All posts in Articles

Docomomo Dissertation Prize

Cormac Murray a student of Architecture in Dublin Institute of Technology has won the 2014 Docomomo Ireland Dissertation prize. Read his essay here.


Docomomo Dissertation Award_Cormac Murray-1

MA in Design Scholarship applications should be submitted before 30 April 2014.

National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland.
MA Design History & Material Culture Scholarship
The Faculty of Visual Culture, NCAD, is delighted to offer a Postgraduate Scholarship, worth full tuition fees, to a student on the MA Design History & Material Culture.
The scholarship will be awarded on merit and all applicants are eligible, including EU and non EU students. There is no separate application procedure.
All fully completed applications should be submitted before 30 April 2014.

MA Design History & Material Culture (

A challenging Masters programme which provides a platform for analysing the material world in its historic and contemporary contexts. The MA is a taught programme about objects: things you might sit on, drink from or wear; things you might cherish, throw away or never notice; things for special occasions and things you use everyday; things made by machine, things made by hand and things never made; spaces you might visit, inhabit or travel through; ideas about things, things about ideas. This course will change how you think about objects, how they are conceived, designed (or not), produced, interacted with, collected or disposed of. Through seminars and guided research, students are equipped with skills enabling them to conduct research, analyse and write about the material world in its various contexts.
Alongside high profile visiting speakers, the course draws on the wide-ranging academic expertise of faculty members in fields including decorative arts, craft history, costume and textiles studies, graphic design history, architectural history and material culture studies. As well as interacting with studio staff and students, the course benefits from close relationships and joint initiatives with a wide range of museums, cultural institutions and historic properties.
This Masters programme may be completed in 12 months (full time) or 24 Months (part time).
MA DHMC graduates are working in Ireland and abroad in educational roles within the university sector, galleries, museums, government bodies responsible for arts/craft promotion and historic houses.
For more details, please contact the course director, Dr Anna Moran ( or go to or the NCAD website:

For information on application guidelines:

Ffrench Mullen House

Demolition of ffrench-Mullen House

DoCoMoMo Ireland regrets the demolition, currently underway, of Michael Scott’s ffrench-Mullen House, built in 1941. DoCoMoMo had long advocated the protection of this pioneering modernist social housing block.

Twelve years ago, in November 2001, the former Irish DoCoMoMo Working Party was invited by the then Dublin Corporation’s Housing & Community Services Dept to inspect the Saint Ultan’s flats complex on Charlemont Street in the company of Dublin Corporation’s Conservation Officer. DoCoMoMo recommended that of all the buildings on the site, ffrench-Mullen House should be prioritized for retention and renovation. On 26th November 2001, Dublin Corporation confirmed in writing that “this report is very much appreciated.”

In March 2010, as part of the process surrounding the Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011-17, DoCoMoMo Ireland made a submission, among several others, to Dublin City Council urging that ffrench-Mullen House be included on the Record of Protected Structures in the new Development Plan.

The City Manager decided that submissions of this nature “merit detailed analysis and assessment and will be considered as part of a separate process. The strict statutory timeframe does not afford the opportunity to undertake the same in-depth analysis as part of the review of the submissions. These submissions will be evaluated under Section 54 and 55 of the Planning and Development Acts 2002 to 2006. Accordingly, these submissions are not being considered as representations on the Draft Plan and will be added to the requests for additions or deletions to the Record of Protected Structures.” (Manager’s Report, Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017, Volume 2, Part 3: Summary of Submissions and Manager’s Response and Recommendations, p4)

In October 2010, Alcove Properties, a development vehicle of McGarrell Reilly Group, was authorised by Dublin City Council’s Housing & Residential Services to apply for planning permission for a mixed-use regeneration project, including 260 residential units, on the site (DCC ref: 3742/20; Bord Pleanála ref: 238212). The application was successful, although An Bord Pleanála (at the request of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government) made it a condition of permission in May 2011 that a full measured and photographic survey of ffrench-Mullen House should be made and deposited in the Irish Architectural Archive. This ‘preservation by record’ took place in August-September 2013 and the report by Downes Associates, consulting civil and structural engineers, was deposited with the IAA.

For an extended overview of this building, see Ellen Rowley’s more
recent survey of ffrench-Mullen House for Dublin City Council Heritage
Office/Heritage Council, TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE OF DUBLIN, 2012. See also Ellen Rowley, Housing Dublin 1940-1980: an architectural account (forthcoming 2014, Four Courts Press). DoCoMoMo’s 2010 RPS submission was researched and drafted by Ellen Rowley.

Extracts from DoCoMoMo Ireland’s RPS Submission, March 2010

The Planning and Development Act, 2000 requires a protected structure to be of special interest under one or more of eight categories, including architectural interest. Paragraph 2.5.7 of the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities lists five qualities that permit the attribution of special architectural interest characteristics to a structure or part of a structure:

1. A generally agreed exemplar of good quality architectural design

ffrench-Mullen House was the first example of modernist slab block design for a working class (as this type was categorized) housing block in the urban context of Dublin, 1941. In terms of Scott’s early career, it represented his biggest public building commission and first public housing design, following the establishment of his own firm in 1938 (after breaking with Norman Good, with whom he had an architectural partnership, 1931-38).

ffrench-Mullen House is a free-standing reinforced concrete building which sits on the east side of Charlemont Street, forming the street line. It is a four-storey block surmounted by a flat roof, accentuated by an overhanging eaves cornice. The block comprises thirteen flats and, externally, it is a building of two halves in that the front (street) and rear elevations are markedly different.

The street façade is seven bays wide and was originally clad in precast concrete tiles which today are covered in layers of paint. This façade is punctuated by two entrances bearing concrete canopies on steel uprights, above which runs a strip of vertical glazing. The rear elevation is eight bays wide, rendered in painted cement plaster, and sports refuse chute piers and nine balconies.

The block was commissioned by Charlemont Street Public Utility Society (PUS) as part of a bigger scheme designed by Scott to re-house local tenement dwellers in the event of the construction of St Ultan’s Hospital and consequent demolition of tenement houses. This block constituted the second phase of the scheme: the earlier St Ultan’s ranges (1933) were demolished c. 2001 and the proposed later part of the scheme, which would have stretched from Charlemont to Richmond Streets, was not undertaken due to the outbreak of WWII. The PUS turned to Scott in search of a modern housing scheme because the young architect had designed a wing for the new St Ultan’s hospital on Charlemont Street in 1929. Contemporary with the Charlemont Street housing commission, Scott was engaged in designing the famed Irish Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair (1939), as well as a series of Ritz Cinema commissions in Carlow (1937), Athlone (1939) and Clonmel (1940). In all of these buildings and the ffrench-Mullen block, Michael Scott adopted key modernist tropes such as flat roofs, thin concrete canopies over buildings’ entrances and the combination of markedly horizontal fenestration with occasional strips of vertical glazing. The external treatment of each building is painted cement render which, in keeping with early modernist International Style architecture, gave the effect of white stuccoed buildings. At ffrench-Mullen House, Scott applied the rendered effect to the building’s rear elevation while unusually he clad the front street façade in brick-red precast vibrated concrete tiles. This lent the block a heavily textured presence and led to a deeply idiosyncratic building for 1940s Dublin.

Although of reinforced concrete technology, the block stops short in terms of modernist spatial experimentation. At ffrench-Mullen House, unlike the European exploration around the modernist dwelling or block of dwelling units, there are no purpose-designed public spaces.

2. The work of a known and distinguished architect, engineer, designer or craftsman

Michael Scott (1906-1989) is widely considered to be the father of architectural modernism in Ireland. In 1953-55 he won the RIAI Gold Medal for Busáras. He later established Scott Tallon Walker Architects. Internationally, he was the best-known Irish architect of the twentieth century and in 1972 he was elected an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He received honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Art, London in 1969, from Trinity College Dublin in 1971 and from Queens University Belfast in 1977. His greatest architectural accolade came in 1975 when he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects the only Irish architect ever so honoured.

There is little written or recorded about Scott’s work for the Charlemont Street PUS. It was not known that he was in fact the architect of the earlier St. Ultan’s scheme (1933) at the time of its demolition. While there is academic recognition of the importance of Michael Scott in Irish architectural history, this is not mirrored in the extant examples of his buildings. As such, the physical record of Scott’s oeuvre is by now (in 2010) scant and many of his projects have been demolished or redeveloped beyond recognition. ffrench-Mullen House is the last surviving example of his public housing projects in Dublin.

3. An exemplar of a building type, plan-form, style or styles of any period but also the harmonious interrelationship of differing styles within one structure

ffrench-Mullen House is unique in terms of Dublin’s social housing blocks. It was the first time that the modernist slab design was used for multi-unit and multi-storey working class housing in Dublin. As Scott brought this slab type for urban flat blocks to Dublin in 1941, Dublin Corporation (namely Herbert Simms as Housing Architect therein until 1948) was taking aspects of this form and applying it to those schemes finished after the war at Fatima Mansions (1946-50), Donore Avenue (1946-1951) and Ringsend (1950). All of these complexes were formed out of the basic unit of the slab block rather than the perimeter range, but in keeping with Corporation housing tendencies, each block continued to be accessed via decks or balconies rather than internalized tenement stairwells which Scott employed at ffrench-Mullen.

4. A structure which makes a positive contribution to its setting, such as a streetscape or a group of structures in an urban area, or the landscape in a rural area

By relating to the street line as a single block rather than forming two or more perimeter ranges which then enclosed an internal courtyard, ffrench-Mullen House presented an alternative to the contemporary Dublin Corporation urban block design (by Simms from the 1930s and early 1940s). Importantly, Scott positioned the block’s two entrances on the street and so ensured a livelier, more public and more direct, relationship between street and block inhabitant.

ffrench-Mullen House also broke away from its social housing contemporaries through its adoption of materials other than brick with render detailing (namely the pre-cast vibrated concrete titles on the street front and cement render on the rear elevation) for its external treatment. Clearly and unlike its Dublin contemporaries, ffrench-Mullen House was an early exercise in International Style housing. In overall disposition, it signals Scott’s attempt to provide Dublin, during the Emergency years, with a modernist rectilinear and flat roofed structure embellished with moments of vertical strip glazing. In scale it is not overbearing but relates well to the street width and is at once autonomous yet intimate with the street line and streetscape. Its uniqueness adds immeasurably to the architectural palimpsest that is Dublin’s city centre.

5. A structure with an interior that is well designed, rich in decoration, complex or spatially pleasing

There are four one-bedroom flats at ground level; two two-bedroom flats and one three-bedroom flat per floor from first to third levels. The flats are well-lit, ventilated and other than the insertion of bathrooms, their internal layouts are original. They are systematically organized around a central spine corridor from which the living, bedroom and kitchen spaces are served. As such, the interior space of each of the flats is compartmentalized and this may be perceived as a weakness of the scheme, in that there is no possibility for modernist open-plan living which the external aesthetic might suggest.

Conclusion of DoCoMoMo Ireland’s 2010 RPS Submission

ffrench-Mullen House is in good condition and retains many of its original features such as each flat disposition and layout within the block, the two stairwells, original fenestration patterns, and tile cladding. Though there are layers of paint over the tile cladding, the tiles appear to be intact beneath and the paint could be removed. The block continues to be inhabited as social housing, managed by Dublin City Council.

ffrench-Mullen House has made a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Dublin and as the only extant example of Michael Scott’s social housing in the city, the block is, in DoCoMoMo’s view, a heritage structure of regional importance.

Texaco Building Protected

Plan to demolish ‘significant’ 1970s office block in Ballsbridge is rejected: Irish Times Frank McDonald

An Bord Pleanála has refused permission for the demolition of an early 1970s office block in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin after concluding that the existing building was of “particular architectural, technical and vernacular significance”.
West Register (Republic of Ireland) Property Ltd had sought permission to demolish the former Texaco Ireland headquarters on Pembroke Road – currently an Audi car showroom – and replace it with a five-storey office block by Shay Cleary Architects.
However, Dublin City Council’s decision to approve the scheme was appealed by An Taisce and the Pembroke Road Association, supported by Docomomo Ireland, which is dedicated to documenting and conserving buildings associated with the Modern Movement.

Courtesy Irish Times Frank McDonald

Desmond Rea O’Kelly Obituary – Irish Times

Architect and engineer designed Dublin’s Liberty Hall

Desmond Rea O’Kelly: IT WAS Desmond Rea O’Kelly’s wish that Dublin’s Liberty Hall – the building he will be forever associated with – would not be demolished before he died. Not only is it still standing, but a planning application by Siptu to replace it with a much taller tower was withdrawn a day after he passed away, ironically.

Deirdre Doddy, a niece of his late wife, Breda, arranged for a laminated copy of The Irish Times report on Siptu’s latest move to be placed in his coffin “to let him know”.

Rea O’Kelly was an engineer, rather than an architect. He graduated from UCD with a BE in civil engineering in 1945. Much later, in 1977, he was admitted to membership of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and was elected a fellow in 2002. He was also elected to fellowship at the Institution of Engineers of Ireland in 1985.

“Sad to say, Des was never fully part of the architectural scene – I suspect he always felt he was an outsider,” architect and critic Shane O’Toole recalled.

“I remember a vague grumbling from my parents’ generation in the 1960s that he wasn’t really an architect. Jealousy over Liberty Hall was the cause.

“Rather than qualifying as an architect, he became an architect. This was not unusual in the history of 20th century architecture: Le Corbusier was a qualified engineer, not an architect, while Frank Lloyd Wright (Des’s hero and inspiration for Liberty Hall via Johnson Wax in Racine, Wisconsin) was apprenticed and not academically qualified.

“Michael Scott had no formal academic qualification, nor did Sam Stephenson, although they both received honorary degrees/ diplomas subsequently, one from NUI, the other from DIT. It appears that Des was admitted to RIAI membership in 1977 as part of a ‘special entry system’ operated in the context of a proposed registration scheme.”

This was on the strength of Liberty Hall, which won a commendation in the RIAI Triennial Gold Medal award for the period 1962- 1964. The winner that time was Ronnie Tallon for the GEC factory (later Ecco) in Dundalk. Another commendation went to the Carroll’s Building (now Irish Nationwide) on Grand Parade by PJ Robinson of RKD.

In later years, he was commissioned by Dublin Tourism to carry out work on Malahide Castle, ingeniously strengthening its Georgian staircase in a way that could not be seen.

He also worked on the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square, where he managed to save plasterwork that had become saturated from the activities of thieves and vandals.

Liberty Hall though was his magnum opus, and Dubliners loved it – even though most of them could not name its architect.

Uniquely, it gave people an unparalleled opportunity to view their city from a great height. High-speed lifts took visitors to an observation deck on the top floor and this quickly became one of the city’s main attractions.

With the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the observation deck had to be closed for security reasons. Then, in December 1972, a bomb went off outside the building, shattering most of the windows. In the subsequent repairs, the original clear glass gave way to dull reflective glass and Liberty Hall lost its transparent quality.

Mosaic cladding on the edge beams of each floor began peeling off and was consolidated with grey mastic and the building is now in a dilapidated state

Although it stands 60 metres tall, much of the space inside is occupied by the service core; that was one of the principal reasons why Siptu decided to replace it with a new tower.

Des Rea O’Kelly was delighted by Dublin’s first Open House weekend in 2006, when queues formed for the first opportunity in years to visit the building, including its observation deck. “His main concern was that they didn’t knock it before he died,” said Antoinette O’Neill, who once worked for him.

“Otherwise, he was quite complacent about its fate.”

He took part in a 2009 television documentary on Liberty Hall, directed by Paddy Cahill, who is passionate about its preservation. So too is the Irish branch of DoCoMoMo, the international organisation dedicated to document and conserve modern movement buildings. They may well succeed.

Des Rea O’Kelly was more passionate about golf and served as secretary and president of the Golfing Union of Ireland, which was strongly represented at his funeral. His wife pre-deceased him. They had no children.

Desmond Rea O’Kelly: born November 7th, 1923; died February 18th, 2011.

Liberty Hall DoCoMoMo observation – Irish Times

We made an observation on the planning application on the proposed Liberty Hall replacment, below is an Irish Times article covering it:

Architectural group claims Liberty Hall is Dublin ‘icon’

FRANK McDONALD Environment Editor

LIBERTY HALL in Dublin should be preserved as a “heritage structure of national importance”, according to the Irish branch of an organisation that seeks to protect icons of the modern movement in architecture.

Calling on Dublin City Council to refuse planning permission for Siptu’s scheme to replace it with a much taller tower, DoCoMoMo Ireland says Liberty Hall was the first high-rise building in Dublin, built between 1961 and 1965.

“It is not included on Dublin City Council’s record of protected structures but is, in the view of DoCoMoMo, a building that has made a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Ireland and, accordingly, a heritage structure of national importance.”

In a submission to the council’s planners, who will decide on Siptu’s application, it says: “More than any other building of the modern era, Liberty Hall has embedded itself in the collective consciousness of the city, even the nation, and our sense of identity as a people.”

While still under construction, it was the subject of a poem by Austin Clarke ( New Liberty Hall ) and since the 1960s it had featured on postcards or been used as a graphic design logo for Dublin.

“Along with these examples of the building’s popular appeal and fascination as a monicker and visual icon of Dublin, the building has become the source and/or site of myriad cultural and academic projects, especially during the past decade,” DoCoMoMo says.

It is severely critical of a “shallow and superficial” architectural heritage assessment of Liberty Hall by consultant architect David Slattery in the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted by Siptu with its planning application last month.

It points out that Mr Slattery was incorrect in stating that “mosaic was removed following bomb damage in 1972 and the floor slabs are now painted.” On the contrary, it “remains clearly visible beneath a flexible water-resistant coating that was applied over the mosaic”.

“Mr Slattery’s assessment that Liberty Hall is not a building of cultural interest is extraordinary in light of his having mentioned the [Council of Europe’s] Granada Convention, which admits that buildings may ‘acquire a cultural significance with the passing of time . . .’

“If Liberty Hall, Ireland’s first ‘skyscraper’ and its theatre, the physical manifestation of labour’s enduring commitment to ‘bread and roses’, does not constitute a building of cultural interest, then none does,” says DoCoMoMo .

While conceding that some of the original qualities were compromised – ie, the addition of reflective silver film to its windows – after suffering damage from a car bomb in 1972, it says the building is still structurally sound and capable of being restored.

DoCoMoMo says the replacement tower, designed by Gilroy McMahon Architects, “is roughly 1.5 times as wide and 1.5 times as tall as Liberty Hall, and contains almost twice as much floor space.”

The scheme is also being opposed by Irish Life and VHI, both of whom have offices on Lower Abbey Street to the rear of Liberty Hall.

They object to the bulk, height and scale of the proposed development, as well as the impacts of demolition and construction.