By Tadhg Peavoy
Looming like a futuristic, fiscal monolith out of Dublin City Centre’s heart: Sam Stephenson’s Central Bank Building is nothing if not divisive.
From the outset the building caused huge controversy, as did Stephenson’s other great piece of work, Phase I of Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices at Wood Quay. Brutalism by its very nature splits the difference in terms of taste: in the blue corner we have those who love the simplicity of its lines and materials, versus, in the red corner, those who find the style crass and more akin to some cast-off sets from Back to the Future Part II, or some other dystopian, pop-culture construct.
Stephenson designed the two towers at Civic Offices: after much negative feedback, Scott Tallon Walker were brought in to design phase II, the structure that snakes around Stephenson’s segment of the site.
Even those who despise the Central Bank building, often begrudgingly admit its distinctiveness, with its block-like shape, bearing something of a resemblance to a Rubik’s cube, interspersed with black trusses that run its length, which in a way seem to represent go-faster stripes running the building’s length in a vertical direction. According to Archiseek.com the build was totally completed in 1980.
That site goes on to say of the structure: “Originally after construction the roof was highly distinctive with its support members outside of the roof surface.
“After problems with rain water, this was redesigned and remodelled with copper cladding covering up the roof structure.
“It is an unusual building for its time in regard to structure.
“The floors are all suspended from the twin-service cores at 12 support points by the steel trusses visible on the facades. During construction each floor was built at ground level and then hoisted into place with all its service equipment and fittings in place.”
We here at Travel Times come down on the side of this piece being a masterpiece as opposed to a mishap, and feel it conveys Irish brutalism in all its bold and brutal glory.
All accounts of Stephenson himself were of a gregarious, larger than life character: the type of character that might divide opinion, say. That kind of divisive nature carried over into this building and DCC Civic Offices, with Dubliners to this day still disagreeing over their merits.
The next stage of life for the building is renewal. Central Bank has relocated to North Wall Quay, and since that move in 2017, Hines and Peterson Group have acquired the building and are currently in the process of construction to turn it into Central Plaza at a cost of €75m. Part of the build includes the two adjacent buildings at 6-8 College Green and also 9 College Green. Construction is halted at present due Covid-19, but plans for the redux look impressive, including a rooftop restaurant and venue space. The rooftop element of the new build is designed by Tom Gray, an Irish architect based out of Paris. Dublin-based architects Henry J Lyons are over the entire project.
For now though, the building sits in the silence and stillness of Dublin City Centre on lockdown as C19 marauds its way across Ireland and the globe, which is the time we captured the structure in all its brutal glory, before it is set to become Central Plaza: an artist formerly known as Central Bank building.
Central Bank building captured in a quintet of photos: