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Opening of the refurbished and extended Cork Courthouse on Anglesea Street

Michael O’Boyle and Peter Bluett attended the opening of Cork City’s new courthouse. The new courthouse, 8,500sq m of accommodation, includes six new courtrooms and a new public office and was constructed at a cost of €35m.

The official opening was performed by Chief Justice of Ireland, Frank Clarke, and Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan.

Built in 1865 in an Italianate style, the former Cork Model School functioned as a district courthouse for 20 years until it closed in 2015 when it was no longer fit for purpose The Anglesea Street courthouse project is the sixth of seven such projects undertaken by the Courts Service in conjuction with construction firm BAM, as part of a €140m public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.  Michael O’Boyle was the lead conservation architect for the Cork Courthouse, and for the protected structures in the other courthouses (Limerick, Waterford, Wexford and Cork) within the PPP bundle.

Extensive conservation work has been carried out on the former Model School. This includes the reinstatement of part of the decorative entrance porch and carvings, repair of the English garden bond-red brick gables and replacement of 25,000 inappropriate red bricks put in place in the 1990s, one by one and by hand, with more suitable bricks sourced from the UK. The tower on the Model School, which originally served as an observation point for shipping coming to the quays, has also undergone conservation work and is now lit at night.  The front entrance porch is retained in use as the main ‘front door’ to the entire development.  Particular care was taken to restore the missing carved Portland stone details on the porch that were removed to create an accessible entrance in 1994. The historic sash windows were conserved and repaired, and painted a deep red that was identified as the original colour through microscopic analysis of the nineteenth century paintwork.  Generous entrance steps and a discreet ramp to a contemporary design were introduced as part of the landscaping to the front of the building.  The interior of the historic building will contain administrative accommodation for the Courts Service, with the large volumes of the former classrooms presented as single spaces.

Perhaps the most successful part of this challenging project has been the integration of the new courthouse extension with the nineteenth century former school.  The limestone cladding of the imposing new courthouse extension closely matches the tone of the limestone rubble of the rear façade of the former Model School.  A landscaped courtyard separates the two buildings, across which the dividing line between the former boys’ and girls’ school yards has been highlighted.  The zinc-clad link corridor from the old to the new is lined in oak, which is peeled back to reveal the limestone rubble rear façade and brick-lined windows of the former Model School within the reception area.

The diverse trades involved in the completed project included highly-skilled conservation joiners, stone masons, leadworks, ironworkers and bespoke carpenters, all of whom collaborated with BAM Building to deliver an exemplary conservation project.  The hoarding came down on the old Model School in early-April 2018 and the completed work has received a very positive reception from the Court Service, legal practitioners, and the people of Cork.

Photograph : Michael O’Boyle with other members of the architectural team at the opening of Cork Courthouse