Castles and cottages with an edge in the conservation game
The 2019 Irish Georgian Society awards went to humble homes and grand projects alike
Sat, Oct 12, 2019, 06:00
What do 1830s almshouses in Co Waterford, an “off-the-peg” Swiss cottage in Co Leitrim, a Tudor-era tower in Co Kilkenny and a mid 18th-century house in Dublin have in common? Not much on the face of it, but they all feature prominently in the 2019 Irish Georgian Society Conservation Awards.
Having served on the jury for these biennial awards for more than a decade, I’ve learned not to be so bowled over by the grandeur of stately homes as to overlook modest vernacular buildings. And this year, once again, we selected four restoration projects that infused elements of Ireland’s architectural heritage with new life.
The rescue by Aughey O’Flaherty Architects of long-derelict Boyce’s Almshouses in Tallow, Co Waterford, transforming them into four cheerful social homes for tenants of Waterford City & County Council, won a commendation not least because it was done so well, even with a limited budget of €475,000 (only €118,750 per unit).
With its beautifully lime-rendered exterior, careful landscaping and cosy interiors given more daylight by plate-glass windows at the rear, the Tallow project is an object lesson for other local authorities in how to make good use of neglected historic buildings. Indeed, it was intended by Waterford to be an “exemplary conservation project”.
Next up was Tubbrid Castle, not far from Kilkenny city. A once gaunt and roofless 16th-century tower house, it was brought back to life by Bluett O’Donoghue Architects for holiday lets on behalf of the late John Campion; he had dreamed of its restoration for years and lived to see the project virtually completed before he died last year.
Project architect Cormac O’Sullivan took us up steep stone stairs with rope handrails to a great hall on the first floor, explaining how the tower house had been restored and supplied with under-floor heating and modern bathrooms as well as having its battlements reinstated to their original profile and height. It’s a really inspiring project.