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    • #708983

      Clerys Department Store on O’Connell Street in Dublin is a fascinating institution, by virtue of its chequered history and the magnificent building it now occupies.

      The Clerys we know today is a conflicting paradigm of old and new; the building in structure is thoroughly modern but in architecture looks to the past, while its cool, minimalist retail interior, though contemporary, does its best to highlight and complement the original neoclassical detail still prevalent throughout the store.

      Clerys has its origins in McSwiney Delaney & Company’s ‘Palatial Mart’ or ‘New Mart’, a large, sumptuously ornamented Victorian department or ‘monster’ store built in the centre of Sackville Street in 1853, opening in May just in time for the Dublin International Exhibition of the same year. When one considers the dearth of commercial development taking place in the inner city in early Victorian times, and that the majority of the city’s imposing 19th century buildings date from the late 1860s and 1870s, this was a building of enormous impact; even relative to subsequent buildings it was simply huge in scale.
      Amongst the first department stores in the Europe, and easily one of the very first purpose-built anywhere, it’s hard to imagine it did not cause ripples on a national if not wider level.

      The monster store however is not nearly as large as is first suggested, given the Imperial Hotel occupied the building’s upper floors, if not initially then certainly later on, so the store benefited significantly from the imposing scale the hotel lent the overall building. It was accessed at street level via the grand side doorcase to the extreme right of the building. There was an earlier Imperial Hotel on the eastern side of the street dating from 1837, and referred to be William M Thackeray in 1842 as being “ornamented by a cook who could dress a dinner by the side of M. Borel or M. Soyer. Would there were more such artists in this ill-fated country!”
      Given the Palatial Mart replaced five draper shops on the same site, this original hotel was perhaps elsewhere on the street, though it too could have been upstairs.

      The above famous watercolour was painted by Michael Angelo Hayes, brother in law of the store’s chairman Peter Paul McSwiney. This is significant, as up to this point all depictions of Sackville Street faced the GPO and Pillar across the road – the single focal point of the street until the Palatial Mart was built. Humourously, in one version of the painting a man is apparently depicted holding a promotional sign pointing to the store.

      The imposing facade is believed to have been designed by William Caldbeck, an amateur architect of the mid-19th century, who (probably by no coincidence) also designed Brown Thomas’s original fa

    • #785337

      The new look Clerys was unveiled to the public in The Irish Builder in 1918, with a sketch of a distinguished modern neoclassical building, combining both the structurally expressive forms of modernism emanating from the influential Chicago School and the more established classical idiom still favoured this side of the Atlantic.

      A fact easily overlooked with this proposal is that the company greatly increased the street frontage of the former store in order to realise this grand new facade, acquiring the sites of all neighbouring former Wide Streets Commission buildings to the junction with Sackville Place.

      The design was the work of Ashlin & Coleman Architects, one of the largest practices in the country at the time, however it is thought the building was largely designed by London architect Robert Atkinson who had worked on Selfridges and came to Dublin to work as an assistant in the Ashlin & Coleman practice. Also responsible for the new Gresham Hotel further up the street designed c.1925, he was strongly versed in the Chicago School having worked in America for a number of years. It is interesting that in spite of the progress in the US, an almost identical ten year old neoclassical plan was rehashed for Clerys as used for Selfridges in 1908.

      Indeed the original 1921 model commissioned for the building is suggestive of an even more conservative plan initially than that eventually executed.

      Now housed in the Irish Architectural Archive having been donated by Clerys in 2003, the model shows a building that appears even more traditional in character, with Portland stone infill panels between the windows at each storey juncture, and what appear to be stained timber windows throughout.

      The design pretty much speaks for itself: a large, monumentally scaled neoclassical building executed in Portland stone, with a marching procession of fluted Ionic columns and sturdy pilasters forming the upper floors as its principal feature.

      Pairs of pilasters frame the outermost bays in a pavilion-like fashion, with matching sturdy piers to the ground floor and miniature pediments at parapet level. It could be argued that the compact length of the façade is somewhat compromised by the procession of columns being curtailed so abruptly by the intrusion of the inner pavilion pilaster, reducing the colonnade to a mere three elements. This effect has recently been heightened by the concealment of the left-hand ground floor piers by the Plaza lime trees. The concept however works quite successfully when seen head on.

      The attic storey is chunky and solid, lending the building its monumental scale when seen from south as it wraps around the corner, its heavy massing dominating the skyline of the centre of the street.

      This storey is surprisingly well embellished with a host of sculpted stone features, well proportioned tripartite windows with one-over-one sashes still intact, and an elegant balustrade.

      The central bay is crowned by a modernist pediment and marked below with a series of five medallions.

      The heavy cornice in between very successfully integrates the building into the rest of the Lower street.

    • #785338

      The most novel aspect of the fa

    • #785339

      Probably the most delightful features of the building are these elegant wreath and head motifs.

      Again a feature of Selfridges, but apt in the Dublin context.
      All of the heads are different.

      This is the most endearing, hidden away on Sackville Place. It’s so peaceful, above all the hustle and bustle below.

      The main entrance as featured on the architectural model is classically Edwardian, featuring a barrelled central display unit with flanking doors and curved sidelights.

      Somewhat modest for such a large store, it was clearly designed for more reticent times…

      The current entrance doors – soon to be removed – are good reproduction inserts with bevelled glass panes, probably dating from 1988. Alas they lack any depth or substance when seen from a distance: a mere unit inserted into a much larger void, with modern glazing and roller shutter overhead.

      The famous Clerys clock also dates from around this time.

      Needless to say the stories of thousands of couples meeting under the same clock down through the years rings just a little hollow – heritage lanterns with CFL bulbs weren’t quite de rigueur in 1922. Indeed ironically the only outward manifestation of modernity in the original design concept was this very timepiece; the original Clerys clock was quite a modern piece of design, with Art Deco references and illuminating ‘Clery’s Store’ panels.

      It survived well into the 1960s, if not as late as the 1980s.

      At least the original latticed support structure remains intact.

    • #785340

      With the opportunities the post-1916 reconstructions offered, efforts were made to revitalise the flanking streets of O’Connell Street, notably Princes Street with the GPO Arcade and administration terrace, and in the case of Sackville Place with Clerys’ new street frontage. This dismal little thoroughfare is easily overlooked when assessing Clerys as a whole; inititally at least it performed quite an important function in connecting the store to Marlborough Street which was probably hoped to act as a growth centre eastwards in this new order of gridded streets. Alas it didn’t quite turn out that way.

      Clerys’ Sackville Place elevation is classically inspired, if grim and forbidding in its current condition. It is much more modern in outlook than the principal fa

    • #785341

      Clerys is built of concrete. The entire structure is one giant reinforced concrete frame of the Hennebique technique, using simple interlocking elements, namely posts and lintels. The system was well established by the late 1910s when Clerys was designed, having been used in many countries, particularly in Europe. It is based on the simple premise using supporting columns, beams and floor slabs to create large spaces without the need for invasive partition walls. Of course steel and iron could also do this, but was probably in short supply at the time of conception. Reinforced concrete had also been widely used in Ireland by this stage.

      This drawing, whilst not of Clerys, demonstrates almost precisely how the store was constructed, minus the curved arms.

      Reinforced concrete posts (rounded in Clerys) support traversing reinforced beams, on top of which are placed large concrete ceiling/floor slabs. To help conceal the beams, they were often decoratively coved over as seen here, forming a coffered ceiling across an entire floor comprised of shallowly coved sections. This was done in Clerys. In modern day builds suspended ceilings usually cover all of this, with services concealed in between.

      In this rare photograph from c.1920 of the building under construction you can clearly see the concrete frame behind the timber scaffolding.

      And another from about the same time – note the neighbouring 1920 terrace is just being finished off.

      Clerys, minus its neoclassical finery, as with many other post-1916 buildings, is a giant concrete box. As has also been noted, without concrete beams needless to say the vast stone façade could not be supported on the mere six ground floor piers with such expansive glazing in between.

      Clerys is also something of a charade in terms of scale. Not only is the store less substantial than the four storeys suggested on O’Connell Street, but originally didn’t even correlate with the impression of three storeys as given on Sackville Place. The department store as initially built rose to the decidedly damp squib of two storeys behind the monumental principal façade.

      In this diagram as viewed from the rear, the majority of the store proper was a large two storey concrete shell, flanked by a three storey section on Sackville Place, and the full height block with attic storey facing O’Connell Street.

      And here you can clearly see the shallow nature of the upper part of the main block. By contrast the lower floors are in shadow.

      Presumably all these upper floors contained substantial administration and staff quarters. Perhaps it is possible that the main store block below was designed to accommodate an extra storey if the store expanded in the future, replicating the structural techniques below.

      Moving inside, the structural system is immediately apparent, the supporting posts dressed up in neoclassical finery as the store’s trademark Ionic columns.

      © Clerys

      In the recent refurbishment the elegant coffers were unfortunately largely covered with suspended panels, probably for the best however given the surface-mounted sprinkler system and lighting that had been subsequently installed, with their pipes and cables scarring the ceilings. As the capitals are now less visible and the plasterwork is almost concealed, the store has a more modern feel to it.

      The original interior of Clerys was spectacularly different to what we have today – it was a much more architectural space, designed with customer circulation and clear orientation in mind, as well an element of grandeur. As such, a focal point of a large double-height space punctuating the first floor was sited in the centre of the store, creating a galleried upper floor overlooking the main entrance mall below. Light flooded the space through a glazed ceiling in the first floor roof, which of course was positioned behind the full height main block which is only two bays deep. Tragically this dramatic feature of the store was completely removed in order to build the famous Clery’s Ballroom and lounge, as initiated by Denis Guiney – not a scrap of it remains.

      Denis Guiney, a Kerryman, moved to Dublin in 1917 working for a number of years as a salesman both in the capital and later in England. He returned to Dublin in 1921 to open Guineys on Talbot Street which became an instant success as a seller of bargain goods. By contrast Clerys around the corner was gradually going into decline, and was eventually put into receivership around 1940. Guiney snapped it up for £230,000 and proceeded to turn the business around, making use of the flagship premises on O’Connell Street as a location for a fashionable restaurant and ballroom to rival businesses like the Metropole’s ballroom upstairs across the road, and capture the patrons of the street’s numerous cinemas who would migrate into night venues, restaurants and parlours after screenings.

      From what can be gathered (though may be open to correction), the new ballroom and lounges were installed on the first floor, with the ground floor being retained for retail. A good quality, seemingly oak, dance floor was laid, along with a bandstand with Art Deco ceiling which is still in place. At this point the store’s magnificent gallery was sadly filled in and the glazed ceiling above lost forever, radically altering the design of the original department store. Exactly how access was gained to the ballroom is unclear, but either way the grand staircase to the back of the store was a remarkable survivor in this reforming context. Perhaps its grandeur appealed to Guiney for direct access to the new evening ballroom; certainly its bifurcating design had good capacity. Structurally the first floor bears all the marks of major alterations – many changes have been made to the ceilings and columns. The ballroom proved a big success, with regular showbands and local and national talent featuring, adding to O’Connell Street as an attractive night time destination.

      However, as happened across Dublin and urban Ireland in the 1970s, dancehalls, ballrooms, cinemas and fashionable social venues closed down in favour of discos, television and other forms of modern entertainment. Developers were also scavenging about, offering lucrative amounts to owners of what was often prime real estate that were faced with dwindling revenues. Clery’s Ballroom closed in the 1970s, and the next chapter in the store’s history commenced.

      Considering the venerable institution now faced a major new competitor directly across the road in the form of BHS’s new department store, Roches Stores’ relatively recent department store on Henry Street along with an expanded Arnotts opposite, as well as a revamped Brown Thomas on Grafton Street, Clerys had been well and truly left behind in city centre retailing. In a massive expansion programme started around 1978, the ballroom was converted back into retail, a third storey was added to the original building linking through to the second floor frontage on O’Connell Street accessed via a new series of escalators piercing the heart of the building, the basement was possibly opened up at this time, and a substantial new extension of brown brick with glazing (pictured is more recent) was built to the north facing onto North Earl Street, all combined at least doubling the size of the store.

      The added third storey can clearly be seen to the rear.

      This is when Clerys’ famously numerous restaurants came into being, including the rooftop restaurant overlooking the dingy north inner city. It was now a largely purpose-built modern department store, with retail and services providing an all-inclusive shopping experience just like Roches and Arnotts.

    • #785342

      Like the others, it ambled through the 1980s with little change, until the retail market picked up in line with the economy in the mid-1990s. With Arnotts undertaking a massive expansion programme in 1998-99, and an increasing young customer base being under-targeted, Clerys again underwent a massive transformation, which in any event was desperately needed in the 1970s sections in particular with their hideous grey suspended ceilings and dated fixtures. Executed floor by floor, the ground floor was refurbished in 1998-99, the basement in 2000, the first floor in 2002 and second floor in 2003-04 – all carried out by Douglas Wallace Architects over the course of seven years. During this time the double height void in the North Earl Street elevation was also filled in with a striking glazed insert.

      Though the grand gallery and other features have been lost, the interior of Clerys today is much truer to the original design concept, with the refurbishment programme rectifying previous errors, and new additions being sympathetic to the older features while also making an impact in their own right.

      The grand staircase to the rear of the store is in excellent condition and looks as magnificent as ever.

      A luxuriously deep piled, rich red carpet lines the marble steps, held down with apparently original fluted brass rods.

      A sense of drama is generated by the sweeping curves of the original balustrading and mahogany handrail, an almost exact design of which can be found in Independent House on Middle Abbey Street of the same year.

      The cross and circle motif is replicated on the iron window aprons outside, while the plaster Vitruvian scrolling adds an elegant flowing touch.

      The sheer height of the ground floor is acknowledged by both a return and a half landing, the first of which features an elegant plaster arch. This used to contain text but has now been filled with a mirror.

      The beauty of what the original gallery may have been like can be acknowledged here, with first floor columns sitting atop the ground floor ones.

      Filled in with elegant railing units.

      Beautifully refined plaster panelling punctuated with pilasters lines the rear wall of the staircase:

    • #785343

      The ground floor columns have elegant Ionic capitals.

      However most do not appear to feature plinths of any kind – they merge directly with the floor, possibly as they originally ran into built-in timber counters and display units.
      One particularly curious feature is this odd box-like projection on at least half of the ground floor columns. The capital detail even continues around it:

      I had always presumed them to be original electrical conduits servicing counters given the building’s solid concrete frame, but it’s also possible they were installed as reinforcing supports for the added third storey. It’s also very odd that they do not even face the rear wall in spite of the crude projections they are; rather they stick out at various angles.

      The delightful ribbon and flute plasterwork can still be observed around the modern insert panels of the cool, icy coved ceilings.

      It doesn’t bear thinking about what the coffers looked like originally right across the store, perhaps with matching centre roses suspending bronze or brass light fittings with glittering glass shades…

      Upstairs on the first floor the scale is immediately more intimate and human; here the columns are shorter in line with the lower ceiling, and hence more visible:

      They are also fully designed from capital to plinth, adding a distinguished air to the shopping space atop the dark timber flooring:

      They must have been quite striking in the ballroom.

      Towards the rear of the first floor, magnificent pairs of oak doorcases stand to attention either side of the staircase, the left-hand side now serving the Tearooms, the right-hand side providing access to toilets and staff quarters. Apparently the staff washrooms still feature the 1940s mirrors of Mr Guiney’s ballroom from when they used to be the Ladies powder room!

      Vaguely Georgian in character, and reminiscent of Government Buildings’ entrance of the same era, they feature typical 1920s leaded warped glass which if all original is a remarkable survival, and some sturdy detailing:

      More ribbon plasterwork surrounds them:

      And also features on the brass handles:

    • #785344
      Paul Clerkin

      Great work Graham

    • #785345

      Downstairs in the basement underneath the Sackville Place block there appears to be more original plasterwork.

      This area was revealed to the public as part of the wider €20 million refurbishment of the store, a project that seems to have become bigger and bigger as it progressed. Upstairs both the dance floor and the Art Deco ceiling were revealed during the works, when carpets were pulled up and ceilings came down.

      The second floor also presented a challenge to the architects and contractors as there was a lot of bounce in the floor, it formerly being the roof of the building, so timber flooring was the only option in the revamp – there are no tiles, even in the walkways. The supporting columns were also narrowed.

      Overall the interior is in magnificent shape, though the exterior needs attention. In particular the cast iron windows which require major work, as do the brass plaques. The latter were all removed about two years ago, for restoration as it seemed at the time, but returned in exactly the same condition. The entire Sackville Place elevation equally needs huge work, put probably won’t be attended to until DCC implement the IAP for that area.

      In any event the slightly grubby principal façade gives off an air of one of the imposing sooty buildings of Europe, and looks distinguished either way 🙂

      An improved floodlighting scheme, though adequate at the moment, would be a nice finishing touch.

      Clerys had been steered through these changes with one woman at the helm during it all ever since the death of Denis Guiney in 1966. Mary Guiney was chairwoman of Clery & Company, and held an active interest in the running of the business with her 52% stake until her death at the age of 103 in 2003, precisely 150 years after the grand Palatial Mart first opened in the centre of Sackville Street. Through the generations she experienced the changes of the 1940s, the 1970s, and even oversaw the most recent refurbishment and expansion. Were she to encounter the current Arnotts proposal, no doubt she’d already be hatching plans for the grand old lady of O’Connell Street.

      Many thanks to Clerys of Dublin for being so cooperative and helpful. and for supplying certain images.
      Also thanks to the Irish Architectural Archive.

    • #785346

      Ah Graham, this is great. You’ve the making of a few books with all the content you’ve uploaded here over the past few moons.

    • #785347

      A few images to add to your article. All taken on Jan 06.

      Not sure if this has been repaired yet.

      Stokes are still restoring clocks in Cork AFAIK. Ring the door bell for access to the shop as they’ll be busy in the back mending clocks.

      A fine spectacle of a terrace leading up to the building

      And a shakey night shot

    • #785348

      @Morlan wrote:

      Ah Graham, this is great. You’ve the making of a few books with all the content you’ve uploaded here over the past few moons.

      Hear, hear; this is excellent stuff 🙂

    • #785349

      Yes Graham, I really enjoyed that.

      Heres the latest planning application affecting the store. As you mentioned the entrance doors are being removed and replaced with modern stainless steel jobies. Bronze would be much more suitable in keeping with the display windows. The display windows are also being changed. No decison has been made on this yet.

      Planning Permission is being sought by Clery & Co. (1941) Plc for alterations to the O, Connell Street/West facing elevation of Clerys, No. 18-27 O’ Connell Street, Dublin 1, which is a protected structure, together with internal alterations to the existing window display areas of O’ Connell Street & Sackville Place. The alterations involve the following works; Replacement of the 3 existing reproduction traditional style wood and glass panel main entrance, corner entrance and side/north entrance doors, with proposed frameless glass doors with frameless glass fixed panels above; Installation of removable stainless steel bollards to public pavement in front of proposed frameless glass main entrance, corner entrance and side/north entrance doors; Removal of existing reproduction traditional style wood and glass panel inner lobby doors at main and corner entrances; Removal of existing window display areas and construction of new window display areas, with removal of part of the original traditional wood and glass screens, presently concealed within the stud walls of the existing window display areas. Remainder of original traditional screens will be concealed within new stud walls of the new window display areas.

      It would be great to see some investment going into Sackville Place. There is no reason why it cant become a more attractive street. An exansion of Clerys into that concrete lump at the Malbrough Street end would be a good more – it could be linked to the main store across the rear lane. Clerys could redevelop it for use by a big brand. This in turn would stimulate the depressingly rundown Malborough Street.

    • #785350

      I was thinking exactly the same – it’s an ideal opportunity for redevelopment, remembering that Clerys also appear to own a huge warehouse in this block, linking into the back of Guineys. Similarly the monstrous DIT building on Sackville Place (which though difficult to believe is even worse inside) is also ripe for complete replacement. Large floorplates could be achieved in both these cases – alas who the heck is going to base themselves down here in the current environment? DCC needs to take action.

      Yes I read that application a few days ago too Stephen – the submission time is now over. Alas in spite of the splendid refurbishment, these proposals do not sound promising, They sound like yet more ugly blank glazing being used as a chic excuse for a lack of design. I see where Clerys are coming from though – the current two sets of doors are quite awkward and confusing to use, and narrow for bag-laden patrons. However considering they don’t seem to be replacing the inner set with anything, removing just these doors alone would make a big difference. Here’s hoping at least that they may be recycled on Sackville Place.
      In spite of they being reproductions, the layered effect of the two sets looks magnificent as the doors open and close, with their myriad slender glazing bars and bevelled glass panes glittering in the store lights. It’ll be a shame to lose them 🙁

      The original window display screens sound very interesting – a great pity they don’t want to expose them.

      Fantastic pictures as always Morlan 🙂

      Trust you to get that light – I waited around for hours and then it clouded over!

    • #785351

      Also just an image of the flooring I couldn’t find earlier. An excellent choice of design and colouring:

      This flooring in Clerys is very distinctive and memorable. It’s quite rare in any retailing space to get dark timber flooring, and less still that it be complemented by a suitably matching walkway design. The combination Clerys went for looks very sophisticated in being modern but also subtly Edwardian in character.
      So refreshing in contrast with the hideous beech effect covering pasted down across a certain other department store and many other retail outlets in the city.

      Very interesting interview below with Galen Weston, owner of Brown Thomas (and Selfridges and many others) in last week’s The Sunday Business Post. Opening a Brown Thomas north of the Liffey seems to be a medium term aim for the company – it’d be great if O’Connell Street could scoop it. Suggestions of Clerys being bought out are made, given the store is now more vunerable to takeover.
      The biggest relevation that Arnotts are proposing to spend €700 billion on their revamp! 😀

      Weston’s way to the top
      15 October 2006 By Simon Carswell

      The Brown Thomas head office at the top of its flagship building on Dublin’s Grafton Street is quiet but busy. From here, you can almost see the northside of the city.

      It’s a view that Brown Thomas owner, Canadian billionaire Galen Weston, and his management team at the country’s leading luxury department chain must be considering more and more these days. This is the perfect vantage point from which to plan a full-scale retail invasion of the O’Connell Street-Henry Street area of the city’s northside.

      It’s a part of Dublin ripe for an incursion. This part of town competes with the Grafton Street area for the ever-growing number of well-off shoppers with bulging wallets. Weston has been watching with great interest what is happening north of his Irish retail headquarters and, in particular, how his retail rivals, Arnotts and Clerys, are performing.

      Weston’s day-to-day schedule is calculated with military precision. He is in Ireland for a flying visit, but managed to squeeze in about 30 minutes to speak exclusively to The Sunday Business Post, his first interview with an Irish newspaper in years.

      Before the 4pm interview, he attended a management meeting to plan the continued upgrading of the Brown Thomas stores – Weston has four in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick (as well as two BT2 outlets) – and he poses for pictures during an eight-minute photoshoot on the Grafton Street shop floor.

      Weston must be on his way to Dublin Airport by 4.30pm – I am told – if his private jet is to make its landing slot in London where he owns another flagship store, in the main shopping thoroughfare of Oxford Street. The store is Selfridges.

      He later proudly describes the shop as ‘‘one of the top three stores of its kind in the world’’. ‘Top’ is a word that Weston can quite legitimately use to describe most of his businesses, whether they’re in Britain, Ireland or Canada.

      But today, Weston’s focus is firmly fixed on Brown Thomas, the retailer that occupies the front line on the Irish luxury retail battlefield. Weston is polite, immaculately dressed and exudes the confidence that you would expect from someone who is the second-wealthiest man in Canada and one of the richest shopkeepers in the world.

      Returning to the stylish office of Brown Thomas chief executive Dalton Philips, Weston prefers not to take his lieutenant’s chair, plumping instead for the guest side of the desk.

      Brown Thomas has been located on the western side of Grafton Street for 11 years now, ever since Weston amalgamated BT and Switzers.

      Weston says the deal – in which Marks & Spencer paid

    • #785352

      thanks is not enough. This is just brilliant; between the detail and the excellent photographs. Stuff like this is what keeps me coming back to this website.
      I doff my hat, sir:D

    • #785353

      Was that a typo? Is it €700 million or €700 billion revamp on Arnotts? Because I’m nearly sure I heard before that it was only €700 million

    • #785354

      Well considering one could run the entire health service on €700 billion for the next 65 years, I would hope so C.H…

      (yes, yes it was a typo)

      Just on Sackville House to the rear of Clerys, apparently it was sold earlier this year. To whom I wonder?

    • #785355

      Speak of the devil….

      A tender notice has gone up on Sackville House (such a classy name) for redevelopment.

    • #785356

      Some interesting news in last sunday’s Business Post regarding Clerys. As mentioned above here the company recieved planning permission to redesign its shop front to allow for greater transparency through the store. Work should start in NY and be completed by May. Paul Tierney, the MD, also announced that Clerys had aquired Sackville House on Malborough Street for €20 and are developing plans for the site. Great news! and along the lines of what was suggested should happen. Clerys are also very much plugging Marlborough Street as the preferred route for Luas (I agree) and want the council to start looking at M St and Sackville Place in the cvontext of the OConnell Street IAP. The company are also planning a revamp of their Guinneys outlet on Talbot Street but are awaiting plans by the City Coucil to pedestrianise Talbot Street (its on the cards but hasnt been fully assessed yet).

      Tierney said he had to problems with the Arnotts development across the street and welcomed the healthy competeition it would bring.

    • #785357
    • #785358

      Clerys is a wonderful building. The O’Connell Street facade would be in my top 10 buildings in the city centre. It looks wicked when the sun just comes on it in early afternoon in winter.

      @GrahamH wrote:

      The famous Clerys clock also dates from around this time.

      Needless to say the stories of thousands of couples meeting under the same clock down through the years rings just a little hollow &#8211]This clock is a little bit dated – in an ’80s way. Maybe it would be an idea to replace it with something more stylish, in a modern way.

      The original looked cool:

    • #785359

      Look who are peeking out above the window display stud walls at Clerys 🙂

      They are of course the leaded top lights of the original panelled timber backdrops of the display windows. Most of these still survive according to the conservation report compiled for their recent planning application, however some have also been hacked about a bit over the years.

      Their planning application was recently granted, subject to very tight conservation conditions. The intention is to completely open up the windows immediately flanking either side the main entrance with views of the store by removing the current back walls, and the same treatment given to the windows at the furthest extremities of the ground floor, essentially opening up the interior to the street. The very central windows at either side will be retained as display windows, where the 1922 screens at these points will be retained in situ, however they will also remain encased in modern cladding. The screens or remnants of screens, to each side, will be removed entirely to open up the vistas, as depicted below.

      I think it’s a great pity that the screens being retained aren’t going to be exposed or otherwise utilised in this reordering, especially given the very limited amount of display space there will actually be upon completion. Unfortunately O’Connell Street and so much of the city centre in general is defined by humdrum UK high street design – it also has very limited traditional shopfront fabric remaining. As such, to have an original element of early 20th century commercial architecture exposed as part of the wider historic Clerys streetscape would act as a significant reinforcing boost to the 1920s character of O’Connell Street that has been so eroded over the past 20 years.

      Of course it has to be acknowledged that shopfront and display design are critical factors in modern retailing, but there’s no reason why freestanding displays against the traditional backdrop cannot be suitably creative and striking in their own right. Indeed up to this point Clerys have often demonstrated a very good eye in their window displays.

      Douglas Wallace are drawing up this project, they also being the architects that worked on the impressive restoration of the building over the past eight years or so. The proposals for replacing the reproduction entrance doors with a sheer expanse of glazing works better in reality that it may sound – what they have proposed is certainly better than the disjointed mess of elements comprising the main entrance at present.

      © Douglas Wallace Architects

      Is it just me, or is there a faintly 1920s-30s thing going on here? 🙂 A very elegant drawing.

      On paper it looks impressive, particularly if the sparkily spotlights come to fruition. A grandiose 1920s central mall chandelier along the lines of Marks and Spencers’ magnificent specimen on Grafton Street would also do wonders with views from the street.

    • #785360

      For sure 1920’s is very much the hot style at the moment in major retail and and high end offices. Personally I am not particularly attracted to such a quantity of architectural glazing in what is such an opulent building. No doubt Douglas Wallace have done a fine job over the years supervising the restoration of the interior into one of the finest retail spaces in the city. But I feel that this entrance is more ILAC than Selfridges for Clery’s something opulent in Bronze whilst a little brash would have aged better.

    • #785361

      It is certainly very stark for an otherwise classically inspired building, which is why a clear design statement inside made visible from the exterior is all the more important I think. The cosmetics hall immediately inside the doors could also do with a rearrangement in that respect. They used to have a fantastic Edwardian rounded display case in the central aisle up until recently (it comes and goes) that makes a very striking first impression, and lets face it helps conceal the view of the dingy 70s escalators – it too could be used more often.

      There’s also another original feature intact in the window area in the form of a vaulted plaster ceiling that runs parallel to the windows, two arches deep. One of the arches extends to the width of the display area, with the second behind the screens in the store itself. Both are concealed by suspended ceilings, and alas will remain as such in the reordering. However the current low display ceilings will be raised to the full height of the windows, with the coloured-in upper panels made transparent once again, as below. This should make an enormous difference, especially with the ceilings scattered with spotlights. Currently they are suspended at the level of the horizontal glazing bar.

    • #785362

      I agree that the arrangement of the cosmetics hall could do with some serious further consideration; what is proposed if the image is anything to go by appears to be a bog standard Boots style fit out with all the usual suspects such as Lancome etc given standard format tables to be festooned with product and cardboard cut outs.

      It would be entirely appropriate for the Edwardian display stand to be resurected and replica cabinets built to give the shop a sense that it is different to its architecturally more generic rivals.

      In relation to the escalators there has been a growing trend in old shops to reconfigure escalators from an entrance to back wall alignment to a horizontal alignment from the doors. The effect of which is to take the focus away from the fitting to the people using it which can be further accentuated by using glass panels between the handrail and stairs.

      A further recent development has been the development of perspex holding cells for shoplifters; personally I would favour a link to any plasma screens in the front windows to give celebrity status to such offenders.
      Holding Cells

    • #785363

      Clerys profit recovery gathers pace
      Friday, 1 June 2007 08:13
      The Clerys chain of stores has disclosed profits up 75% at just under €1.4m for the 12 months to the end of January. Sales came in at just under €73m, an increase of 7.3%.

      This is the second year in a row that Clerys has been in profit after a period of difficult trading.

      There are five stores in all including the flagship O’Connell Street store, Guiney’s on Talbot Street and three suburban furniture stores. The company opened its first store outside Dublin, in Naas, Co Kildare, last October.

      The company has spent €18.8m on buying more land at the back of its flagship store on O’Connell St.

      Chief executive PJ Timmins said the city centre had become a more attractive place for retail, with the arrival of the Luas and enhanced pedestrian spaces.

      Was this the Sackville House transaction or have there been others?

    • #785364

      @PVC King wrote:

      Was this the Sackville House transaction or have there been others?

      In the last couple of days the wraps have just been coming off the refurbished and extended car park on the corner of Marlborough Street and Sean McDermott Street, and it now has a big sign saying Clery’s. I don’t think it was Clery’s beforehand.

    • #785365

      @PVC King wrote:

      Was this the Sackville House transaction or have there been others?

      Sackville House was asking about e18-e20 million I think so almost certainly that

    • #785366

      Thanks for confirming this

      I am really hopeful that they will be able to do something attractive and in the process kick start Marlborough Street which to my mind is the worst performing street in Dublin on the basis of ambiance vis-a-vis the quality of some of the building stock and convenience to a main thoroughfare.

    • #785367


      I’m wondering do any of you know why the faces carved along the side wall of Cleary’s on O’Connell Street gradually go up as you near the front of Cleary’s? I think the street is Sackville Place, but I’m not certain. There is, however, a small taxi rank on that street. The stone faces (I’m sure there is a word!) are very downcast the farther they are from O’Connell street and gradually they rise to the extent that the nearest one to O’Connell Street has its head high and is smiling.

      Does anybody know the history to this type of architecture?

    • #785368

      On a seperate note, I was in Clerys at the weekend and was impressed with the front of house change in design. The window displays no longer have backdrops blocking the interior of the store which means you now have views of the ground floor shopping area as you walk by outside. It makes the store a lot more inviting and sophisticated looking, particularly the southern corner which now houses an upmarket jewellery dept. The only let down was the dirty old fashioned escalators that hark back to the store’s dowdier days. Surely they could invest in newer sleeker replacements which I think would complete the upgrade of the store

    • #785369

      However…that big roller shutter on the main door looks terrible at night and is hardly in keeping with the look proposed at the top of this page. I thought shutters were required to be located internally.

    • #785370


      So we’ve finally reached the endgame, as we’ve watched Clerys crawling towards inevitable receivership for the past number of years. Who do we think will take over this tired and increasingly irrelevant grand institution? Will John Lewis take the opportunity to escape the doomed Carlton scheme, or is the Irish market still too depressed to consider?

      Either way, one cannot envisage Clerys surviving in anything even remotely like its current guise, with almost every facet of its current incarnation, with the exception of cosmetics and some limited areas of older women’s fashion, being the antithesis of a modern retailing experience.

      In spite of the limited investment charted above, the place needs a radical overhaul, with nothing short of the return to the original galleried design being required to introduce high-impact rebranding and a higher order shopping environment. Failing a takeover by an international multiple, surely a major staple for a prestigious store located on the virtual airport terminal that is O’Connell Street is a substantial food hall, specialising in fresh Irish foods, artisan produce, and affordable dining in a host of formats, from counter to café to restaurant.

      A delightful video here showing the original galleried layout, waiting to be uncovered through the stripping out of those ghastly escalator shafts and surrounding infill ceilings. The original beautiful 1920s bracketed light fittings can be seen responding to each column, however the lamps themselves look suspiciously 1930s in character. I recall more elegant luminares in 1920s photographs…

    • #785371

      Innovate and improve or die! This must be the mantra now for the city’s struggling retailers. Its not simply enough anymore to slap up a cheap shopfront, never clean or present your business properly, make-do with an outmoded interior and poor merchandising and then simply hope they keep coming.

      There are many great things about Clerys but the store has become increasingly outmoded in recent years and lost its way on who it was trying to attract. The focus on franchises, many of which are established in their own better stores elsewhere in the city centre, and the lack of fresh thinking and ideas have meant that Clerys offers nothing distinctive or different to consumers.

      What is hilarious to listen to is the commentary this morning…reminiscent of Bewleys. “Aaah jaysus…is it closin’….aah jaysus. I havent shopped there since 1972 but its a great Dublin instutution”.

      Clerys is to remain open and hopefully to see a revival in its fortune. The smaller chaotic Guineys store located in an increasingly derelict building on Talbot Street closed yesterday.

      Michael Guineys of the brash tangerine orange shopfront fame remains unaffected.

    • #785372

      An interesting piece on Clerys in the Sunday Business Post (if a little dated in some of its details).

    • #785373

      A thoroughly revamped Clerys opened it doors this morning and I for one thing the have done a very smart job inside. Its bright and welcoming and elegant …and best of all busy.

      And a great opportunity to revive this thread.

      Now what shall we do with the rest of O’Connell Street>

    • #785374

      Yes good to see the store reopened after such a whirlwind of a four-month refurbishment. The flood event of July was catastrophic in its impact. Effectively a massive water storage tank-like scenario developed on the 1970s roof, which gathered water in the intense heavy rainfall and then collapsed in part, admitting gallons of water the entire way down through the building. Many of the late 1980s ceiling panels collapsed in the process, thankfully offering the opportunity for re-exposure of the original coffered ceiling. Interestingly, even the original sprinklers and/or at least identical replacements from 1922, occupy the same utilitarian position they always did beneath the panels and are now exposed in a manner not dissimilar to a White Star Line or Cunard liner.

      The lighting improvements have quite literally transformed the building, with spot tracks providing sharp pools of light while also hiding LED strips washing the ceiling. Indeed, Clerys now has one of the largest LED retail installations in Ireland – it has well and truly gone mainstream. At second floor level it has been used to clever effect washing the rear of wall units, ceiling coffers and bulkheads. Some of the colours mightn’t be to everyone’s taste though.

      Unfortunately the opportunity wasn’t taken to improve first impressions from the main entrance doors, where the usual chaotic cosmetics counters dominate the scene. I don’t think the new flooring is particularly successful down here either, made up of horizontal tiles and knotty timber board insets. How the displays and general circulation work with these is a bit incoherent too. But the first floor level flooring is a fabulous beech-coloured parquet – very ‘on-trend’ as per Brown Thomas’s top floor – while evoking the original post-Edwardian flooring. The escalators have been revamped with illuminated plastic panels too.

      There’s a fantastic heritage gallery located on the second floor that is well worth a look. Lots of images of Sackville Street, the original Delany/McSwiney interior, the original post-1916 interior, and, lets face it, generally showing how the store is a less pretty place today. But overall, a great job by Jennings Design Studio – a spawn from Douglas Wallace who carried out earlier work on the building. It was an incredibly ambitious job to turn around in such pressurised circumstances.

      But there are pangs of concern about protecting what’s left of the original fixtures and fittings fabric of the store. The recent glass entrance doors have not been a success in how they expose the busy interior and have become a magnet for postering, and after the event, it’s not clear if all of the excellent timber doors (just badly inserted) that were disposed of were in fact a mixture of original and reproduction fabric, and not just reproduction as was claimed. Nor exactly how much of the original Edwardian window display backdrop screen fabric was retained as was supposed to happen. There are constantly layers of older fabric being exposed and concealed in this building and it’s important that it’s coordinated and recorded, but one gets the distinct impression nobody’s willing to take on this task. Clerys is an important building and its heritage should be showcased as part of its branding – not sold out to the demands of international concessions. And in the long run, given the still confused clientele and merchandise, there’s no question that a substantial portion of the future of Clerys has to be fresh food. The brand, the location and the premises are a potential goldmine for a foodhall if it was done right. Do we really need another generic cosmetics hall?

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