In the main courtyard, Oisin Kelly’s Chariot of Life sculpture was repositioned, albeit still in relation to the courtyard grid and now with the foreground to Lower Abbey Street cleared of blighting accumulations and a Luas pole repositioning. The dynamism of the ensemble felt constrained within its original tank of water and jets dating from 1982 after the artist’s death. We envisaged the entire space reading as the setting for the sculpture.
Roughly hewn Wicklow granite floating over a wider dark shallow pool serves to emphasise the seven tonnes heft and heroic quality of the piece.
A new water body with jets, now cascading over the moat between the courtyard and street add to the drama of the Charioteer and his horses and the interpretation of “Reason guiding the emotions”. The contrast of rigidity and sinuous movement became the leitmotif of the scheme.
The new paving in a polychromatic array of four stone types lightens and warms the previously sombre courtyard mood, much like a rug on a wooden floor. A dynamic lighting array is integrated into both the paving module and the fountains, with warmer tones and changing colours and intensities. Contrasts between rigidity and clarity of this square and looseness and luxuriance of plantings in the garden courtyards offer the visitor an invitation to detour and explore.
Over time much planting had been replaced in a utilitarian manner yet a structure of the original Brady Shipman Martin scheme evidenced by archival drawings remains mature and impressive.
The courtyard planting was edited, retaining the mature Stock, the exhausted soil replaced and additional planting added under the original trees adding a layer of freshness and seasonal variation.