The architects’ pick of Open Houses

Five architects participating in this year’s Open House series select the buildings that they believe have had the biggest public impact

The Presence of the Past is the theme of this year’s Open House Dublin, October 14th-16th, with more than 90 buildings open to the public in the city centre and suburbs. The Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park, Green Street Courthouse, the GPO Witness Centre and the newly-restored Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks are part of the programme for the first time in this commemorative year.

The Airbnb headquarters in a restored warehouse on Hanover Quay, the international headquarters of Facebook at Grand Canal Quay and Google in Gordon House are among the hipster office buildings that will draw crowds.

There will also be guided architectural walking and cycling tours.

In Cork, St Angela’s School on Patrick’s Hill, designed by architects O’Donnell and Tuomey, social housing schemes in Mayfield, Ballyphehane and Greenmount and the the Narrow House on Red Abbey Street are among those on view.


In Limerick, industrial buildings such as Bannatyne Mill, Ranks, Silo and Cleeve’s Factory will be open.

In Belfast, the theme of this year’s Open House programme is architecture and engineering.

We asked five architects to choose the buildings that have had the biggest public impact. You might be surprised by their selections.

Architect: John McLaughlin
Busáras, Dublin

Completed in 1953, Busáras embodies the optimism of a newly-independent democracy where public transport for ordinary people was given the care and considerate design previously reserved for the elite. It stands today as an example of what can be achieved even in lean times where there is a will to make an equal society.

It was the chef d'oeuvre of Michael Scott and Partners, the architecture practice credited with bringing the modernist movement to Ireland. The artist Patrick Scott was responsible for the building's colourful mosaics.

Architect, Kevin Roche and engineer Ove Arup introduced the concrete cantilever in the wavy roof that extends over the bus boarding areas. John McLaughlin and Gary A Boyd chose it as one of the 10 buildings that defined modern Ireland for the Irish pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014.

Open House: The exhibition, Making Ireland Modern, will be at the Real Tennis Court, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin on October 15th, 11am-6pm and October 16th, noon-5pm and until November 12th. The exhibition looks at significant buildings and artefacts through the decades since the foundation of the State.

Architect: Grainne Shaffrey, Shaffrey Associates Architects
The civic building programme from 1990s to early 2000s

Rather than choose one specific building, I consider the adaptation of historic buildings and new buildings led by local authorities in the 1990s and early 2000s as the most ambitious expression of place, belonging and urban regeneration across Ireland. The programme, which included libraries and county buildings, brought architecture into civic society and created a new expression of local democracy and public spaces. The Bucholz McEvoy-designed Fingal County Hall offices in Swords was a trailblazer.

It took an existing space with a crescent of trees in the middle of the town and incorporated sustainability into the project. The entire programme has left a good legacy. These buildings will be the protected structures of the future.

Open House: Grainne Shaffrey was responsible for the restoration of the Georgian stables at Merrion Mews, 63 Fitzwilliam Lane, rear of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, 63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2. The Irish Landmark Trust property is open on October 15th, 11am-5pm.

Architect: Peter Carroll, A2 Architects
Shannon Airport, Limerick

I’m from Limerick city and I have vivid memories of making day trips to the airport landscape, in particular the visitors’ balcony on the first floor where my three brothers and I were transfixed by the large transatlantic jumbo jets arriving and departing. The rich greens of the Connemara marble floor in the arrivals hall left a very strong impression upon me – even today as a practicing architect.

The fascination with the landscape around Shannon Airport is that it is completely man-made – a large embankment that meanders with the banks of the Shannon estuary protects the airport landscape from flooding as the runway is 1m below high tide. Entering the airport, one crosses a complex array of dykes and canals that continuously drain the marshy land. What I particularly like is that Shannon Airport is located within a nature reserve on the edge of the Shannon estuary and yet all the buildings and infrastructures speak of a boldly optimistic and modern Ireland.

The building I still admire there is the gull-winged former Ford car salesroom (now a storage building). It was designed by American architect, Albert Kahn and has an eye-catching concrete gull-winged roof.

Open House: A2 Architects will give tours of the Dún Laoghaire Baths site which is to be refurbished for artists' studio space, an art gallery, a café and public toilets. October 15th (tickets by lottery on A2 Architects will also have open viewings of 23 Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6, a terraced Georgian house converted into a duplex apartment in the basement and hall level, a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor, and a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor. October 15th, 2pm-5pm.

Architect: Valerie Mulvin, McCullough Mulvin Architects
Temple Bar, Dublin

While buildings such as Busáras, Dublin airport and the RTÉ headquarters in Donnybrook were all symbolic buildings in terms of the modern movement in Ireland, I believe the re-evaluation of historic buildings in Dublin city centre is as important for how we work and live in cities. The development of Temple Bar as a cultural quarter instead of being demolished for a bus station began the whole debate about how to re-use old buildings as apartment complexes, recording studios, shops and art galleries in a living city.

This re-use of historic buildings was also happening across Europe, from where many of the architects who worked on Temple Bar returned.

All the squares in the Temple Bar Framework Plan were made out of existing derelict sites – Temple Bar Square for instance has had a big public impact as a new public space for Dublin. It is used now as a gathering point and has enlivened the area especially with the second-hand book fair at weekends. While perhaps too many bar licenses were issued contributing to some loss of quality, more structured management could resolve this – with the central concept of a living city remaining strong.

Open House: McCullough Mulvin-designed buildings in this year's Open House programme are the Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (formerly a shirt factory), October 15th, 11am-5pm; film screenings at the Irish Architecture Foundation's new Info Hub, 15 Bachelor's Quay, Dublin 1, October 15th, 11am-5pm and October 16th, noon-2pm; the Blackrock Further Education Institute (incorporating Blackrock Town Hall, Carnegie Library and VEC school), October 16th, noon-5pm.

Architect: Tom Maher, Architects TM
Fruit and vegetable market, Dublin

This is a popular public space that has survived various schemes to get rid of it. It is part of the personal and collective memory of the city and is a space used by every class of people – a real melting pot. It’s a real public space, not in the sense of a shopping centre where people congregate in a privately-owned and controlled environment. I like the lightness of the late 19th-century structure and the fruit, vegetables and fish moulded into the terracotta bricks. There are some plans to develop it as a retail market while retaining the wholesale aspects of it. It’s less of a public [architectural] expression than other more important city buildings but it’s still potent in terms of its public access.

Open House: Kearney House, 6 Athlumney Villas, Dublin 6 is an extraordinary private house, designed by Tom Maher. The exterior materials – limestone, glass and copper form curves and angles which are carried inside to open-plan flexible spaces. Open October 15th, 11am-5pm and 16th, noon-5pm. Open House tours of the fruit and vegetable market on Mary's Lane, Dublin 7, October 15th, 11am-5pm and October 16th, noon-5pm.

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