National Concert Hall to get major facelift

After 20 years of false starts, €78m investment announced as part of Project Ireland 2040

After nearly 40 years as a venue and 12 million people in its auditorium, the National Concert Hall has "stood up well", says its chief executive Simon Taylor. "But it has long been known that it needed major refurbishment," he said. It looks like the much-needed work can finally get started, with yesterday's news of a €78 million investment as part of Project Ireland 2040.

The redevelopment plans include a new state-of-the-art main auditorium incorporating the best of the existing hall, with increased capacity to 1,350 seats. There are plans for a dedicated rehearsal studio for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, world-class stage and backstage facilities, creative spaces for the next generation of composers and musicians, and new public facilities for audiences, including restaurant and shops.

A further phase of the NCH masterplan involves a purpose-built 500-seat auditorium and a music education centre, and a new plaza on Hatch Street with access to the Iveagh Gardens.

The NCH has been to the top of this hill before. Plans were very advanced for redevelopment in 2006-2008, following the purchase from UCD of Earlsfort Terrace, an architectural competition and a funding commitment. But the crash intervened and the plans came to nothing, eventually being formally abandoned.

Phased investment

This time the NCH and the Office of Public Works are on firmer ground and redevelopment will start in two or three years as part of its phased investment to complete a full redevelopment of the existing buildings.

Taylor said yesterday was “the end of a very long process – we’ve been looking for this redevelopment for close to 20 years”.

The funding is important, he says. “With almost 1,100 events annually and an attendance of almost 330,000 people, the National Concert Hall is a keystone of Irish music and cultural life.”

This allows the NCH to “redevelop the whole site as a cohesive and coherent centre for music performance, creation and participation, to meet and exceed the needs of 21st century artists and audience”.

Taylor would ultimately like to see the NCH developed "like the South Bank or Barbican in London or the Kennedy Centre in Washington, with multiple performance spaces, and a meeting place for music and musicians".