Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby GrahamH » Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:34 am

If anyone's wondering what the scaffolding on Merrion Row is shrouding at the minute, it's the construction of an extension to the Department of Finance wing of Government Buildings around the corner on Merrion Street. This is what will be unveiled later this year.

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© Grafton Architects


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© Grafton Architects

Designed by Grafton Architects, I think it makes for a crisp and elegant addition to this varied streetscape and sensitive location, being adjacent to the Huguenot Cemetery. It's quite a challenging build too, given the proximity to the cemetery, the security arrangements of Government Buildings, and the multiple users of adjoining buildings; it's being project-managed by the OPW.

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© Grafton Architects


The ground floor setback pays deference to the cemetery, while also successfully easing the otherwise complete terrace into what essentially is a gaping hole in the streetscape. The facade detailing is beautifully refined, and flows almost seamlessly into neighbouring floor levels. The height is also appropriate.

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The only gripe about the whole composition is the irritating breach of parapet level to the right-hand side. Surely this could have been better resolved?

The building replaces the former four-storey National Museum building, a hideous red-bricked, tinted glass speculative affair that was rented by the State. Here are the old buildings before and after demolition, and subsequent replacement c.1973-75.

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Perfectly good buildings demolished for more 'efficient' floorplates :(

The new Department building is six storeys over basement, comprising 4,279m2, and will house 180 Department of Finance staff located elsewhere in the city. This will bring them all together at a single location, linked to Government Buildings via an underground tunnel underneath the private laneway that runs behind it. Indeed this used to be a public road called Merrion Place lined with Georgian houses, but these were demolished when the College complex was built, and the road finally sealed off in 1922 upon partial acquisition by the State. A fine but modest long low building by Sir Aston Webb and Thomas Manly Deane called 'The Billets' still lines the laneway, built as ancillary space for the neigbouring college. Unfortunately this curious part of the city, and indeed its responding laneway on the Leinster Lawn side, is closed to the public.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row

Postby PVC King » Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:38 pm

I agree they could have moulded the parapet intersection considerably better.

Critically the view from further down the Green will be ok by virtue of it being comparable in height to Hugenot House and an image taken from the Dawson St gate of the Green towards Baggot St where it is most exposed would illustrate that point.

On the whole I like the design and I think that the sort of maginot line style suits the Dept of Finance quite well!
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row

Postby fergalr » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:45 pm

Maybe it's just the fancy schmancy CGI pics there, but does it not look more like the Wax Museum's trendier bastard offspring more than anything else?:confused:
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row

Postby fergalr » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:48 pm

Image

No?
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row

Postby archipig » Wed Jun 20, 2007 6:17 pm

the parapet if not uniform height with nextdoor.

the tax payers wont like this one.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby henno » Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:07 pm

my god, what a monstrosity......


looks like one of these stuck to the side of the building....

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demonstrates the worst of computer aided design , IMHO....
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby Paul Clerkin » Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:15 pm

GrahamH wrote:
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The only gripe about the whole composition is the irritating breach of parapet level to the right-hand side. Surely this could have been better resolved?
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Hmmmm - as it stands it appears that the parapet line is continued on by that recessed slot across the facade, so it probably doesn't look bad in elevation or from the green. I think it will work out okay. We have to have some sort of variety in heights.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby GrahamH » Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:12 pm

Yes I noted that, it's a nice reference alright. Agreed we need variation in heights, but such a marginal deviation I think is a bit irritating. It's nice when buildings respect their neighbours - and I don't mean because they're old - but because a seamless blending of different adjacent structures, and especially when old and new, works really well, and doubly so when the addition then flows into such a proud punctuation mark at the end. It could have made it that bit more elegant.

What can make this type of protrusion plain annoying is that it's often used just to create a wall of a garden for execs on top! Sweeping views of the Green over espresso anyone? (though in this case it looks like it may be needed to accommodate the service layer)
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:22 pm

4/10/2007

Well the new building is just about complete, with the scaffolding down about a month now. It fits in very well with the existing building line; an appropriate termination to the large scale of the Green and a dash of colour and confident form to the sombre brick surroundings.

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While quite austere to the public street, it becomes much less frosty on the side elevation - if only for its own ends in availing of views of the adjoining cemetery.

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I'm not convinced this arrangement of busy, playful side facade and formally dressed principal works that well: there's a sense that the austerity to the front isn't very sincere - a token nod to the current trend for stoical solidity. A bit like a dress suit with a t-shirt hanging out the back.

But attractive deeply modelled treatment nonetheless.

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The limestone detailing is simply beautiful. Exqusitly refined and politely subtle.

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The junction of the side elevation and soffit of entrance setback.

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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:26 pm

The building is separated from the cemetery by a darker stone wall, with horizontal brick-like slab treatment continued in its construction.

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Throughout the building and associated structures, there is no sense whatever of budget appliqué as seen across the city at the minute - rather everything looks like it's been hewn from a solid block of limestone, and up close as if every block is a load-bearing support for the structure above. A tribute to the design and contractors involved.

The junction with the terrace of Merrion Row.

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Again a shame I think that it doesn't flow into the adjoining parapet, moreso for the new building's interests as it would have made its 'tower' all the more prominent and crisply defined.


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The gorgeous deeply incised lines are the icing on the cake.


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And the subtle little setback at the junction with the terrace a nice touch.

All in all, a worthy contribution to the corporate and ceremonial heart of the city.

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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby Paul Clerkin » Thu Oct 04, 2007 9:27 pm

Agreed - it's an excellent addition to the area - the finish quality seems to be way above average. The facade to the cemetary is wonderful. Cannot wait for the removal of the hoarding to get some good photos of it onto the site.

Grafton architects do it again!
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby ctesiphon » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:30 pm

Fabian Burgos - Lineas Paralelas (series).

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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby ctesiphon » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:41 pm

This building would be perfect for Belfield (and no, that's not damning with faint praise- I like Belfield), but I'm not sure how well it works in this location (better than what it replaced, no doubt, but we're surely entitled to more than the 'better than a pile of crap' argument by now).

Graham- the 'subtle little setback' you mention is only a setback because the front wall projects beyond the building line. Power games, pure and simple. And the 'buffer strip' approach is the lazy answer to an admittedly thorny design conundrum.

Also, I way prefer the front to the side.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 04, 2007 11:52 pm

A power game perhaps, but also a valid design concept. As a signature building, it has claim to a subtle deviation from the established rules. The difference in depth the 'buffer' creates adds texture and definition to the streetscape, rather than a bland continuum of levels we would otherwise have had. Also at ground floor level there seems to be a return to flush near the skirting, resolving the discrepancy that bit further. We shall await the finished product.

Agreed about the side elevation. While I love it in itself, it's that bit too busy for this cluttered location, and arguably somewhat insensitive towards the cemetery, relative to the street anyway - ironically the reticent front elevation is far more suited to the dignified treatment desirable for a facade facing such a site. Once the windows are cleared of hoarding and other clutter though, things might improve.

It's classic Grafton design treatment though isn't it. Overall a beautiful job and an appropriately simple design (though deceptively so) for this location. No qualm at this end as to its suitability for the location - it needed something fresh and different.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby Peter Fitz » Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:14 am

Nice solid bookend ... was quite worried about the variation in parapet height from the render, but the finished product is strong enough to warrant a break in line.

Does the mid way detail line actually line up with the parpaet ? looks offset to me...

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I've no real problem with the side elevation, but it does seem a little voyeuristic given the sensitivities that would normally be afforded such a neighbour. The Huguenots are no longer in a world of their own :eek:

Thanks for the pics Graham.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby archipig » Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:22 am

Are the windows supposed to resemble headstones?

I recall speaking to a young lady from Navan once and when asked what she thought about the solas centre her reply was: ''its an awful eyesore, isnt it''.

This looks like something straight out of the 70's.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby markpb » Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:33 am

My first reaction when I saw this building wasn't very good. It hasn't improved with time. It looks out of place, out of character and reminds me of a rubrics cube in motion. The quality might be impressive but I'm not sold on the design at all.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby draiochta » Fri Oct 05, 2007 11:30 am

Neither am I...

I just feel although it looks fine now, it'll become mediocre and boring after it's first decade of being!
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby kefu » Fri Oct 05, 2007 3:00 pm

Lovely addition to the city and nice to see something that not only lives up to - but actually supercedes - the plans and drawings. I don't believe this will date and this type of facade along with Nat Gall, Roches etc will long be seen as the predominant style of good 1990s/2000s Dublin architecture.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby StephenC » Fri Oct 05, 2007 3:21 pm

Yes I agree kefu. I think its a smart little number. Well done Grafton Architects.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby jdivision » Fri Oct 05, 2007 6:55 pm

I think it's awful. A bad mixture of the OPW's dole office in Cobh and Manuel Aires Mateus's hotel planned for the docklands. Although the original buildings had been demolished putting something like the original facade with a modern design to to the back would have been much more meaningful even if pastiche. Given the criticism of Dunnes and the terrace on Henry Street in another thread - a criticism I very much agree with - I'm surprised people are so positive towards this. What was there was terrible but this will be viewed as being as bad within two years in my opinion.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby ake » Fri Oct 05, 2007 7:26 pm

it's pig ugly
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby GrahamH » Fri Oct 05, 2007 8:00 pm

How could a heritage facade to the front and a modern block to the rear be described as meaningful, jdivision? Surely the direct opposite is the case.

Justification for this 'individualistic' design in my view is derived from the long history associated with this part of the city of unremarkable stock being replaced by signature buildings. The Georgians demolished old-fashioned Dutch Billys and early-18th century stock for grander classically-inspired mansions, the Victorians demolished similar - what they deemed 'average' - Georgian stock for all-consuming iconic structures, while the mid-20th century did likewise; all combining to make up the fascinating jumble of stock that we see on the Green today, notably on the commercially important northern side. It is equally notable that only 'the strongest survived' on this side - there is very little of modest stock remaining on this part of the Green.

By today's standards, the former red brick National Museum building was deemed thoroughly average and if anything an eyesore on the street - much as a Dutch Billy would have been an affront to a late Georgian with notions. And so in time-honoured tradition, a vernacular building has been replaced with a signature building that reflects its time, much as Andrew Devane's Stephen Court does, or the nearby Shelbourne. Of course the difference in our attitude to older vernacular stock today is that there is a heritage value attached, so naturally there is a desire to retain for example the adjoining Merrion Row buildings. As such, the Museum building provided the ideal opportunity to make a 21st century statement in this part of the city without losing heritage stock or unduly compromising adjoining buildings, and I think this has been achieved in this instance.

However the more I see the differing elevations of the new building, the less coherent it unfortunately becomes. I think the design concept of the structure as a whole is substantially diluted with such conflicting treatment.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby ctesiphon » Sat Oct 06, 2007 9:36 am

My problem with the dual facade treatments, as has been touched on above, is primarily the lack of respect shown to the graveyard. It's treated simply as a visual amenity space for the benefit of the building, regardless of the impact the building has on the graveyard itself. The quality of the graveyard as an element of the streetscape was largely due to its hidden nature, something that was stumbled on when approached. This facade announces it from afar and dilutes the planarity of the street fronts. The site should never have been treated as a corner site with the usual '3-D / in-the-round' sculptural approach that that implies.

Graham-
I still disagree with your 'signature building' argument. It's only a signature building because it was designed as a signature building. There was no a priori case for putting a signature building here. So to say 'As a signature building, it has claim to a subtle deviation from the established rules' sort of reminds me of Sean Dunne's approach at Jury's which, in essence, comes across as 'We have decided that X is required, therefore X is required'.

For the record, I do quite like the building- as you say, the quality of the materials and craftsmanship is undeniable. I just think it's in the wrong location. Is it too late to transplant it to Belfield? It'd sure be better than the crud proposed by Supreme Leader His Eminence President Doctor Brady.
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Re: Department of Finance, Merrion Row - Grafton Architects

Postby weehamster » Sat Oct 06, 2007 6:27 pm

Yet again a nice design, but in the wrong place. Perfect for the dock's, not in the middle of Georgian style Dublin.
:mad: It is really starting to annoy me now how city centre designs DON'T EVEN BOTHER to reflect it's surroundings into the buildings design.

I think it's the limestone grey that is out of place here. It would have been interesting with the same design but different materials. How about recycled weathered looking red bricks for example ( there should be plenty around from all the Georgian/Georgian style buildings that have been knocked in recent times) or some other material that make it blend in more instead of the current thinking of 'let's make the building stand out as much as possible'. :rolleyes:
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