Irish Life Centre

An example of dense multipurpose development designed by Robinson Keefe and Devane and completed in the early 80’s, the Irish Life Centre comprises residential, retail and office blocks set around a 'necklace' of public plazas, a public garden and an apartment courtyard garden. We repositioned the Oisín Kelly sculpture of national importance further forward in the space closer to the public, and designed a new dramatic water feature, cascading into the moat. The execution of the scheme was phased to allow the campus remain occupied during works.

This phase of the works completed May 2017 comprises 10,000m2.

Client
Irish Life PLC

Location
Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1

Size
10,000 m2

Status
Phase I completed 2017, Phase II in planning

Site Location Plan
Previous configuration of the main plaza and sculpture
New setting of sculpture with fountain feature

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 cantilevers over the shallow pool

Roughly hewn Wicklow granite floating over a wider dark shallow pool serves to emphasise the seven tonnes heft and heroic quality of the piece.

Natural stone: silver and black granite
New water jets integrated with granite monolith

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.

High quality stone paving with 'breadcrumb' lights

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.

New seating enclaves amongst retained mature planting stock

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.

Planting replenished in the public Abbey Court Garden

Bernard Seymour /
Managing Director
Bernard@bslarch.com

Colin Torpay /
Landscape Architect
Colin@bslarch.com

Arnaud Alatissiere /
Associate
Arnaud@bslarch.com

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