Case Study of Dublin's City Hall

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Visual Culture and Theory Assignment Title: Choose one 18th century Irish building that you consider to be representative of either Palladianism or Neoclassicism. Describe the external features briefly, and the discuss two of the interior rooms, paying particular attention to decoration and furnishings.

Executive summary..................................................

Introduction.......................................................

1. Architecture in Ireland..............................................

2. Neoclassicism....................................................

2.1. Neoclassical architecture.........................................

2.2. Neoclassical furniture............................................

3. Ireland in 18th century..............................................

4. Dublin City Hall...................................................

4.1. Dublin’s City Hall History.........................................

4.2. Thomas Cooley................................................

4.3. Dublin’s City Hall exterior.........................................

4.4. Dublin’s City Hall interior.........................................

4.4.1. Rotunda..................................................

4.4.2. Vaults....................................................

Conclusion........................................................

Executive summary

City Hall is regarded as one of the city’s finest neoclassical buildings (Noel Byrne, 2013). It is spectacular piece of architecture, designed by Thomas Cooley and built as the Royal Exchange for a then prosperous Dublin’s merchant population (Heritage Island, 2014).

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The thesis is completed detailed history interior architecture analysis of 18th century Irish building which is representative to Neoclassicism.

External building analysis of 18th century Irish building which is Dublin City Hall was completed. These identified that Dublin City Hall is neoclassical building in Corinthian style made of Portland stone fabric (Irish tourist, 2014).

With the findings from research about building’s interior was found that interior is beautiful massive domed area bathed in natural light with the mosaic floor and mosaic ceiling ornaments- stucco (Lonely planet, 2014).

Although all, with the finding from research of building exterior and interior decoration and furnishings, was found, that building is Dublin’s most sophisticated 18th century neoclassical building (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014).

Introduction

The purpose of the assignment is to choose one 18th century Irish building, representative to neoclassical style, and to describe the external features and discuss two of the interior rooms which are Rotunda and Vaults of Dublin’s City Hall, paying particular attention to decoration and furnishings.

To this end, Dublin’s City Hall is known as finest neoclassical buildings not for only its beauty and breathtaking elegance but for its rich and vibrant history (Dublin, 2014).

1. Architecture in Ireland

The history of Ireland’s architecture has been shaped by its relationship to Europe and it also reflects the evolution of the country’s cultural heritage- Celtic, Christian, Classical and Modern phases (Prestel, 1997). Ireland is famous for its ruined and intact Norman and Anglo- Irish castles, small white washed thatched cottages and Georgian urban buildings (Travel Ireland, 2014).

2. Neoclassicism

The term Neoclassicism refers to the classical revival in European art, architecture and interior design that lasted from the mid- eighteenth to the early nineteenth century (Art History, 2009). Neoclassicism was a revival of the classical style but with the new perspective (ask, 2014). This period gave rebirth to the art of ancient Rome and Greece, and the Renaissance as a reaction against the Rococo style of anti- tectonic naturalistic ornament, and an outgrowth of some classicizing features of Baroque that preceded the movement (Art History, 2009; tharanghini, 2013). There were a lot of Western Europe countries involved in this movement, but England and France produced the most art work and architecture during this period (B. Lavenant, 2014).

2.1. Neoclassical architecture

“One important 18th century thinker, the French Jesuit Priest Marc- Antoine Laugier, theorized that all architecture derives from three basic elements: the columns, the entablature, and the pediment” (J. Craven, 2014).

Neoclassical building is likely to have some of these features:

  • “Tall columns that rise the full height of the building” (J. Craven, 2014);
  • “Triangular pediment” (J. Craven, 2014);
  • “Doomed roof” (J. Craven, 2014);
  • “Clean, elegant lines” (World of Level Design, 2008);
  • “Uncluttered appearance” (World of Level Design, 2008);
  • “Massive buildings” (World of Level Design, 2008);
  • “Symmetrical shape” (J. Craven, 2014);
  • Free standing columns- “columns were used to carry the weight of the buildings structure. But later they became used as a graphical element” (World of Level Design, 2008).
  • “Exterior was built to represent classical perfection. Doors and windows were built to represent that perfection. Decorations were reduced to a minimum on outside” (World of Level Design, 2008).

2.2. Neoclassical furniture

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“Neoclassical furniture is characterized by restrained symmetrical design and tends to be rectangular. Architectural details and motifs are frequently utilized for decoration. The furniture legs are often turned and fluted in reference to classic architectural columns” (M. A. Wakeling, 2014).

“Chairs and tables were designed with rectangular shapes and slender straight legs. Chair backs took on rectangular or shield shapes, and the seat was very square” (B. Lavenant, 2014).

“Cabinet makers and upholsterers started to use different types of woods including mahogany, satinwood, tulipwood, sycamore, and rosewood. They also started to use various elaborate painted finishes and brass fittings” (B. Lavenant, 2014).

“The placement of the furniture was very important, just as the placement of the figures in a painting. Everything was symmetrical and balanced not only in size of the furniture to the size of the room, but in the amount of pieces placed within each room” (B. Lavenant, 2014).

3. Ireland in 18th century

“18th century architecture in Ireland and England went through two periods. The first up to 1760 was associated with the Palladian style. In the latter half of the century the style changed to a neoclassical style” (Gill and Macmillan, n.d.).

“During the 18th century, the Irish Parliament sat in Dublin and prosperity increased. Dublin became a fashionable and elegant city” (Gill and Macmillan, n.d.). This was a wonderful time for the arts of decoration and architecture in Ireland. Architects and all kinds of craftsmen were brought from the continent of Europe. European influences, began to show in the new buildings (Gill and Macmillan, n.d.). “Large towns including Dublin saw the development of churches, schools, hospitals and market houses” (Gill and Macmillan, n.d.).

4. Dublin City Hall

Classical architecture is something that almost anyone can appreciate because there are traces of it everywhere like in Dublin City Hall (Antonio, 2010). As Sir John Gilbert says in his “History of the City of Dublin”(1861): “The inside of this edifice possesses beauties that cannot be clearly expressed by words…” (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014)

The City Hall, Dublin (Irish: Halla na Cathrach, Baile Atha Cliath), originally the Royal Exchange, is an outstanding example of the city’s finest neoclassical buildings for which Dublin is world- renowned (Visited place, 2014). It was built between 1769 and 1779, and was originally used to provide a meeting place for Dublin’s businessmen, where they could buy and sell goods and trade bills of exchange (Visited place, 2014). The site cost £13.500 and £40.000 for the building, which was raised through lotteries (Archiseek, 2014).

4.1. Dublin’s City Hall History

On 27th July 1768, the society advertised an architectural competition in the Freemans Journal for the design of a new exchange building to be erected on a site at Cork Hill, previously occupied by the Church of Santé Moiré del Dame (Visited place, 2014; Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014). Sixty-one designs were submitted and exhibited to the public at William Street Visited place, 2014). Competition was won by the architect, Thomas Cooley, with a design preferred to the entry submitted by his more illustrious contemporary, James Gandon, who was later to design Dublin’s Four Courts building and the Custom House (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014).

On 2nd August 1769 the Lord Lieutenant laid the first stone, and the building took ten years to complete (Visited place, 2014).

In 1851 building was bought by Dublin Corporation which was converted for civic administration introducing much needed office space and later renamed Dublin City Hall (Dublin, 2014).

4.2. Thomas Cooley

Thomas Cooley (1740- 1784) was an English- born Irish young architect who came to Dublin from London after winning a competition for the design of Dublin’s Royal Exchange in 1768, but he did not live long enough to build on this success as he died 15 years later (Wikipedia, 2014; Archiseek, 2014).

Cooley’s successful design marked the introduction to Ireland of the neoclassical style (Visited place, 2014).

4.3. Dublin’s City Hall exterior

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The neoclassical building is situated at the top of Parliament street, right next to Dublin castle on a slope and is placed on a rusticated and balustrade (N. Byrne, 2013).

It is a square building in Corinthian style, with three fronts which the two main facades at the north and west are similar while the eastern facade received a plainer treatment (Irish tourist, 2014, Archiseek, 2014). The pediment facades have a giant order of full beauty of the curved capitals of Corinthian columns made by Simon Vierpyl with three openings between them (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014). “Originally these doorways opened into the interior ground floor” (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014). This impressive building was made of Portland Stone fabric from inside and outside (Visited place,2014).

4.4. Dublin’s City Hall interior

4.4.1. Rotunda

Immediately when you enter you are in a beautiful domed area, the Rotunda (Dublin, 2014). ”The Rotunda and its ambulatory form a breathtaking interior, bathed in natural light from enormous windows to the east” (Lonely planet, 2014). The building is dominated by massive central entrance hall with its elaborate City Corporation seal set into the floor mosaic (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014). The interior is designed as a circle within a square with twelve composite columns, which rising from the floor, supporting a dome shaped roof over the central hall with magnificent frescoes between each one which was executed by James Ward of the Metropolitan School of Art (Dublin City Libraries, 2014; Archiseek, 2014). There are twelve frescoes in total, representing phases in the early history of Dublin such as St. Patrick baptizing the king of Dublin (Dublin, 2014).

The ceiling of the dome is decorated with mosaic stucco (was very popular in fine Irish houses, in town and country alike) ornaments by the leading stucco Dore Charles Thorp (Visited place, 2014; Gill and Macmillan, n.d.). They are divided into small hexagonal compartments and in the center is a large window that lights most of the building (Archiseek, 2014).

“On each side of the fluted columns that support the dome are semi- pilasters of the Iconic order that extend to upwards of half the height of the columns” (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014).

In the center of the floor directly under the dome is composed of ceramic tile circular mosaic which was installed by the City Architect Charles J. McCarthy, depicting the Dublin City Coat- of- Arms in encircled by four 18 foot high statues: Daniel O’Connell (1775- 1847), Thomas Drummond (1797- 1840), Thomas Davis (1814- 1845), Charles Lucas (1713- 1771), that played an important role in the development of Irish Society (Archiseek, 2014; Visited place, 2014). “Outside this the floor is of marble, composed of black and green rings of marble interlaced with red marble. The fillings is made of marble octagons with black marble squares, and bordered with rings of tile mosaic. The border outside the columns is of green circles and in front there red marble fillings. The floor next the walls is of square marble slabs. The panels of the principal doorway are filled with marble octagons and black marble squares, and the front entrance hall is of similar filling of marble as the main hall” (Archiseek, 2014).

At each corner of the north side of the Exchange interior are 2 oval geometrical staircases which cantilevered and made of Portland stone (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014). The staircase is leading from the Rotunda to the upper floors and to the ground level of the Vaults- for storage (Visited place, 2014).

4.4.2. Vaults

The Portland stone staircases leading from impressive for its beauty and breathtaking elegance Rotunda to the lower ground level of the superb Vaults which function is storage (Visited place, 2014).

There are four vaulting storage rooms where walls were constructed of stone, arches and vaulting made of bricks which support the upper ground floor. Lime plaster was applied on all the walls and brick vaulting (Visited place, 2014).

Conclusion

The assignment was to complete a detail 18th century Irish building analysis of the building’s exterior and two interior rooms, paying particular attention to decoration and furnishings. After research was founded that “The Royal Exchange, or City Hall as it is now known, is without doubt one of Dublin’s finest and most sophisticated 18th century buildings and marks the introduction to Ireland of the European neoclassical style of architecture” (Dublin City Public Libraries, 2014).

From the research also was found that neoclassicism refers to the classical revival in European art, architecture and interior design were England and France produced the most art work and architecture during this period (B. Lavenant, n.d.). These findings show that 18th century was a wonderful time for the arts of decoration architecture in Ireland (Gill and Macmillan, n.d.).

Bibliography

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