Architect calls for Cork's waterways to become green canopies

Architect calls for Cork's waterways to become green canopies

Kevin Smyth’s vision for Patrick’s Street with an added canopy of trees running the length of the street. Picture: Lisa Klotzbach/Kevin Smyth Architects

Kevin Smyth, a Cork architect, has designed plans to make Cork's historic waterways into green canopies.

The plans outline tree planting routes along Cork's quays and waterways, to create a "nature bypass" and to connect Cork's existing green spaces.

The tree planting would be based on existing technology and will use Amsterdam's engineered root planting as an example.

Mr Smyth says he created the plans as a discussion point, rather than concrete plans for the city's future. "It's blue-sky thinking, but I hope it generates discussion. We need to think about how to use space in a different way."

"We need to make the city centre a better place to live in. There are long-term benefits to tree planting. Trees do a lot of things. They improve air quality and the quality of life in the city."

Mr Smyth says that we need to start viewing trees as a resource. "We need to stop thinking of trees as a problem and cutting them down. They are often framed as an issue when it comes to parking, and when roots grow up onto the pavement. But they have benefits."

"We could also gather the fallen leaves from deciduous trees and use them as compost," he adds.

Air quality in Cork city has made headlines recently, and Mr Smyth feels that people are more aware of pollution. "There are still very few air quality monitors here... trees can help combat this pollution."

How George’s Quay and Morrison’s Island could become linear parks with trees planted on either side of the river.	Picture: Lisa Klotzbach/Kevin Smyth Architects
How George’s Quay and Morrison’s Island could become linear parks with trees planted on either side of the river. Picture: Lisa Klotzbach/Kevin Smyth Architects

When the Cork architect posted the plans on Twitter, it was met with a positive reaction.

He also discussed his plans with a City councillor, who seemed to take an interest according to Mr Smyth. "They did say they didn't want the trees to block any light, but it shouldn't be a problem as the leaves will fall off in autumn when we need more sunlight, and they will provide shade on hot summer days."

Mr Smyth says that Cork city's main island is man-made, therefore the land on it was considered "too valuable" not to build on. This is one of the reasons why there is a lack of trees and green spaces in the city centre.

"The city doesn't lend itself to trees like other cities. The whole island is man-made. There are physical and financial reasons why there are few trees."

"Since the land was reclaimed from the river, it was valuable and people wanted to build on it, not 'waste' it by planting trees. So, there is a lack of green spaces on Cork's main island. There are no Georgian squares like there are in Dublin."

"The river had working waterways, so boats had to dock and be unloaded." However, Mr Smyth says that now these waterways could be greened to make the city look softer.

"It's to get a conversation started," he adds.

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