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First Prize for GKMP Architects in DoCoMoMo Central Bank Competition

Published: Monday, April 08, 2013

DoCoMoMo Central Bank Competition

What will become of the Central Bank? – this was the design challenge set by DoCoMoMo for one of Ireland’s most iconic buildings. Designed by Stephenson & Gibney Associates (1979), the headquarters of the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame Street in Dublin may soon be vacated by its current occupants. During its 32-year history the building has evoked many passions – ranging from revulsion to admiration – but it is ultimately a symbol of modern Ireland, constructed with an air of defiance during a cruel recession. In Ireland’s current straitened circumstances this architectural ideas competition sought to encourage once more a certain disregard for convention, a quest for adventure and an exploration of possibilities. The competition was open to all and offered a prize fund of €1500.

First Prize: GKMP Architects

Citation: Turning over one of the city’s largest and most centrally located buildings over to Irish youth is a radically empowering and optimistic gesture. Although the jury expressed reservations about the way that it encroached on the plaza, which constitutes the Central Bank’s principle civic amenity, the fact that the new spaces created here would provide a facility that could be used outside of school hours by the larger community helped compensate for this. The graphic presentation is exceptionally strong, above all in the way that the section drawing encourages an understanding of the interior organization of an originally rather forbidding structure, which is here opened up to engage with the future of the larger society. The details of this proposal thus quite literally demystify and transform what has been the power and authority vested in one of Dublin’s most prominent buildings into a space of participatory activities that give access to opportunities for those at the beginning of their lives. The proposed interventions alter the building’s purpose and its internal organisation without eroding, however, the structural integrity of Stephenson’s original design. At the same time, the targeted use of subtle colour in the well-organized drawing highlights the new uses that are now being slotted into it.


Prize for Best Presentation: Amelie Conway, Dominic Lavelle, Brian Barber, Joe Swan
(Sponsored by Inspirational Arts)

Citation: Central to this proposition is a reconfiguration of the Central Bank building as a structure which is spatially continuous with its public plaza.  The presentation is succinct and provocative, presenting the bank in a state of partial destruction with a new semi-open park spiralling around the existing lift cores.  The open platforms of the park are suspended, optimistically, from the retained roof truss. The presentation dispenses with conventional drawings and instead presents the proposal through a series of diagrams, two photo-montages and a sequence of wireframe perspectives.  One key set of diagrams summarises the original construction sequence, with the proposal then presented as a partial reversal/rewinding of this process.  The images and diagrams trigger a new perception of the building by exposing, x-ray like, the inventiveness of the original structure.


Student Prize: David Lawless, DIT

Citation: Danteum for Dame Street is a rhetorical project that sees the floors of the central bank re-assigned according to each of the seven deadly sins. The building is repurposed as a vehicle for society to acknowledge its demons. This proposal is witty and humorous but equally astute. The author simultaneously criticizes and celebrates the central bank's horizontal stratification, a feature typical of modernist architecture, which allows for a variety of autonomous activities to co-exist within the building.The project is architecturally sophisticated in the close interrelation of the narrative developed for each floor and its associated sin. The interventions selectively shift the glazing line and each plan is carefully choreographed around the pivot of the two central cores. One particularly memorable floor, dedicated to the sin of wrath, sees the re-location of the 'Joe Duffy Show' to centre of the third floor. The seemingly universal plan is re-calibrated into a theatrical sequence of front and back of house, with the 'performance space' stretched across the depth of the floor plate.  A new entrance canopy, dubbed as 'limbo', provides an intriguing subversion of the existing entrance steps but is a less potent intervention then the re-planning of the floors.  Political and cultural criticism aside, this project demonstrates the inherent flexibility of the bank's architecture, and shows how with minimal means there is potential for this building to have a truly polyvalent future.

An exhibition of the winning projects is currently on show at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 until Friday 26th April (Tues-Fri 10am-5pm)
DoCoMoMo Ireland is the Irish committee for documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement.

Categories: Architecture | Competitions

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