There are whispers and murmurs among the Waterford people as you walk through the city: ‘it’s unreal boi!’ and ‘are we in Barcelona?’ can be heard when one meanders through the maze of hoarding and building works within the Apple Market situated between John Street and Michael Street. Construction of the large-scale triangular canopy began this month in the social epicentre of Waterford. The canopy, designed by local architects, dhb Architects, is made up of stainless steel, glazed edges and a reflective underbelly to delight those that pass underneath.
The Apple Market has traditionally been a location for trading since the early 18th century, where fruit and vegetables were bought and sold. The canopy is be ‘a modern version of the traditional market covering associated with the space’ (Waterford City Centre Urban Renewal Scheme, Part 8 Planning Report, 2015). As well as acting as a new public space, it will allow for events and activities to run all year round, regardless of Ireland’s inconsistent weather. Beyond the physical presence of the structure, it will also open up opportunities for markets, temporary kiosks and outdoor events throughout the day and night. An overall reconsideration of how people use the space has been at the forefront of this project. The surrounding businesses will be able to take advantage of outdoor seating to the front of their properties adding a whole new element of activity and vibrancy to the area.
With the redevelopment of the entire city at the moment, the triangular canopy will function as a new landmark for the beginning of the main spine into the inner city. Works on the surrounding area will see the structure’s beauty enhanced by new paving of Irish limestone and Spanish granite. The canopy will eventually lend itself as the entrance to the recently approved Michael Street shopping centre, another big achievement for Waterford.
Other structures of similar scale can be seen around the country such as the Umbrellas in Temple Bar, Dublin. Designed by Sean Harrington Architects, the umbrellas are a leading example of great public space. The flexible structures, made of a tensile fabric, open and close depending on the event and act as nucleus in the heart of Temple Bar’s outdoor cultural scene. The sculptural beauty of the pieces provide usage and continuous cover throughout the year, rain or shine.
Likewise, Limerick’s Milk Market, which has historically been a market since the 1840s, has seen ambitious renovation in 2010 which allowed for trading to exist all year round. The tensile structure designed by Healy Partners Architects shelters the market and has acted as a catalyst for the revival of Limerick’s city centre. While providing cover it also retains the outdoor atmosphere that is so culturally relevant to Ireland.
Considering that the Apple Market canopy is a new building typology unseen before in Waterford, it is only natural to expect initial opinions to be divided. The structure is the beginning of a long term development and is helping to take Waterford on its first step in a recent push to modernise and revitalise the city. With the excitement around the North Quays development, the sale of the long abandoned Ard-Ri hotel, renovation of the courthouse and of course the Deise Greenway, Waterford is fast entering a potential golden age of redevelopment.