CHQ (Formerly Stack A)

  • Location: North Docklands
  • Architect: Michael Collins / Fitzroy Robinson
  • Completed: 2007

CHQ, originally known as Stack A, was built in 1820/21 as a tobacco store with vaults beneath to store wine. It was designed by John Rennie, one of the most remarkable engineers of his era. The building which is an architectural gem, was unique in the fact that there was "not one particle of wood or other combustible matter" used in its construction.

CHQ which is located on Custom House Quay, is perhaps most famously remembered as the venue of the Crimean War Banquet held in 1856. More than 4,000 Irish soldiers, (who were lucky enough to come home), were honoured by Queen Victoria.

The hall extends to a total floor area of approximately 13,000 square metres Three rows of iron pillars divide the building into four aisles, covered in by a roof supported by an iron framework. For the banquet, the iron framework was painted in brilliant colours of red, cobalt blue and yellow, the pillars were a deep blue and the walls of the building white. The enormous walls were covered in flags from every nation.

CHQ has now been  transformed into a world-class retail restaurant and exhibition venue by Michael Collins and Fitzroy Robinson. The greatest challenges were the repair and cleaning of the cast iron frame and the need to insulate the roof to allow the building to be occupied rather than just used as an unheated store.  The elimination of the water in the vaults, involved the investigation and repair of underground Victorian culverts and flood valves that prevented the Liffey from flooding them at high tide.

The plain brick south wall was replaced by a planar glass wall set back to allow the vaults to be seen from street level and to allow daylight light into the vaults. This is one of the most impressive and important buildings of its type in Dublin.  Its vast scale and intricate detailing are a unique expression of the elegance and durability of cast iron as a structural system and a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the period.

The glass southern elevation  has been designed by the renowned structural specialists RFR who also provided the specialist design for I M Pei's glass pyramid and gives fascinating views both in on the structure and out to the Liffey. Given its westerly aspect overlooking George's Dock, CHQ is also an ideal venue for a wide variety of high quality bars and restaurants with potential for al fresco dining to the extent that the weather permits.

The Docklands Authority had a long standing ambition to attract a top quality museum operation to the scheme and has provided revenue subvention arrangements for this into the IFSC business leases. But the building's saline atmosphere made it unsuitable for the National Museum's decorative arts division which has now moved to Collin's Barracks.

Critics have registered their disappointment at what they see as a slide from the high value of CHQ as an primarily cultural venue (there was no mention in the Master Plan of any retail aspect to the warehouse) to the lower grade uses of retail and restaurants. Yet  it  nevertheless  fulfills the  need  to make the original IFSC 1 site a more 'people-oriented' place.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Monday, September 22, 2008
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