Leinster Rugby announces winner of RDS Arena design competition

Consortium of architect firms chosen to lead €20 million stadium redevelopment


The Royal Dublin Society and Leinster Rugby have announced the winner of an international design competition for a €20 million redevelopment of the RDS arena in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

A consortium of architect firms, Dublin-based Newenham Mulligan and London-based Grimshaw Architects, has been chosen to deliver “a world-class RDS arena that will host professional rugby matches, equestrian sports, music concerts and other appropriate sporting opportunities as they arise”.

According to the RDS, the immediate priorities are to complete the detailed design, secure funding and planning permission and be in a position to begin work by 2016. Leinster Rugby will continue to play their home games as normal during construction.

A slightly reduced capacity is envisaged for the Dublin Horse Show in 2016, but it is hoped the first sporting fixture in the completed arena would be the 2017 horse show.

According to the plan, the old Anglesea stand is to be demolished. The current “demountable” north and south stands would remain, and a scheme is being examined to fill in the corners between these and the new construction.

A spokesman for the RDS said the immediate priorities were funding and planning permission. It is hoped the position of the arena within the RDS grounds would reduce the likelihood of planning objections.

The redeveloped venue would have capacity for 25,000 supporters which, according to Mick Dawson, chief executive of Leinster Rugby, has the potential to significantly add to Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Most of the new stand will incorporate seats, but Mr Dawson said keeping a section of terrace for supporters who prefer to stand was being considered. “At the moment we have a section of terrace for (standing) supporters and though the final plans are not yet complete, we hope to have a terraced section in the new stadium to accommodate people who prefer this.”

The selection of the winning design comes at an exciting time for Leinster rugby, he said.

“We continue to make strides on the pitch, with a home Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath to prepare for, and we are naturally delighted to be making strides off the pitch and moving to the next stage of this project.

“Leinster Rugby has a loyal supporter base and the redeveloped capacity of 25,000 in a purpose-built venue will provide greater opportunities for our supporters and commercial operations,” he said.

Michael Duffy, chief executive of the RDS, said the jury was unanimous in its selection of the Newenham Mulligan-Grimshaw entry. He said entries had to consider professional rugby, world class equestrianism and concerts “in an already very busy events venue”.

“These three elements were exceptionally well incorporated by the winning consortium, who stood out for their understanding of the multi-faceted nature of the development and their vision for the RDS arena,” he said

The RDS will now focus on funding and said “a number of potential funding streams are currently being explored, including naming rights”.

In 2014 the Newenham Mulligan-Grimshaw consortium won the design competition for the redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse.

Newenham Mulligan & Associates is one of Ireland’s oldest architectural practices, founded in Limerick in 1902. The practise has designed projects in the UK, Germany, Austria and Iran.

Grimshaw Architects was founded by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw in 1980 and operates worldwide with offices in New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney and Doha, employing 325 staff. The practice has been honoured with over 150 international design awards including the prestigious Lubetkin Prize.