Saturday started warm and sunny and, thankfully, stayed that way. It was a perfect day for Open House events and I decided to ‘stay local’ and visit two buildings in Rathfarnham. Both of these were on the interesting and informative double-sided poster, which has already turned into a ‘collector’s item’. Well done to its designers, as I am sure that it played its part in attracting many visitors who were willing to ‘check things out’ and, as a result, enjoy spaces not usually open to them.
Having decided to avoid the inevitable crowds in town, I went, firstly, to see the recently opened Ballyroan Library. As a card-carrying member I was delighted to see the ‘new’ library, and it does not disappoint. The old building which I remembered fondly was long gone, and there now stood a modern, clear-lined building that was officially opened in April this year. A tall atrium is the centre of the building with study rooms, offices, bookshelves, gallery and other community spaces leading from it. It is very popular with users and it was recognised in the Irish Architecture Awards when it won Best Public Building 2013. (Architects/Designers: Box Architecture.)
Next on my list was St Enda’s. This is the old building where Padraig Pearse opened his school in 1910, determined to give pupils a broader and more balanced education. He had spent time in Belgium, liked the way pupils were taught bilingually and decided to adopt this teaching method in Ireland. It was popular and the school attracted many students. However, with Pearse’s growing involvement in republican matters, the school inevitably suffered. After he and his brother Willie, along with Thomas McDonagh (a teacher and signatory of the Proclamation of Independence) were executed for the part in the Easter Rising the school went into decline. It was run, for a time by their mother who with the influx of funds after the executions was able to buy the property. However, due to the falling numbers of pupils the school closed its doors for the last time in 1935. After Pearse’s sister (Margaret Mary Pearse) died in 1968 ownership of the property was transferred to the State. Recently, the building has been extensively renovated with many of the rooms now on show as they were in Pearse’s time, namely; his study, the sitting-room, art gallery (with a number of sculptures by Willie Pearse) and a pupils’ dormitory. A large timber block upon which Robert Emmet was decapitated is an interesting, if little publicised, item of historical interest. Outside, the gardens, paths and bubbling fountain are a perfect place for a walk and quiet reflection. It’s a hidden gem!
The sun was not as obliging today, but it was still very mild and just right for trip to the sea. I headed to Dun Laoghaire and to a building that I have passed by on countless occasions, but never entered. The Headquarters of the Commissioners of Irish Lights building is a real eye catcher and was well worth the visit. Designed by the Dublin architects Scott Tallon Walker the building resembles a lighthouse, showing the essence of the organisation. Inside, the large amount of glass gives a sense of lightness and it feels as if the place is floating on the sea. The almost 360-degree views are spectacular, none more so than those from the Board Room. The uninterrupted view across Dublin Bay was memorable! The central staircase twists like a double-helix DNA molecule, and everywhere gives the feeling of being at the cutting edge. The fifty minute tour with our guide Rory (yes, he works there!) was very informative, and it was an Open House event I am glad to have attended. Put it in your diary for next year!