This page is from an older version of Archiseek - and will soon be merged into our new database.
This was originally written in May 1996 and will be updated shortly.
There has never been any attempt made to keep the building whatsoever. I can remember being in the bus station a couple of weeks after opening and a man was cleaning the windows. He was simply rubbing the glass as high as he could with a piece of newspaper. (Interview with Patrick Scott, 1995)
After the initial controversy and discussion about the building had faded, the Irish public proceeded to use Busáras in ever increasing numbers as bus travel took over from the railways after the rail network cuts of the 1960s. Little investment in public transport meant that the building survived intact through the seventies and eighties even as passenger numbers exploded. Up until very recently, the Bus Station concourse was identical to the way Scott and his team had designed it - it was a little dilapidated, but essentially intact. The mezzanine restaurant had been closed many years before and the space converted into travel offices and so the provision of a restaurant and bar was urgent, The station was also a victim of the times - it could no longer cope with the sheer volumes of passengers passing through its doors - seating was inadequate and long queues were commonplace for tickets. The old shopping mall had largely ceased to exist - only one shop remained apart from the two kiosks, the cinema had closed and become a theatre which was usually closed also. In an age of commonplace air travel and large airports, it was impossible to find facilities or buses in a relatively small bus station - the original signage in the bus yard had been removed and the only timetable was on a board in the shopping mall. The doorways to the bus yard were numbered but the signs indicating bus routes were old and impossible to read. Regular passengers had no problems as they were accustomed to the inadequacies and quirks of the station but for the increasing number of tourists passing through the building it was very confusing - there was a general air of dilapidation and chaos about the building. In the early 1990s increased Government investment in CIE meant that at last there was money to improve bus services with the provision of new buses and facilities. So CIE embarked on a series of renovations and improvements of passenger facilities.
The first casualties were the two kiosks in the middle of the concourse. CIE fitted three new shopping units into the north-west corner next to the entrance of the station. Completely unsympathetic to Busáras these units' sole compromise to the design of the building was the use of green mosaic tiles on their exterior walls. The two kiosks were then removed to make way for more seating. The old wooden bench seating that Scott had fitted was removed and replaced with modern airport style upholstered seating by Techno of Italy. In fairness to CIE, the new seating is a definite improvement both in comfort and appearance although the increased numbers of seats clutters the floor. As the old seating incorporated bins, new bins had to be provided and this bright orange plastic bins further clutter the station.
Despite having only one shop left, the mall was fairly intact - CIE had put a new exit through the parcels department to North Store Street but the mahogany fascia and bronze trim was all intact. The two shops at the east end had been removed at some time to provide a coffee shop which intruded out onto the station floor. The old ticket office had longed ceased to be functionally viable and a temporary one had been in operation for many years from the arcade. CIE replaced the temporary office with a new counter and ticket windows. Set back from the line of the arcade it completely destroyed the integrity of the mall as a stylistic entity. The use of materials was even worse - American pine inset with horizontal strips of brass. Not content with this, CIE then built a curved information desk in the same style in the south west corner of the concourse.
This all took place over a space of about two years but it was only the start. CIE then decided to 'clarify' signage. An enormous LED timetable was fitted to the front of the control tower to help passengers find their buses. Visually offending, it was needed, but a more suitable place could have been found for it as it completely ruins the effect of the continuous glazing around the concourse. A better solution would have been the provision of the airport style signage on the north side in place of the advertising hoardings. But this was not the worse travesty of design foisted on the building. Yellow signage edged with chrome was fitted to all the columns in the station pointing out every facility including the obvious - the telephone units fitted to the next column. These signs were augmented by chrome and blue signs fitted to the mall to mark the ticket office and left luggage areas. The surfeit of signs only serves to confuse the passenger because there is so many, it is impossible to clearly see many of them. This visual disaster was compounded by the fixing of telephone kiosks around the columns. This seems unnecessary when special booths were designed into the basement foyer for this purpose. Electric billboards were also introduced as well as soft drink dispensers and photo booths. The bus station had now become a complete visual nightmare - from being a slightly down-at-heel yet totally integrated design, the concourse was now a garish cluttered space with no sense of visual identity whatsoever.
CIE then removed the left luggage storage racks and parcels offices to the basement, allowing it to free up the space underneath the mezzanine for a restaurant, bar and more seating space. This was originally intended in the 1948 designs for the station but never executed. This has allowed the windows on north Store Street to be opened up to allow light it, thus improving the appearance externally. Internally, the Cafe is an unhappy mix of 1990s styling and the remaining architectural features of the building. Thus mosaic faced columns are clad incongruously with pine mouldings up to dado level. The bar is similar - the extra seating area though is faithful to Scott's design. Here the walls have been faced with the mosaic tile, the columns have been cleaned up, the original central doorway re-opened and the area generally restored. CIE missed a huge chance with the restaurant and bar - an effort could have been made to restore what features there was, and a more sympathetic design produced. Both spaces have poor quality Italian style chairs and stools in them where designs produced specifically for the building exist. It may have been more expensive but a restaurant using light fittings and furniture that was actually designed for it would have produced a more satisfying experience visually and retained the integrity of the building, while still providing an attractive setting for coffee or a meal.
The result of all these unhappy renovations is that the bus station will be capable of coping with its passenger levels for the foreseeable future. It has however been ruined as an architectural entity. The Department of Social Welfare however remains more intact. Irish Governments are not known for spending money on the fabric of their buildings until serious renovations are needed, preferring to maintain the public and ministerial areas at the expense of the rest of the building. The offices are a case in point - upstairs the offices have a slightly down at heel appearance with cracked plaster work and cabling strung across hallways. Unsuitable furniture like armchairs have been introduced into many communal areas and carpet inevitably has replaced the original linoleum. This is in contrast to the reception and the restaurant of the building. The fabric of the restaurant is still intact although the furniture and lights have been replaced. The reception was completely intact, with original light fittings and furniture until early 1996 when the porters' office was removed along with the lighting. A free-standing counter has been positioned in the middle of the floor and a large painting mounted where Patrick Scott's mosaic was to be positioned. However the original concept of the terrace as an outdoor eating venue has fallen foul of rising insurance and an increased rate of personal injury claims - staff in the department are no longer allowed out on it and the access doors are always locked.
The exterior of the building has fared reasonably well also. The Portland stone has worn very well and except from bronze corrosion stains and graffiti at street level, is in good condition. The brick work has fared less well. At the east end of the larger block the brickwork is badly cracked and broken around the corners. The faience and Swedish granite underneath the north portal is damaged from bus accidents as are the marble corners at the west end. The large mosaic on the underside of the wing is very dirty and discoloured from a mixture of rainwater and exhaust fumes. Because of the shape and position of the wing, the fumes have stained it quite badly but it is completely intact with no missing tiles. All the bronze work had lasted quite well with only the original blue paint finish coming off the door handles. CIE have knocked out a new doorway on Store Street which is finished with tinted aluminium. This doorway is completely out of style with the two original doorways on this side.
Seen from above, the rooftop of the smaller block has had extra machinery and refrigeration units for the air conditioning installed. This installation along with several large lengths of piping and a new access door to the room mar the appearance of the building when seen from the upper storeys of neighbouring buildings. Extra machinery was also installed on the roof of the taller building but this is not visible from anywhere other than the top deck of Liberty Hall. They are not however visible from the street. The appearance of the pavilion restaurant is marred by the storage of assorted junk that is being stored in various rooms and piled up against the windows.
There are suggestions from the architectural press in Ireland that the building be listed for preservation and as usual, preservation is mentioned all too late for the building in question. It is to be hoped that the Department of Social Welfare do not decide to embark on some renovations of their own before it happens. With the replacement of the original glass in the late 1980s most of the façades have to all intents and purposes being completely reworked due to the quantity of glazing. while this reworking does not majorly affect the integrity of the building, the next renovation may not be as sympathetic and Irelands architectural heritage may not be as lucky.