IMMA: Royal Hospital Kilmainham

  • Location: Kilmainham
  • Architect: Shay Cleary Architects
  • Completed: 1999

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is based in the former Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, which was built between 1680-84 as a retirement home for veteran soldiers. It was the world's second oldest such institution after Les Invalides in Paris upon which the layout of the Royal Hospital was based. While the architect was Sir William Robinson the inspiration for the design came from James Butler, Duke of Ormond and Viceroy in Ireland for Charles II.

The adaptation of the building into the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) involved the conversion of the East, West and South Ranges of the hospital. The first floor consists of repetitive rooms accessed by a long corridor. A central determinant of the plan is the presence between each pair of rooms of a massive chimney stack. A new entry point to pairs of rooms is created opposite each of these stacks thereby freeing the adjacent wall space for exhibition purposes. These first floor rooms combined with what were corridors but are now long galleries were ideally suited to the new use with only minor modification.

A new Entrance Hall was located in the centre of the South Range, axially related to the Great Hall in the North Range. By it’s position it maintains the inherent balance of the overall architectural composition. The new hall contains a steel and glass staircase in a double height volume and, by it’s form and location, makes public the connection to the first floor where the main collections are housed.

The Courtyard was changed from grass to a rolled gravel surface with stone markings indicating the new Entrance Hall. It is now the first ‘room’ of the museum, used for sculpture, installations and performance of special events. This precise and urbane treatment of the space now properly contrasts with the natural landscape of the overall site. It shows the colonnaded perimeter to the best advantage and has the intensity of an urban space.

The project’s overall concept takes nearly all its cues from the existing building. The adaptation pays due deference to the existing fabric both formally and structurally. Aesthetically it proposes a clear distinction between old and new. The project was completed in May 1991 as one of the major events in Dublin’s year as European City of Culture.

Deputy Master's House
Valuable additional space to the amount of 3 048sq m (10,000 sq ft) was gained in November 1999 with the renovation of the former mid-18th century Deputy Master's House which is situated at the north-east corner of the restored formal garden.

The purpose of the project is to convert the existing  house from former residential use into a highly serviced gallery which will comply with international lending criteria for galleries. The building will be used to house both traveling exhibitions and the expanding permanent collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
The project involved the refurbishment of the external envelope of the building and of the building internally. A new entrance court is proposed to the east of the building which can be accessed either by stairs or ramp. This entrance court is contained by a stone clad wall which will focus views towards the entrance to the building and the recently refurbished Formal Gardens while shielding from view the existing boiler house to the east. A large existing tree forms a natural canopy at the point of access to the new court. A new exhibition space below the new entrance court  gives greater flexibility in terms of exhibition by providing a space larger than those available in the house. The formation of a sculpture garden to the north  becomes part of a route through the grounds of the Royal Hospital from the Main Building through the new court and onto the Formal Gardens. The project was completed in December 1999.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Thursday, September 18, 2008
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