International Competition to design new Abbey Theatre


The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Séamus Brennan T.D., today announced that that an International Design Competition will be held over the coming months to select a design for the new National Theatre (the Abbey) to be built in the Dublin Dockland’s at George’s Dock. When completed, it is intended that the new waterside building will give Dublin an iconic and dynamic structure reflecting the city’s growing reputation as a global capital of culture and creativity.

The minister also unveiled the 13 members of the jury for the International Design Competition that includes architects from Ireland, Great Britain and Holland with vast experience of, and involvement in, high profile design projects, as well as eminent figures from the theatrical world with many years experience and outstanding achievement in the theatre. The public will be given the opportunity to make known their views when a shortlist of submitted designs are put on public display ahead of a decision on a final design for the new National Theatre.

Minister Brennan said: “I strongly support the view that Dublin should constantly be striving to embrace the best the world has to offer in business, culture and architecture. The new National Theatre will combine all three of these elements and I am confident that when the International Design Competition is complete we will have a world-class design for a new iconic landmark building for the city. It must be a design that reflects and embraces the great surges in creativity and culture we are witnessing in the Ireland of the 21st century, while at the same time acknowledging the historic significance of the Abbey to Irish life over more than a century. Using the power of architecture and design I am confident that we can create a prestigious building that will be both spectacular and celebrated. I look forward to a new national theatre building that makes a bold and visionary statement about modern Ireland and one that will be a cultural institution that will act as a magnet to draw all of our citizens, and those visiting, towards enjoying the inspiring drama and creativity our country has to offer”.

The new National Theatre will be a centrepiece of a new wave of cultural, social and economic amenities that are being developed in the Dublin Docklands, including the new National Convention Centre, the Grand Canal Theatre, the CHQ building, the Point Village and the U2 Tower. The new Abbey Theatre will be over 24,000 square metres and will have three theatres, several rehearsal spaces, public and social spaces including shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, facilities for performers and staff, gallery and exhibition facilities and a cinema/lecture facility.

The three different auditoria will provide diverse opportunities for artists and writers. Currently the Abbey can provide an average of 632 seats (across two auditoria) on any one night. The new building will provide audiences with more choices and a greater opportunity to see more diverse work with plans for some 1,000 seats across three auditoria. It is envisaged that each of the theatres will have their own foyer, auditorium, stage, dressing rooms, crew/staff rooms and technical control rooms.

The Minister said the appointment of the jury, and the publication in the coming days of a Prior Information Notice (PIN) in the Official Journal of the European Union announcing outline details of the International Competition marks significant progress in the development of the new National Theatre. It is expected that the design competition will be completed by the middle of 2008.

Jury for the Abbey Theatre Design Competition

Sean Benton was appointed Chairman of the Office of Public Works (OPW) in November 2002. Before joining the Office of Public Works, he was Director of Finance in the Department of Health. Sean is also a member of the National Gallery of Ireland Board of Governors and Guardians.

Pat Cooney, Principal Architect of the Office of Public Works

The Honourable Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon, Judge of the High Court. In 1999 he was appointed a Judge of the Circuit Court and in 2007 he was appointed a Judge of the High Court. Mr. Justice McMahon is Chair of the Board of the Abbey Theatre.

Fiach MacConghail was Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre from 1992 to 1999 and served as Ireland’s Cultural Director at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. In 2004 he was appointed Commissioner of the Cultural Programme for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. He was Arts Advisor to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr. John O’Donoghue, TD from 2002 until 2005 when he was appointed as Director of the Abbey Theatre.

Jim Barrett joined the public service in 1984 when he was appointed Senior Architect for Limerick. He became Dublin City Architect in 1994 and held that post until recently. He has also been a director of Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. and the National Building Agency Ltd.

John Mc Laughlin is a graduate of UCD School of Architecture. After university he worked for over a decade in Paris and London on major civic and cultural projects. He has been Director of Architecture with Dublin Docklands Development Authority since 2004. His principal projects include the master planning of Grand Canal Square which includes a new 2000 seat theatre by Daniel Libeskind, the master plan for Grand Canal Harbour East End which includes the U2 Tower and the master plan of the Point village which involves the expansion of the Point Theatre to accommodate 12,000 persons.

Niall Ó Donnchú, Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism since June 2005. Prior to that Director of Broadband and E-Commerce Policy at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. A Board member of the National Concert Hall and of Culture Ireland. Economics Graduate of the London School of Economics.

Edward Jones is a UK based architect with an extensive jury experience of international design competitions. He has been a visiting professor at various universities in North America, Italy and UCD. Among the architectural schemes he has worked on were the redevelopment of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, an extension to the National Portrait Gallery, London and buildings in a number of Universities in the UK including Darwin College. Cambridge and the Saïd Business School for Oxford University.

Des McMahon is a senior director in one of Ireland’s leading architectural practices, Gilroy McMahon. Des McMahon’s portfolio of work includes the new stadium at Croke Park (RIAI gold medal), the conversion of Collins Barracks for the National Museum of Ireland (award winning) and the Hugh Lane Galley in Parnell Square.

Mels Crouwel is the National Architect of the Netherlands. He has extensive experience of architectural competitions and has been involved in juries both in the Netherlands and abroad.

Sir Michael Hopkins is a UK based architect who received the 1994 gold medal for Architecture. Some of the buildings Sir Michael Hopkins has designed include the extension to Glyndebourne Opera House, East Sussex, England, an extension to the Manchester City Art Gallery, accommodation for the British parliament at Portcullis House, London and the Jubilee Campus of the University of Nottingham.

Bob Crowley is an Irish born internationally acclaimed set designer who won two Tony awards in 2007. He has been nominated for a Tony award on thirteen occasions and has won the award five times.

Fiona Shaw is a leading Irish actress who has extensive international experience having appeared in theatres all over the world and won numerous stage awards. Her notable roles include The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Hedda Gabler and The Taming of the Shrew.