Leinster House, National Museum & Library complex

Leinster House, National Museum & Library complex

Postby lostexpectation » Sun Sep 14, 2008 3:52 pm

Leinster House is falling down – secret report warns of danger to TDs and staff
http://www.tribune.ie/news/article/2008/sep/14/leinster-house-is-falling-down-secret-report-warns/

SUBSTANTIAL risks to politicians and other civil servants who work in the crumbling Leinster House complex have been outlined in a confidential report delivered to the Ceann Comhairle.

Despite the clearly outlined risks, plans to close a wing of Leinster House have since been abandoned in favour of a phased reconstruction project which will ultimately prove more costly, the Sunday Tribune has learned.


pics
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby GrahamH » Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:21 pm

A rather odd use of language in that report. Pretty damning nonetheless. Interesting picture there too of a concealed 1740s panelled wall from what can be made out.

This has been coming down the tracks like a bullet train for quite some time. It is my belief that Leinster House is not only failing on a structural basis, but is fundamentally inadequate for the role to which it has been put, and has been the case ever since 1922. Anyone who has ever been in Leinster House - perhaps not members of the public but certainly architects, engineers and designers - will confirm what an utterly chaotic sequence of spaces the Houses of the Oireachtas is forced to work under, and the severe impact this use is having on both the structure and design integrity of the house.

Image

It is a crying shame to see the house – which is so easily forgotten to be one of the great 18th century mansions of Ireland with surviving interiors - so compromised by crude accretions of temporary installations, fire safety requirements, outdated heating, electrical services and sanitary facilities, and fundamentally rooms put to purposes for which they are entirely unsuited, and the Seanad Chamber included in that – an embarrassingly cramped space, accessed by the public via a heritage pub staircase straddling across the double-height wall of the 18th century principal ceremonial staircase. Original fixtures and fittings are under extreme pressures from heavy use across the board, from doors to floors to windows to joinery, and circulation is convoluted and inadequate. So much of the integrity of the original building is similarly compromised by institutional gloss paint, outdated carpets, signage, secondary glazing, lighting installations and inappropriate furnishings. The list goes on.

Even the Dáil Chamber is hopelessly outdated at its upper levels, totally inadequate for public access, and is a truly remarkably ugly space. The elegant mahogany fittings are but a televisual sham to the design chaos that ensues off-camera. Public access is arguably even worse here - gained via a grubby side entrance up multiple flights of a service stair of a character more ultiitarian than the back stairs of a 1940s sanatorium.

As quaint as it all may be, it really isn’t realised by the public that this wider Leinster House scenario has been a temporary arrangement for the past 85 years. Parliament is quite literally housed in a house conversion of parish hall proportions. It’s only when you see the timber floorboards underneath your feet, the atmospheric qualities of a tired 1980s hotel conversion, the cramped conditions, and the constantly worn fixtures and fittings you realise what a ridiculous situation we have got ourselves into, and how everybody is going about their business like the Emperor has no clothes. Nobody has had either the will or the ambition to stand up and shout stop here.

There is little question in my mind that the two House of the Oireachtas and all attendant facilities, however extensive, must move from this site in favour of a purpose-built facility elsewhere in the city. This would not be historically unproblematic, but the payoffs both for parliament, the site and the city at large would far outweigh the historical associations of the site. The entire complex could be transformed into the cultural quarter it once aimed to be, with the house proper at least in part transformed back to its 18th century character in a Castletown-like manner. The attendant institutions could expand into the extensive facilities and their sites to either side. The Kildare Street frontage could be properly opened up as a piazza with the great colonnades flanking both sides, and Leinster Lawn opened as a fully fledged public park, perhaps returned to its 18th century form.

Similarly the potential for the building of the 21st century in Ireland could not be more fitting than that of a new parliament complex, and much more stimulating if built within an urban context rather than a greenfield site as so often the case the world over. This issue really needs to be taken by the horns and finally grappled with; the structural condition of Leinster House is the perfect opportunity for the OPW to fly this kite.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby notjim » Sun Sep 14, 2008 6:12 pm

Oh no Graham, you'll cause some annoying debate about how we should move the whole lot to Athlone!
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby johnglas » Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:04 pm

Treading-on-eggshells outsider here, but... What about building on Leinster lawn? The 'garden front' of LH is very weak and LL seems a curiosity given the vast parkland expanse of Merrion Square. A monumental building centred on and slightly offset from MSq, flanked by the Nat Gall and Nat Hist Mus would be quite an exciting prospect and save rebuilding a lot of ancillary Govt buildings elsewhere. The prospect of all of this becoming a true 'Cultural Island' (cf. Berlin) is equally tantalising.
Where in the centre would a new Oireachtas go? (Do I hear Phoenix Park?)
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby notjim » Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:11 pm

Phoenix Park is awkwardly removed from the existing complex with the Dept of the Taoiseach and Finance and so on; I imagine somewhere more central would be preferable, but it is hard to think of where.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby weehamster » Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:30 pm

Well there is always the 3 ugly sisters. Hawkins Hse, Apollo Hse and the other building on Townsend st which I can never remember it name. Knock these down and build a proper signature building which could also house various depts including health. And they own the site.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby gunter » Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:51 pm

[quote="johnglas"] What about building on Leinster lawn? The 'garden front' of LH is very weak and LL seems a curiosity given the vast parkland expanse of Merrion Square. A monumental building centred on and slightly offset from MSq, flanked by the Nat Gall and Nat Hist Mus would be quite an exciting prospect and save rebuilding a lot of ancillary Govt buildings elsewhere. QUOTE]

Now there's an idea it might be worth getting the box of crayons out for!
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby Pilear » Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:54 pm

do people really think that with all the expected cutbacks it would be sensible if even possible for the gov. to build a new complex in the city centre?
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby notjim » Sun Sep 14, 2008 9:05 pm

gunter wrote:Now there's an idea it might be worth getting the box of crayons out for!


Would there really be enough space to move everthing or would this be an extension?
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby johnglas » Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:16 pm

Well, since youse resident Dubs haven't crapped all over the idea - the building would need to contain a new Dail chamber and a new Senate house and some ancillary accommodation (inc. underground parking); LH would be the ceremonial 'front' for receptions and visitors (allowing the plaza in front to be opened up as the grand public space it should be). All the other Govt buildings would stay as are. (I would have to demand the demolition and rebuilding of Agriculture House as my fee.)
No firm ideas as to form, but the SothAfrican Parliament could be a starter.
These are actually the Union Buildings in Pretoria; not exactly like that, but imagine the space in front as Merrion Square. Make it a statue of Biffo and he'll go for it hook,line and... ('Cutbacks, what cutbacks?')
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby GrahamH » Mon Sep 15, 2008 12:12 am

Hmmm – an interesting concept...

Whereas neither the grandiosity of landscape nor expanse of site is available with Leinster Lawn, this idea is not without merit. Leinster Lawn is a surprisingly large site.

Image

Sadly it is not on axis with Merrion Square, precluding any attempt at a grand approach through the park, but nonetheless the potential for a ceremonial facade – I’m thinking a brick structure of 16th century extravagance here framed by the bone-coloured bookends of neighbouring classicals – enclosing the square for the first time in its history is significant.

Some breathing space would be required however between the house and the new building, and with the adjacent Museum and Gallery, but could be achieved through welcome formal avenues and linear parks (allbethey closed to the public). Whether the character of the house would be unduly affected in terms of views from the rear is another question. What exactly would be housed in the new building is also a matter of some debate given neither the Dáil chamber nor the committee rooms, the press centre, restaurants and the vast majority of offices are even housed in Leinster House at all. Many of these facilities are also less than a decade old (though the majority is substantially more).

There would also have to be a significant cultural payoff, and as such I would envisage the focus moving to Kildare Street – not least given security considerations – with a new open piazza forming the formal entrance to the complex with Leinster House at its core (I certainly would not envisage it remaining part of the Oireachtas complex), and moving westwards to encompass Kildare Place as a secondary civic space flanking a new cultural attraction on the site of the Department of Agriculture. The grand set-piece south elevation of the National Museum would also be exposed for the first time with such a development.

These images give some idea of the grandeur of the forecourt of Leinster House at the turn of the 20th century – the closest Dublin ever got to a purpose-designed piazza of European proportions.

Image



Image

Currently consumed by ranks of car parking and twelve foot baricades.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby Paul Clerkin » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:06 am

A whole new parliament building on Leinster Lawn would be an amazing project - that architects all around the world would queue up for. A great site bounded by the lovely blank facades of the gallery and natural history museum and the rear of Leinster House itself.

Sadly the axis isn't on with Merrion Square but that's a minor quibble.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby notjim » Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:01 am

I had never realized how small Leinster House is compared to the Lawn: it's tiny!
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby searbh » Mon Sep 15, 2008 9:02 am

What about the kilkenny design block on Nassau street?; plenty of space there for a bicameral parliamentary building.

Then of course there's always the possibility of CPOing the Bank of Ireland, using the old house of lords as a seanad, either reconstructing the old commons or building a contemporary chamber inside the complex- restoring irish parliamentarism to its historical source on a plazified college green! Can you imagine it? :)
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby johnglas » Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:25 am

Oh, yes! It's been the obvious solution for years, but...
Downsides: (a) the BoI would probably use it as an excuse to go bankrupt;
(b) civil servants would have to walk all the way from Govt Bldgs, etc.; and
(c) it would be reintroducing a sense of historical continuity (irony).
Otherwise, what's the problem?
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby searbh » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:02 pm

It's less of a walk than from athlone or cahirciveen for that matter- the opportunity could also be taken to improve the disaster zone of westmoreland st. by putting td's offices on the upper floors and high quality retail on the ground floors of the buildings there. A direct link between dublin's 18th century golden age and our, well, less then golden one...
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby binki » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:09 pm

somebody told me that the OPW already have a plan for the complex and that it is groundbreaking. perhaps just a rumour.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby gunter » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:14 pm

The Bank of Ireland on College Green has always been a tempting idea and there is a huge amount on under-used space, (including surface car parks!) in behind it's parliamentary walls (see some of the aerial shots posted recently by Graham) but, as with the Custom House and similar ideas, taking the Oireachtas out of one restricted historical building and sticking it in another, might not be the best solution.

No, I'd put away all the other options, the Leinster Lawn idea is sheer genius.
*I knew johnglas would come through in the end*

No other option even comes close.

It's a free site, as the OPW are fond of saying.
It's a short tunnel away from Gov. buildings and the rest of the existing Kilfare Street apparatus of power.
It closes an urban gap on Merrion Square.
It closes the vista from Upper Mount Street, which at present is just a one way view.
It creates the opportunity to integrate Leinster House into the cultural complex on Kildare St. which, as pointed out by Graham, was the 19th century intention.
It creates the opportunity to for a new pedestrian link through the site between the Merrion Square and Molesworth Street.
It creates an opportunity for a great new building.
It densifies the city centre and tightens up the urban grain.
The list just goes on and on.

A quick stab at a block plan:

Image
Graphics are a bit arbitrary, but these would be the key points of a plan to me:

A new east / west pedestrian route through a restored flanking colonnade to the north side of Leinster House.
Provision for an extension to the Natural History Museum, who's existing exhibition space must be retained without alteration, but with the addition of modern facilities in a new wing.
A new Oireachtas building that visably contains two chambers.
Personally I wouldn't get too worked up about addressing the garden front of Leinster house in any formal way, but there is potential for an urban space here, (imagery escapes me for the moment).

I wonder have any bright students of architecture done a recent thesis on something like this.
We need images!
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby aj » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:22 pm

guys here is an idea, move IMMA to Leinster house, modern art in historical context, right beside the national gallery and accessible

move the functions of goverment to the Royal Hospital, Heuston Gate can provide enough accomodation for all the related services.

the Aras, Farmleigh and the Dail within a few km of eachother

what do you think?
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby gunter » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:55 pm

aj wrote:
. . . move the functions of goverment to the Royal Hospital . .



We don't want that sort around here.

BTW, there was a plan for moving the Dail to the Royal Hospital published in 'The Guardian' about 1922. Some great lines in it about how the only people that would be upset by such a radical intervention would be 'students of door-posts!'
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby StephenC » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:18 pm

Looking at that aerial image what about in Government Builidngs. A chamber in each wing. Would require the relocation of D. of Finance and Attorney General but it would leave the Parliament in a fittingly grand building
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby Pot Noodle » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:20 pm

Mountjoy anyone:rolleyes:
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby johnglas » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:28 pm

gunter: It's even better than that; apparently, the august senators of the Republic (as it wasn't quite then) objected that they might hear the brayings of the tribunes of the people from next door (it was proposed that the Senate should be in the chapel - I think - and the assembly in the old dining hall, or whatever)! The acoustics were awful as well, it appears. (See Leinster House Griffin & Pegum, IAA/OPW 2000 - fascinating stuff, a bit heavy on the furniture/decorative side, but good illustrations.)
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby ctesiphon » Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:39 pm

There were also suggestion in the '60s - possibly based on the 1922 suggestions, not fully put to bed - to relocate the Dail to the RHK, and to concentrate the functions of the NUI in Leinster House. This was when UCD was still in the Terrace, and the idea of an 'academic axis' (I've mentioned it here before) between Trinity and UCD via Kildare Street/Merrion Square West was proposed. However, some people had other ideas about the location of UCD and the 'sphere of influence' of the other place down the road... and now he has a building named after him in UCD. Philistine.

There was a pamphlet published by a group called Tuairim in the mid-'60s that addressed the issue of the location of UCD- city centre or suburbs. I think that's where I discovered this proposal.
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Re: Leinster house in dangerous condition

Postby Peter Fitz » Mon Sep 15, 2008 4:51 pm

[quote="GrahamH"]
It is a crying shame to see the house –]

I beg to differ with you young man !
well i don't really, just wanted to say that ;)

Of course much of what you say is true. The house itself is not an ideal host & the parliament has essentially been shoe horned in there, but the primary issue here is one of long term neglect. Successive governments have been simply afraid to inject the resources necessary, while heavy use & some shocking 1980's decor has clearly taken its toll.

For those not too familiar with the interior, some shots from oireachtas.ie

The Lobby from the Kildare St. entrance

Image

and its impressive ceiling

Image

The entrance from Leinster Lawn, with its dreadful carpet

Image

The Ceann Comhairle's office, prior to the installation of some very expensive curtains costing 12,000 euro.

Image

The Library, one of the finest rooms

Image

The Seanad Chamber

Image

and its Ante Room

Image

The unfortunate visitors staircase Graham referred to

Image

More to post, will have to leave it till later.
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