A study was carried out on the expansion of Irish towns over the past 50 years. It recognised that the planning of these urban extensions was largely driven by infrastructure and land use considerations but with little or no concern for the resulting form. The study develops a case for the potential of urban morphology providing a vital theoretical discipline for form-led planning and design. It identifies four essential urban morphological determinants that can be used as tools for description and analysis as well as for planning and design, namely, conceptual determinants, concerning the essential layout type of the town; physical determinants, comprising landscape characteristics and the infrastructure of transportation; organisational determinants, focused on the sequential arrangement of tissues reflecting, density, intensity and land use; and structural determinants, involving five essential urban elements as concepts, namely, routes, nodes, edges, districts and landmarks. Accordingly, eight case study towns were rigorously analysed, consistently demonstrating the lack of coherence in their suburbs. Examples of successful form were also identified as models for improved coherence of the urban fabric.
This town is located on the midlands on a boggy flat, interacting with the convoluted meandering of the River Suck. It is connected by the N6 to the cities of Galway (west) and Dublin (east). A relief draws the commercial core towards the southeast. This town has been selected because it combines a midland location, bi-nuclearity, flat terrain, river / floodplain, marshlands, axial linearity extending into the landscape in a somewhat radial layout, formality and a relief road that attempts to create a new urban frontage.
Located in the north midlands among drumlins, this town stands on the banks of the River Shannon and comprises a main urban core on the northern bank and a tiny cluster on the southern end of the bridge. In recent times the N4 has been diverted to form a relief road immediately to the southeast. It has been selected because it combines a midland location, bi-nuclearity, hilly terrain, river, marshland, linearity, informality and a relief road resulting in new urban frontage and a process of extroversion of the core into the suburbs.
This south midland town is located immediately to the north of the Comeragh Mountains on the banks of the River Suir. The N24 has been constructed to the north over recent decades, snaking its way in an east-west direction. It has been selected because it combines a midland location, adjacent mountain and river, linearity, informality and an infrastructure complex of a railway and national bi-pass in parallel wrapping around.
This town is located to the northwest of the country on the Atlantic coast in a dip among drumlins. It is by-passed by the N15 to the east and the N56 to the north. It has been selected because it combines a coastal location, hilly terrain, rive / floodplain, powerful centrality, formality / informality and an axial connection to a node on a by-pass of national importance.
This west midland town is located on a low lying landscape wrapping around part of the northern shores of Lough Rea. It has recently been by-passed to the north by the N5 (which, in turn, is scheduled to be by-passed and thus be relegated to town relief road status). This town has been selected because it combines a midland location, fairly flat terrain, dominant lake, linearity, informality, strong division into two parts, Celtic monastic form and national by-pass.
This town is located in the south midlands in a shallow dip on the relatively narrow Gradoge River. Structurally, it comprises a grid ‘hinged’ along the N8 main street spine running on a north-south axis. It has been selected because it combines a midland location, fairly flat terrain, gridded and axial structure, formality, centrality and landscape-influenced boulevards and squares.
Mullingar is a midland town straddling a gentle topographic dip but which is otherwise on relatively flat terrain. The N4, passing approximately 1.5 – 2 km to the east of the core, is a major national route as well as a potential morphological determinant. It has been selected because it combines a midland location, fairly flat terrain, radial road structure, linearity, informality, circular centrality, multi-infrastructure complex integral to form and national bypass.
This west coast town is located on the Carrowbeg River that flows into Clew Bay from the east. Quays are located approximately one kilometer to the west looking onto the bay and are contiguous to Westport House and demesne. It has been selected because it combines a coastal location, hilly terrain, axial river, adjacent demesne, bi-nuclear layout, formality and non-centrality.