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Cultural Phoenix shows new Irish direction

A new government building in Dublin is set to shake up the dusty, monolithic image of state accommodation and offer locals and tourists great views of Dublin and a series of cultural venues.

The building has been designed by Geoffrey Reid Associates, after it won the international competition to design a new headquarters building for the Irish Government's department of arts, heritage, gaeltacht (Irish speaking) and the islands.

The 15,000m2 office development is located at the tip of Dublin's Phoenix Park and represents the practice's first competition win though it is now planning to enter more. The building is intended to fulfil a number of functions aside from housing civil servants and features public facilities such as an exhibition hall, a library and a 250-seat auditorium.

According to the architects on the project, Matthew Bedward and Chris Gregory, the building attempts to 'mediate between the urban and the park' by creating a new point of entry from the city and by allowing park visitors to use part of its grounds.

'We have created an extension of the park's landscape, thus blurring the edges between the building and the landscape,' Bedward said. 'The building, while answering all the pragmatic requirements of the brief, offers new possibilities for its users.'

These new possibilities include being able to walk onto the 25m high roof of the auditorium to take in views of the city and the surrounding hills. A curved reinforced concrete structure is being planned with the help of Buro Happold which will envelop the glazed auditorium and will be planted with grass. The cantilevered lip will rise just above the treetops. Roofs on the other buildings will also adopt an undulating profile in an attempt to integrate the building's roofscape with the hilly landscape around the capital.

The office accommodation is arranged in a series of three and four-storey 'finger' buildings which are clad with glass panels of different colours and translucency. These are separated by protected courtyard gardens and offer views of the historic ministry of defence building by James Gandon.

The new public pedestrian route which separates the public areas from office facilities increases the permeability of the site and creates a new route into the park. 'The competition brief offered us the opportunity to question the notion of the monolithic government department building and create one that breaks from traditional hierarchies,' said Chris Gregory. 'The whole building is open in its character, enabling the public to see the services provided by its public servants.'

But the Office of Public Works in Dublin, which managed the competition, also wanted a building to mark a modern direction for Irish culture. The brief called for a building which 'reflects a self image of a modern outward looking Ireland which, though proclaiming pride in its own culture and artistic heritage, also asserts itself internationally.'

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