Thursday, 18 February 2010

McCullough Mulvin Architects

(Image via

On Monday I went to the design symposium held as part of GradCAM's Arts Research: Public and Purposes in the newly completed Wood Quay Venue in the basement of the Civic Offices, Dublin (pictured above). I'd been looking forward to having an excuse to visit the venue for a while, as it's an interesting combination of new and very very old. Long story short, when excavations began of Wood Quay prior to the building of phase one of the Civic Offices (designed by Sam Stephenson) there in the 1970s revealed substantial remains from the original Viking settlement of the 900s, including sections of the Viking city wall. Though the public tried to halt development of the area, they failed, and in the 1990s the Civic Offices were completed on the site. When designing the second phase of the Civic Offices in the 1990s, architectural firm Scott Tallon Walker created an extra large basement space where the old wall stood, and it remained hidden away in the basement among bicycles and motorbikes until recently.

Then along came McCullough Mulvin Architects, who redesigned and recently completed the basement space, making a public conference and exhibition space of the former bike shed. The wall is the focal point (though I admit you wouldn't know it from the image above, what with a screen lowered in front of it), with a timber structure seemingly wrapping around the rest of the room and folding over it, while a large glass window lets light in and shows the old stone structure to the outside world. The design is a clever intervention that makes the best of what was there before without shying away from putting a new stamp on things, and seems to be something McCullough Mulvin have a flair for. On its way is their newly designed Rush Library in North County Dublin, where they've designed a structure within the existing structure of a church. I'd say I'm looking forward to visiting, but am I really going to visit Rush anytime soon?!

I also realised when reading up on the Wood Quay Venue that McCullough Mulvin are also responsible for the Ussher Library in Trinity College Dublin (pictured below). I was really taken aback by the building back in my thesis-researching days, though that may have been partly down to its polar difference to NCAD library, i.e. it was large, nicely lit and quiet (keep it down, librarians and students alike...). I think there may be some architectural value in it too, though...

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