Swords Cultural Quarter
SWORDS CULTURAL QUARTER
Fingal County Council identified the development of a Cultural Quarter in the heart of the town of Swords as a key project in the delivery of its vision to engage citizens, promote enterprise and attract visitors. The vision for the Swords Cultural Quarter is based on the understanding that successful towns use their cultural heritage to strengthen their identity. The objective is to stimulate and achieve economic and social regeneration in the vicinity of Swords Castle and at the junction of Main Street, North Street and Seatown Road by developing a new Cultural Quarter and destination at this important location in Swords historic centre.
This project consists of an ambition for a defined Civic Space, a new public landmark and a new destination that will reinforce Sword’s position as the County town and will prove a vital asset in developing and strengthening a distinctive identity. A Cultural Centre will be at the core of the Swords Cultural Quarter and will include a library space, performance venue and arts venue. Further, it will include a number of support facilities which could be utilised for the artistic, cultural and community needs.
The objective of the SCQ project is to energise this area of Swords in order to make a balanced town that provides places, buildings & spaces for both cultural & economic activity for all its citizens and to create a new sense of place.
Background to the proposal:
The realisation of Swords SCQ derives largely from two major documents commissioned in 2014 and 2015- Swords Castle Conservation Plan and ‘Swords Castle Cultural Quarter Masterplan’. The conservation plan detailed Swords Castle as the best surviving medieval episcopal manor in Ireland and is designated a National Monument. With a rich assembly of historic buildings of great antiquity, it is a complex site representing at least 500 years of development, redesign, alteration, re-use and adaptation. It reflects the changing fortunes and lives of Dublin’s archbishops and later owners, and the architectural fashions of their times. The curtain walls enclose over an acre of land that slopes down to the Ward River. This complex of buildings is made up of many phases of reuse and redesign reflecting its long history and changing fortunes. Swords Castle is a landmark and maintains a strong, distinct visual and physical presence over the town of Swords sited as it is as the vista closer at the north end of the main street of the town. However, despite its physical presence, its historical significance and its importance in the development and the layout of Swords town, the site has lacked public legibility and has largely gone unrecognised in the consciousness of the people of Swords and the public at large. The Masterplan study identified the area around the Castle as the location for Swords Cultural Quarter. It describes in detail the physical conditions and issues identified during the stakeholder and public consultation process, establishing issues as the key challenges that should be considered. It defined the aspirations for the Swords Cultural Quarter:
- To create a distinct urban identity for Swords and a destination for citizens and visitors by strengthening the attraction of the northern end of Main Street.
- To strengthen the identity of Swords as the County Town of the fastest growing county in Ireland.
- To explore the potential for place making and reinterpret the historic market street.
- To reinforce the Castle both as a focal point and a backdrop to the town.
- To create a defined civic space – a setting where day to day exchanges as well as celebrations can take place bringing the community together.
- To redefine the relationship between the main civic & cultural components – the Castle, County Hall, the proposed Civic & Cultural Centre buildings, the Park and Main Street.
- To establish an urban quarter with a strong physical relationship between the main civic & cultural components: Swords Castle, the Park, the new Swords civic & Cultural Centre, the new SCQ Hub Building and the Main Street.
- To address traffic issues: improve the connectivity & safety at the key intersection of Main street and North St/Seatown Road, give priority to pedestrians, lessen the impact of the traffic, divert traffic away, close off the traffic for large events and create shared surfaces.
The current plans are at early stages of development.
The ambition of the development is to provide ;
- A cultural destination which will make an enduring impact on Swords and provide a new cultural centre for the citizens of Swords and Fingal.
- The main building proposed, Swords Civic Centre, will accommodate a new County Library, a public theatre and arts exhibition space.
- Providing a Civic public space in the heart of Swords the development of a flexible town centre public space for events and to maximise the heritage value of Swords Castle as an attractive cultural and tourist destination.
- Improve the streetscape and public realm and support the public appreciation and development of Swords Castle as a heritage attraction and destination and Integrate Fingal County Hall as a public building into the overall proposal
- Develop a second new SCQ Hub building with a link to the Town park and supporting the uses of Swords Castle.
The new proposed buildings and spaces will be of high architectural quality bringing cohesion between the elements of the new quarter and the town, respect and enhance the past, create a landmark and a destination for local communities and visitors alike.