7-9 Merrion Row and The Billetts

  • Location: Georgian / Governmental Quarter
  • Architect: Grafton Architects
  • Completed: 2008

This project began when Grafton Architects were asked to assess an existing 1970s building as office accommodation for the Department of Finance on a city centre site close to St. Stephen’s Green. The project also included the modification of a 1912 Protected Structure, called The Billets, and a new underground link into the adjacent Government Buildings complex. The 1970s building proved to be unsuitable for the Office of Public Works & Government Department requirements.

The fundamental concept of this new building is rooted in its immediate urban context, relating to the particular qualities of the public park of St. Stephen’s Green, the Huguenot cemetery beside it and the 18th century Georgian street context of Merrion Row. The site is interpreted as a continuation of St. Stephen’s Green with the Huguenot cemetery forming another open space – a secret garden – along the street. The character of St. Stephen’s Green with its street setbacks, basement areas, low walls, metal railings, connecting entrance steps, “bridges”  and thresholds directly influenced the decision to enter this new building across a “bridge”, making a new threshold. A set back is used to form an area that brings light to the lower ground level and allows the formation of a clearly defined entrance. The celebration of entrance is a main feature of the great 18th century houses of the area. The scale of the building lowers as it adjoins its neighbouring property – No. 6 Merrion Row – so that the new building forms a strong end-piece to the existing terrace. This section of the building takes up the height and width of the typical 18th century Georgian House adjacent and then negotiates the shift in scale between the existing terrace and the new building, which rises to the scale of Stephen’s Green.

The Huguenot Trust gave permission that windows could be placed overlooking their cemetery. The previous 1970s building had a blank façade along this elevation. A design developed which could have windows on all four façades – facing north, south, east and west – which is a unique opportunity in a tight urban location. The façade to the Huguenot cemetery was studied in detail to allow for maximum light to the offices, while offering maximum privacy to the cemetery. A stone screen was constructed – of light grey limestone from a quarry in east Galway – and crafted to feel like stone and built by experienced masons.

This deep wall is made up of fixed windows, flush with the stone and recessed sliding windows, which open to allow fresh air. The windows integrate nostrils, breathing in natural air, which is distributed into the office spaces and drawn up into the six chimneys placed centrally in the plan. These six chimneys are working chimneys and architecturally form part of the traditional roofscape of Dublin. Windows frame the city. The city is brought into the interior of the building.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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