Main Contractor: JJ Rhatigan
Consultants: Clare Tile & Marble
Text description provided by the architects. Two of the vaults now lining Henry street are the remains of an expansive terraced garden built in the 19th century that occupied the site. Replaced early in the 20th century by a courtyard complex of red brick buildings accommodating the General Post Office. This too was partially replaced in 2007, and the courtyard space replaced by a 5 storey concrete frame to be developed as a commercial office development. With the recession came stagnation, as the concrete frame and historic fragments were abandoned and turned to ruins.
Acquired by Limerick City and County Council in 2015, the city block was consolidated with the acquisition of the corner site on no.19 Henry Street. The development is not merely a building, but an assembly of buildings, a piece of the city, a collage of old and new. An understanding of the diverse characteristics of each part is key to the realisation of a coherent and integrated design proposal. The project may be considered as having 3 distinct elements: the red brick structures of historic interest placed as freestanding objects along the street, the 5 storey frame structure in the centre of the block and the corner block to Henry Street.
The historic structures of the general post office buildings and the stone vaults of the hanging gardens have their original fabric and room volumes restored and contemporary interventions inserted to repair the street. The rational and logically planned office building is arranged about 2 green courtyards, and clad in a glass skin for panoramic riverside views. An array of deep aluminium fins modulate solar gain and provide a neutral background to the more articulated street buildings. The courtyards are clad in glass and anodised aluminium; sub-tropical plants make the spaces quiet and tranquil.
The corner building , a new structure of exposed concrete with a masonry frame to the street that anchors the development and provides a prominent street presence. High thermal mass, tall spaces with no ceilings and opening louvres for natural ventilation contribute to the projects sustainable design with an A3 rating.
Uniting all of these elements, at street level, is a voluminous hall, lined in marble, a public room. The main entrance to the complex is through one of the brick vaulted spaces of the Hanging Gardens structure. The floor slabs, which were recent interventions, were removed to reveal the original volumes of the vaults. The roof terrace has been reinstated with trees and shrubs, and a pergola. In keeping with the original Hanging Gardens, the green ethos is reinforced with access to open space and views; 2 aluminium clad courtyards provide daylight and views of plants and trees, reinforcing the sustainable ethos and wellbeing of the people working in the space.