fantasy and fantasy becomes reality, space is elastic, and time is conceptual.

Perceptions of space and place can begin to alter, mutate, reverse even. This is locally known as the time-space warp effect. Time-space warps can affect the few or infect the many. There are many examples.

Dublin’s historic Medieval Quarter is one such alternative time-space warp that has infected many. We have, over time on Spaceship DCC, become conditioned to imagining space through the prism of a very, very distant time. Some conservation architects can lose their mind to this virus. Spaceship OPW is inoculated.

For many alien visitors who are not inflicted with this local strain of space virus, our Medieval Quarter is pretty much nothing more than the visible intersection of two planetary-scale dual carriageways.

In other alien universes, medieval quarters are generally known to be intimate spaces, joyful, pedestrian friendly, and visibly historic. In Dublin, it is a series of traffic lights, with pedestrian cages overlooked by a church.

The South Georgian Core is another such time-space warp. Long viewed as a much-valued glittering bright Red Brick Star in the morphology of Dublin’s universe, the South Georgian Core is in fact a White Dwarf. A White Dwarf is a dead star, a star that deludes us by radiating light long after it was since extinguished.

As recently as 100 years ago there was evidence of lived life through the entire constellation of properties on Fitzwilliam Square. Today, it’s all but dead at night and at weekends with just four or five of its constellation permanently inhabited.

The “Liffey Corridor” west of Spaceship DCC, often described as a dual carriageway with a wet median running through, is another such time-space warp. The Liffey Corridor can be better understood as a kind of suburban-urban wormhole in Spaceship DCC. It essentially functions as a funnel for suburban satellite time-space travel, a vehicular connector from the edge of city space to downtown.

Some of the most esoteric senior commanders of Spaceship DCC can be still heard to wax lyrically about the Liffey Corridor, the fantastic past creations of long-deceased genius space designer Commander Gandon; the Four Courts, the sublime bridges, and elegant quay walls. Few are less likely to be found walking along its now sad, in places rundown and, at certain times, its grim pavements.

Smithfield, long considered a black hole for those willing to risk (their careers) by entering or coming close to it, remains an unfathomable universe destined to forever confuse the minds of Spaceship DCC.

Smithfield is both a time-space warp and a black hole. It wasn’t just that “the matter” that holds Smithfield together was unfathomable but that place itself was always perceived much further away than it actually was, a kind of optical illusion of space.

Smithfield was known to be located somewhere north of the Liffey Corridor, but generally understood to be located just south of the distance Moon Finglas. Protestations that Smithfield Space was virtually visible from the windows of the control room of Spaceship DCC somehow convinces few.

So, perhaps it was no accident when discussing the potential alternatives for the future Dublin City Library, Smithfield was summarily dismissed by one member of senior command running Spaceship DCC as being simply “too far” from the city centre.

For those who aren’t sure, Smithfield is a remarkable 700m or an unimaginable 9-minute light year space walk north from the entrance to Spaceship DCC, while St Stephens Green at 1.2km is a jolly 16-minute enjoyable stroll south.

There is an altogether more common type of black hole dotted around the universe of Planet Dublin. These black holes suck the energy out of the nearest inhabited space, they are destructive to life around it, yet oddly they have until very recently been hardly noticed at all.

These blackholes, also known as brown holes or brownfield holes are sometimes referred to as derelict or vacant sites.

Scientific explanations for their continued existence, despite an ever-expanding economic universe range from the ridiculous to the comical. Get too close to any explanation of the continued existence of any brownfield hole and you risk being sucked into a worm hole of excuses, an inane, insane, and economic illiterate list of couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, didn’t, can’t.

Brownfield holes are in fact sustained by a universally known basic law of quantum urban dynamics: land hoarding. Ultimately, these brownfield holes can only be erased by repeated laser-sharp targeted levies, a space strategy strongly resisted by all but one, or perhaps two, of the senior commanders of Spaceship DCC – prior to it being somewhat forced upon it by Captain Enda then of the Intergalactic Government.

Time itself in the universe of Spaceship DCC often gets distorted, bent, twisted or simply ignored. Somewhat peculiarly most of the spatial guidance manuals used to assist Spaceship DCC navigate time and space – including all those distance satellite villages – the plethora of action plans, local plans, strategic initiatives, sectoral objectives, do not possess much reference to time at all.

Few, apart from Spaceship DCC’s super guidance manual known as the city development plan have a date, an end point. Even fewer have any inbuilt mechanism to allow any quantifiable evaluation of how to get from A to B.

Bizarrely time and space are rarely quantified in Spaceship DCC.

The super guidance manual designed to make Planet Dublin a better place to inhabit for the future is itself terribly distorted by time. This distortion of time feeds back in a negative loop to undermine the liveability of inner city space. Known colloquially on Spaceship DCC as the “development plan process” it works something like this.

Every six years, a new super guidance manual needs to be updated. The ink isn’t dry on the last and the six-year process starts again. This process itself is mind numbingly complex and subject to tediously unknown and often unknowable and generally meaningless (to the inhabitants of Planet Dublin) sequentially connected dots, dates or dot-dates.

The processing of these known unknowns, unknown unknowns dot-dates overtime consumes an ever-increasing amount of resources and matter in Spaceship DCC. It is its very own black hole, first two spaceship planners are lost, then four, then eight, then sixteen and so on it goes.

Weeks, months, years are spent retweaking, redrafting, recoding essentially the VERY SAME super guidance text of the previous super guidance manual. An endlessly demoralizing pointless recycling exercise of never-ending edits. The job ends with a hurried selection of images of the latest sexy space architecture and promotion for the super-tweaker.

Little time is spent evaluating whether the previous, hundreds of policies were implemented or which objectives, aims, goals, were ever achieved.

Space advice: how about next time we just change the date on the super guidance manual cover on day one and do nothing else but spend the next six years evaluating what and how policies have been implemented and whether they have actually achieved their goals and objectives?

It’s a bit like our own aspirational, top 100, New Year’s resolution list. It reads great on Day 1. Day 7 we have already forgotten 50 of them. By Day 14, we have forgotten another 25 and are half embarrassed we came up with most of them. By Day 150, we can’t actually fathom what dozens of the resolutions actually meant at all. Come September we again ponder new resolutions.

Then come 1 January on the next year we start all over again, a year wiser, a year older. Meanwhile not only have we not learned a word of “Klingon” and can’t fit into our Lycra spacesuit, we didn’t get to venture to far-off distant exciting galaxies.

Distance, density, size and matter also work in mysterious ways in Spaceship DCC.

Most of the senior bridge commanders of Spaceship DCC continuously urge, in the interest of universal sustainability that the inhabitants of Planet Dublin seek shelter in dense matter. Dense matter as the name suggests is everything tight, compact and small. Very small.

In fact, as the universe of Planet Dublin exponentially and infinitely expands outwards, with people commuting from distant black holes, the designs for these dense homes, sometimes, known as “starter homes”, “dog boxes”, “yellow packs” and on occasion “apartments” have become increasingly smaller.

The latest revolutionary innovative prototypes of dense-matter living include proposals for breathable liveable pods not much bigger than the size of old street-telephone boxes. These liveable pods come with fold-out beds and kitchen sinks and are “designed” to accommodate Planet Dublin’s highest paid software engineers, or so says Lieutenant Murphy of the Intergalactic Government.

Meanwhile, almost all the Senior Bridge Commanders of Spaceship DCC themselves live and travel daily to distant far-flung galaxies.

Meanwhile the nearby much larger Planet of London is sadly expected to slowly extinguish itself following its departure from the “Euniverse” in a much anticipated intergalactic explosion on 29 March next.

But the question remains, will the inner city and outer space of Spaceship DCC, with its pod living, brown holes and space junk, blind them – and deny the rest of us on Planet Dublin – a once in a lifetime opportunity to take advantage of a friendly alien invasion?

 

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