Three entries for ESB building redesign in final stage


THREE GROUPS of architects, comprising mainly Irish practices, have been chosen to go on to the final stage of the competition to redesign the ESB’s headquarters on Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin.

The practices come in groups because the competition for the office redesign only allowed entries from practices that had a fee income of at least €2.5 million a year which, at the time, narrowed the field to about six architectural firms in Ireland.

The three winning consortiums are Grafton Architects, O’Mahony Pike, DEGW and BDSP; Henry J Lyons and Gilroy McMahon; and Scott Tallon Walker, the last being the only single practice in the final three. The competition attracted 44 entries across the world.

The ESB’s attempts over the years to upgrade its headquarters have often caused sparks and this time is no different. The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) complained to the European Commission over the restrictive conditions set for the competition. The then president of the RIAI, Seán Ó Laoire, met the ESB to discuss the issue on behalf of all architectural practices: his practice, Murray Ó Laoire, has since gone into liquidation.

The ESB’s redevelopment of its offices on Fitzwilliam Street in 1970 led to the demolition of 16 Georgian houses and the company says the latest redevelopment will not affect the Georgian houses it owns on the Mount Street side of its 2.5 acre site. It also requested that the new scheme respect its Georgian surroundings.

The company’s offices comprise different buildings and at the launch of the contest for the new headquarters in April 2009 the ESB asked designers to assume that existing buildings would be demolished.

It also asked for a solution to the controversial Lower Fitzwilliam Street facade, designed by Stephenson Gibney Architects. Some argue, however, that the facade is a good scale and shows respect for the older buildings nearby. The ESB could therefore find itself faced with a lobby to retain the 1970s frontage.

A spokeswoman for the ESB said EU procurement rules meant they could not discuss the three final-stage designs – and none of the practices have posted them on their websites.

Key practices in the consortiums have weathered the recession well. Scott Tallon Walker is working on the Lansdowne Road stadium (with international practice Populous); Henry J Lyons has just finished the Criminal Court in Dublin; Gilroy McMahon is due to redevelop Liberty Hall and Grafton Architects recently won a competition to design a building for the University of Toulouse.