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The Morrison’s Island International Design Competition Submission

Sep 29, 2017

The following article, written by Senior Associates Carl Frushour and Travis Ewen, is part of an ongoing series that focuses on a select topic of inspiration for the month. The focus for September is “Activate”.

Earlier this month, we entered The Morrison’s Island International Design Competition. Registered architects, landscape architects and engineers were invited to participate in a design research competition to propose innovative and considered solutions for the renewal of Cork city’s quayside landscape. The competition was promoted by Save Cork City and organized by the Cork Architectural Association with the support of the National Sculpture Factory and the Architectural Association of Ireland.

Since ancient times, Corkonians have had a close relationship with the River Lee and its surrounding marshes. As industry and technology has evolved along and around the Lee, each great leap forward has always triggered a change in the relationship between humans and the river. As Eoin O’Mahoney stated in the Humans of Cork video series, “The River by its nature, changes throughout the day, throughout the seasons, and throughout time.”

Our design concept, inspired by the ever changing nature of the river, extends a dynamic approach to the urban fabric surrounding the quays, creating a destination where people can meet, explore, and fulfill an innate desire to be up close with the water. The three pillars of this approach are to Revive, Reveal and Restore.

Revive The Lee

Create and craft a destination by breathing life into the City Centre. The success of this project can serve as a catalyst for change along the Cork waterfront. By promoting short term tactical and modular along the quay, visitors will be enticed to explore the quay during their lunch, evenings or return on the weekends. In addition to supporting overall pedestrian connections along the Lee, these approaches may include thoughtful programming ideas such as pop up cafes and restaurants, engaging the music school for small scale music festivals and promoting floral/horticultural events in a newly designed “Floating Gardens” system. These revived quays could also serve as a destination along the existing Festival Cork circuit.

Reveal The Lee

The tidal nature of the Lee dramatically alters how it is perceived throughout the day. Our proposal offers visitors multiple ways to get close to the river either along the Floating Gardens system or by generous steps down to the river by the bridge. The geometry of the Floating Gardens and walkway allow visitors to observe the historic character of the walls and signature details such as the wooden boat fenders. The walkway, which floats with the tidal changes, allows for views focused on the historic stairs.

Restore The Lee 

The tidal nature of the Lee dramatically alters how it is perceived throughout the day. Our proposal offers visitors multiple ways to engage and interact with the river including generous seat steps leading down to the river by the new bridge and a Floating Gardens system, which is composed of floating walkways through a series of gardens with native Cork plants. The Floating Gardens, which pay homage to the historic marsh landscape of cork, also enable visitors to observe the historic character of the quay walls and signature details such as the wooden wailers. The walkway, which floats with the daily tide, frames views of the historic limestone stairs.

Connect Cork – The New Triad Bridge: The Triad Bridge concept derives its form from the river itself and the natural motion of pedestrian movement from the City Centre to the southern neighborhoods. The form represents the coming together of the north and south Lee as it heads for the sea. The bridge form also makes a gesture towards the ubiquitous ancient triquetra symbols used throughout the ancient world and particularly in Ireland. The simplicity and elegance of the materials and design allow the modern form to knit together both sides of the river seamlessly.

The shape and orientation allows people to easily enter from the south and north and congregate at its Centre point. The graceful lines of the rail will be subtly lit at night while the underside of the bridge lighting will interpret current events in Cork, such as major sporting events, with lighting evoking the red color of the home team.

Stroll the Lee: We have re-imagined the roadway and car park at Father Mathew and Morrison Quay to be a natural historic stone surface. We have removed elements that inhibit pedestrian movement such as curbs and parking, to give the right of way back to people and strengthen the connection between humans and the Lee. This will create an entire area for pedestrians to move freely and experience the quay in a park like setting while still allowing deliveries and emergency vehicles to access the quayside.

Floating Gardens: The earliest maps of Cork show marsh islands during the early settlement of the City Centre. These islands and their precious ecosystems are what inspired our design. The Floating Gardens are a simple system of floating structures that allow people access to the water and offers a new landscape typology that could serve as an open space destination for this neighborhood. The walkway and gardens float with the tide changes, offering unique perspectives at different times of the day. This system allows for the easy transition of grade from the quay to the walkway at low tide, and at high tide serves as an extension of the quay landscape. Fishing, boating, swimming and relaxing become much more accessible to all with this system. The gardens themselves offer water fowl areas of refuge as well as pollinator habitat in a dense urban core. Ecologically, the Floating Gardens serve to help cleanse water by filtering water through “marsh bays”. These bays would contain native wetland species that could aid in research of the river ecology and offer educational opportunities for the public. We foresee the Floating Gardens as a modular prototype system that could be instituted in the North Lee where space allows.


Carl Frushour Senior Associate, Landscape Architect
Travis Ewen Senior Associate, Landscape Architect
Rob Dolan MPhil in Archeology, Project Archeologist + Cork Resident
Kristina Stevens Associate, Landscape Designer
Tyler Cromleigh Landscape Designer
Tom Sutter Landscape Designer
Jarod Kershek Senior Landscape Designer
Chole Weigle Landscape Designer
John Amodeo Boston Landmark Commission, Commissioner
Christy Sweeney Graphic Designer
Harry Fuller General Council
Research/Charrette: Ruth Loetterle, Nick Healy, Uma Sankar, Andrea Fossa, Carolina Carvajal, Rick Williams, Horace Aikman