Government Buildings - Reburbishment

  • Location: Georgian / Governmental Quarter
  • Architect: Office of Public Works Architectural Services
  • Completed: 1990

Commencing in 1989, and with a sensitivity of design and respect for the building’s historic inheritance, the OPW converted the former laboratories and lecture theatres into offices suitable for the transaction of government business at the highest level. with state-of-the-art environmental conditioning, electronics, information technology and communications. The project was completed in 1990 and occupied by the Department of the Taoiseach.

The job began with an initial assessment which revealed obvious problems. Structural analysis determined the adequacy of the building to cope with the proposed change of use and consequently revised loading conditions. Change of use would also mean fitting conference rooms and offices with environmental conditioning, electronics, information technology and communications. Irish materials and craftsmanship would also be used wherever possible.

The principal structural changes involved the ceremonial stairs and the rooftop helicopter pad. To provide for the first the main lecture theatre was demolished to accommodate the new stairs. The helicopter pad was placed on a platform built at parapet level.

Using techniques perfected at the Custom House project, the external stonework was meticulously cleaned, revealing attractive bands of darker stone under the parapet. The courtyard was given a simple treatment with salvaged tram-setts used to form the peripheral carriageway and car-parking bays, and the central are divided into four grassed lawns. A low-level water feature, in scale with the surroundings is positioned at the intersection of the granite paths,  and lime trees were planted to soften the landscape. The entrance steps were reshaped and carried forward, to create a more dignified entrance and a podium for receiving guests.

The cool, bright entrance hall has been visually extended by breaking through the wall of the Entrance Hall, the former principal lecture theatre beyond, and strengthening the floor to accommodate a ceremonial stairway. The focus of this  inner hall is the stained glass window by Evie Hone called ‘My four Green Fields’. It was originally commissioned by the Department of Industry and Commerce for the Irish government’s pavilion at the 1939 New York World Trade Fair. It depicts the four provinces of Ireland, and, though the composition is primarily abstract, emblems and symbols can be clearly distinguished. Its luminous colours are reflected in the warm beechwood balustrading and panelling, and vibrant carpet commissioned from artist Mary FitzGerald.

The first floor houses the offices of the Taoiseach and his advisors, conference rooms and the government secretariat. Here the architectural intention was to interpret the feeling of the strong external facades, to maintain the sense of expectancy from outside to inside, and to provide spaces and rooks of dignity commensurate with the status of the occupants and their guests. Plastered panelled walls and coffered ceilings, panelled doors and heavy architraves and chair-rails (carrying the electrics and communications) combine to give a sense of scale and texture to the rooms. Materials used through the building are in the main of Irish manufacture, and specially designed and manufactured furniture was commissioned using native timber. Modern art works supplied by the OPW and the Arts Council enhance the walls of all the rooms and corridors.
The remaining two storeys accommodate cellular offices. A principle feature of the basement is the specially created press centre, fully equipped with sound enhancement, recording facilities, television broadcasting, simultaneous interpretation, autocue, and slide projection.

Government Buildings has won a number of awards commending the refurbishment project and its improved access for the disabled,  including the RIAI Silver Medal for conservation for the period 1987-92. The citation commented that ‘the re-use of this existing building of acknowledged quality of this new, and entirely fitting,  purpose, has created a special identity of Government, and has contributed considerably to Dublin’s status as an European capital’.

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