The competition was an open single stage design competition sponsored by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland and Dublin City Council. The brief required the projects to propose both a use and a building design for the end of terrace site on Henrietta Street in inner city Dublin.
Henrietta Street is of pre-eminence in Dublin City from an architectural and
historical point of view. Laid out in 1721 and developed over three successive
decades, it is the prototype of urban Georgian terraced architecture in Dublin.
The relative intactness of the streetscape adds even greater significance to
Henrietta Street, though unfortunately, a great number of these former urban palaces have fallen into disrepair and are in dire need of renovation.
The competition site at no.16 was formerly part of a single, large 4 bay, 5 storey house constructed as part of a uniform row of three houses in the 1740’s. The original house was split into two in the 19th century and the end two bays were eventually left to dereliction and torn down in the 50’s. The competition was to propose a new use and building at this vacant site. Concurrent to the competition, a proposal for reinstating the entire house to its original condition was being drawn up. Part of the intention of the competition was to contribute to the ongoing discussion about how to develop contemporary architecture in a sensitive historical setting.
At no. 16 Henrietta Street, we proposed to construct an open and flexible brick structure to provide a new training centre for the heritage trades of brick and stone masonry, plaster and painting restoration, carpentry and joinery, and metalwork. This proposed use will allow the site to have a range of collaborations in the Henrietta Street area - with the neighbouring trades training centre, with whom it could provide advanced classes in heritage crafts, as well as with the owners of the various buildings on the street who are in need of skilled craftsmen to execute the numerous renovation works necessary – work which could be provided as part of the training programs. A heritage trades training centre would both promote and enact the rejuvenation of the buildings on the street while training the next generation of craftsman who will be responsible for preserving the built heritage of Ireland.
The building we have designed is perfectly suited to this and a range of other potential uses. Each floor is a completely open plan created by a robust and beautiful structure of brick vaults. These floors are proposed as the workshops of the school, but they have been designed to allow a variety of uses including easy integration with the neighbouring building.
Externally, the distinguishing characteristic of the surrounding Georgian structures is their simple truthfulness - their structure is their aesthetic. In order to successfully place a new structure in this context, it must be a timeless structure which transcends the passing trends, a structure which appears like it has always been there and that it will always be there. The proposed building to Henrietta Place is just that, a direct expression of its unique brick arched structure. Its thick brick fin walls act as a buttress to the visual mass of the rest of the block making a powerful and expressive end to the terrace.
To the Henrietta street side, we proposed to rebuild the complete façade of the original house so that one might preserve the Henrietta streetscape, but we did so in a way which does not misinform future generations. By constructing the missing two bays as they were, but with blind brick windows- a common practice which can be seen further up the street at no.11- one can reinstate the pattern and rhythm of the street while indicating the existence of the new structure and not resorting to an imitated Georgian building. It is a sensitive balance of preservation goals with an acceptance of the realities of urban evolution as an essential part of every living city.
To the rear of the site we projected an additional brick and concrete structure to contain the associated programs of a lecture hall and small theatre for the neighbouring pipe band association.