Start on Saturday morning by being first in the queue for the extension to the Department of Finance (Saturday, 10-4). It’s one of Dublin’s best recent buildings, designed by Grafton Architects and completed in 2007, and not the kind of place you can wander into any time. The building is rightfully celebrated for its relationship to its urban context – the romantic Huguenot Cemetery next door, the set-piece of St Stephen’s Green and the Georgian terrace of Merrion Row, but here’s a chance to see the interior. One of the best interior moves is the location of the staircase, providing a sun screen and an acoustic buffer as well as circulation, and the configuration of office and circulation space in relation to the exterior is interesting.
The Iveagh Trust Museum Flat (Saturday 10-12.30, 2-4.30) is a perennial favourite. The Iveagh Buildings were developed by Edward Cecil Guinness between 1894 and 1904 to improve living conditions for the working poor and included a play centre, baths and a homeless hostel as well as the flats. Flat 3B was preserved at the wish of its tenant, Nellie Molloy, who had lived there her whole life and resisted modernisation. It’s a glimpse into Nellie’s life as well as a chance to see inside a significant building, and it’s quite affecting.
Maybe it’s cheating a little to include the Church of St George and St Thomas (Saturday 10-4.20), but most Dubliners seem to think of the small brick church on Cathal Brugha Street as being closed. To the entrance of this 1930s church by Frederick G Hicks, Clancy Moore Architects (2008) have added an insertion to accommodate the church’s day-to-day needs. It’s a handsome, seamless furniture-like object made from walnut, with a cork-lined crying room on one side of the entrance and generous storage and auxiliary spaces on the other.
Providing a new centre for existing community organisations in East Wall, O’Donnell and Tuomey’s 2008 Sean O’Casey Community Centre (10-4.30) acts as a landmark in its low-lying residential context. Most of the community functions are in the ground floor – four buildings and four irregularly shaped gardens allowing for separate use – and one of the quarters rises up as a tower. The corrugated concrete has a really strong tactile appeal and the three sizes of circular window become far less zany once you see their functional relationship to the body and the views they provide.
Bookend the day with another government building. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Saturday 2-4.30) on Kildare Street by J.R. Boyd Barrett is distinctive, from the industrial and Celtic limestone reliefs and keystones by Gabriel Hayes to the five-storey window above the main door. Inside, the building is elegant and modern, with beautiful walnut-cased lifts. Bonus fact: since the building’s completion in 1942 for the Department of Industry and Commerce, the department has changed name nine times.