County Hall in Dun Laoghaire is a mixture of contemporary and existing architecture- three new wings with the fourth formed by the original Victorian building folded around a covered courtyard space - the central councourse - which provides public access to the various offices of the Council on the ground floor- treated like shopfronts around a public square- and, via staircases and lifts, the upper level as well. The court at its heart is a public room- the Concourse- which soars a story higher than the surrounding circulation. It has its own windows and special quality of light; it has sliding doors that can be open to the main space or closed off for special events. The Concourse was the heart of the project; it represented the people at the centre of the County Hall; it provided an unexpected cultural public space. When the doors are open, people wander freely across the Concourse, their view framed by the surrounding elevations; when the doors are closed, there is an altered spatial sense to the big timber box at the heart of the building. The glazing at the upper level of the concourse gives lateral views down and through the space and across to the other offices on the perimeter; these change from day to evening and night.
Recently, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council applied to floor in the Concourse; the floor is to provide a new Council Chamber in place of the existing one in the Victorian part of the building. In the proposal, the public use of the concourse will be retained as a much lower space below the new Council Chamber; glazed links will connect the new room into the remainder of County Hall. If the space is floored over, there will be two low spaces instead of one big one, with reduced transparency of the whole. The great doors will be replaced by lower ones; the external façade of the Concourse to the surrounding circulation spaces will be changed. A visitor will no longer walk into the space and their spirits soar with its cubic height and proportion. Glazed links proposed over the roof of the circulation zone around the Concourse will create an additional medley oflines and junctions.
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown were the first local authority in the Dublin area to hold a major architectural competition for a new County Hall in the 1990’s; this went through a two stage process in the RIAI, with the winning scheme completed by McCullough Mulvin with RKD Architects in 1996. The present scheme, with the concourse at its heart, is an expression of the democratic intentions of the Council ( the people at the centre of civic life ), a significant work integrating new and old architecture, and an important late 20th century urban public place in the wider city.