Re: Re: National Gallery Extension

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gunter, I understand where you’re coming from. Indeed I agree with nearly everything you say (as expressed in other threads). However from what I’m seeing across the city, as most evident in fenestration, the opposite is increasingly the case with regard to conservation ethics. Everywhere you turn reproduction Georgian sashes are going back into townhouses and public buildings. Similarly other later additions are regularly being removed and restored back to their former state, often involving replication. Frustratingly, given the countless examples I’ve encountered, none immediately spring to mind save this case in Dundalk where Victorian plate was unnecessarily returned back to Georgian grid (and hideous mock-traditional shopfront applied).

Why retain the c. 1900 shopfront and ironwork but ditch the sashes?

Of course every circumstance is different, and should be treated as such – not in a faddish fashion as is so often the case at the moment. For example plate glass fanlights should generally be returned to their original form where possible, sheet sashes in attic storeys ought to be replaced if it unifies a house, render ought to be stripped if negating from the character of a structure etc etc. By contrast sheet sashes if just a feature of the principal rooms of the typical townhouse generally ought to be retained as an example of both social and engineering change. If however they were installed as part of a heavy-handed institutional use, a case could be made for their replacement. Similarly at Dublin Castle all Victorian sheet in the State Apartments was rightfully removed between the 1960s and the 1980s, thus restoring the wider Upper Yard to its late Georgian appearance. Real commitment to architectural purity was also demonstrated in the removal of the 19th century attic storey from the Bedford Tower, one of the few – if not only – examples in Dublin of such scholarly thought and plain hard cash being invested in a conservation project (even if the storey was also causing structural problems). The reopening of Robinson’s arcade in the 1960s reconstruction a more modest and often unremarked upon example of such considered thought.

Every case is different, and I think a conservation ethos has to be carefully devised according to the scenario faced, but always balancing historic fabric with what’s right for the character of the building, as subjective as that may be.

I believe the correct route was taken regarding the National Gallery House. Just because the shopfront was lost/had to be replaced did not mean the entire house had to be altered accordingly. That would be extreme, unnecessary, and wasteful of both money and extensive historic fabric. If the Victorian alterations had been less all-pervading, a better case could be made.

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