News Archive

Archive Category: Conservation

Official Opening of new Jewellery Academy in the iconic ‘Sessions House’, Thomastown

Officially opening of the Academy of Jewellery and Goldsmithing Centre of Excellence in Thomastown

 On 17th May 2023, Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys officially opened the Academy of Jewellery and Goldsmithing Centre of Excellence in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.

BLUETT & O’DONOGHUE acted as architects and fire & accessibility consultants on this project which was funded under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, together with a contribution from the Kilkenny LEADER Partnership and Kilkenny County Council.

The project to convert to former Court House (The Sessions House) to educational & ancillary retail use commenced in 2019. The Jewellery School of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCI) are now the end-user under leasehold from Kilkenny County Council. The building had been vacant since use by the Courts Service ceased in 2005.

The tiling was one of the few architectural features to survive the fire of 1922. Services and drainage routes were laid below the new court room floor to avoid impact on the tiling in the two entrance vestibules.

It was clear from very early in the design process that the Sessions House was too small to comfortably accommodate the jewelry school, which wanted to expand its student numbers and to offer evening classes to the wider community. But the site was very restricted, and the only feasible options were to increase the plot ratio within the existing footprint and to extend at upper level.

Ultimately, the solution was a new mezzanine within the double-height space of the court room and narrow extensions to each side of the court room block at upper level.

The new lime render to the front façade with smooth ruled and lined finish. A small number of stone indents were required.

The mezzanine screen was conceived as an object that sits independently in the double-height space of the former court room. The double-height space outside the mezzanine will function as the public gallery and retail space.

The main classroom on the mezzanine upon completion.

The mezzanine was the single most significant intervention to the building, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the new school.
It is about half the floor area of the court room and is held 5m off the high tri-partite window to Logan Street. The curved front reflects the arched hood moulding over the judge’s bench and allows 4 of the 6 clerestory windows to remain in the double-height space.

The scale of the mezzanine allows the proportions of the court room to remain evident and in front of it, the double-height space will be a gallery & retail space where the public will be welcome and can view into the process area.



The two upper-level extensions are set well back from Logan Street (c. 8m) to avoid impact on the streetscape. The flat roofs are set in line with the eaves of the courtroom block and the external finishes are deliberately understated while also reinforcing the symmetry of the overall composition in a subtle way.



The jewellery-making process involves a series of stages, with differing daylighting requirements and eventually we arrived at a good allocation of the available spaces; old, new and combined, which satisfied the Brief and which had regard to the character of the building and the historic plan form.

The design of the conversion of the Sessions House was tailored to meet the specific requirements of the jewelry course which uses tools and implements operated by compressed air and by various bottled gases as well as small kilns and a forge. The sensitive routing of services was a key aspect of the design, and as a team, we devised service routes which were as non-invasive to the historic fabric as possible with a bespoke ‘double-decker’ means of carrying electrical, gas and air services over unitrack with the lighting and sensors.


Official Opening of Mount Congreve House and Gardens Visitor Centre

On 1st March 2023, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, officially opened the new Visitor Centre at the Mount Congreve Estate in Kilmeaden, County Waterford.

Mount Congreve is internationally renowned as one of ‘the Great Gardens of the World’, famed for its magnolias and record collection of rhododendrons. (Massachusetts Horticultural Society, 2001).

There was limited access to the gardens during Ambrose Congreve’s lifetime but his bequest of Mount Congreve to the Nation opens the prospect of it becoming a major visitor attraction. For this to happen, the visitor facilities are being greatly improved, and this project is part of that process.

The project has created a vibrant and colourful space for visitors to start and finish their tour of Mount Congreve. The interventions are deferential to the conservation of the historic fabric but the outcome is a dramatic adaptation and re-use of an underutilised service area.






BLUETT & O’DONOGHUE acted as architects and fire & accessibility consultants for this prestigious project for Mount Congreve Trust / Waterford City & County Council.

The objective was to strike a good balance between the functional requirements of the facility while also maintaining and enhancing the architectural and historical character by,

  • Using the vaulted stables and stores in the 18th century part of the east wing for ‘front-of-house’ uses to maximise public access and appreciation.
  • Minimising physical impact on the historic fabric and improved presentation of architectural features such as the round and oval windows in the north screen wall which were obscured by the 1960’s garage crosswalls.
  • Careful detailing of the new glazed roof, which is independently structured above the parapets of the courtyard outbuildings, with hip ends to complement the roof form of the House and the east wing. Using mainly tubular members, stainless steel pin connections and long-span glazing panels achieves a very lightweight frame structure which does not dominate the courtyard outbuildings or diminish their character.
  • Conversion of the row of garages to café, which has been a great success by the sheer simplicity of the idea and the quirky character endowed by the ‘spider windows’ and enhanced by the new light fittings.

    The courtyard roof is fully glazed around the perimeter and is structurally independent of the existing outbuildings.

    The paypoint in the courtyard replicates the larger Chinese Pagoda in the Gardens.

The Café forms an arcade along the north side of the courtyard.

The garages conversion to Café.

Official Opening of Cavan Town Hall Arts Space

Monday 25th April 2022 saw the official opening of the Cavan Town Hall Arts Space.

A conservation and enhancement project of the protected structure of Cavan Town Hall (formerly Cavan UDC), this facility is now used as a 220-person theatre, a visual arts centre, children’s art facility and Studios for three resident artists.

BLUETT & O’DONOGHUE served as Project Manager and Architect on this LAMA award-winning endeavour, winning in two categories in 2020, ‘Best Heritage Project’ and ‘Best Disability Access & Inclusion Initiative’.

Pictured at the official opening of Cavan Town Hall: Front row from left : Tommy Ryan, Chief Executive, Cavan Co Co ; Cllr Clifford Kelly, Cathaoirleach of Cavan Co Co ; Heather Humphries TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development ; Eoin Doyle, Director of Services for Housing, Cavan Co Co.

Back row from left : James O’Donoghue, BLUETT & O’DONOGHUE ; Vivian McCauley, JJ McCauley Construction Ltd.; Seamus McLoughlin, Housing Construction, Cavan Co Co; John Wilson, Senior Engineer, Cavan, Co Co.

Cavan Town Hall wins Gold

Cavan Town Hall regeneration (Cavan County Council)

Cavan Town Hall wins Gold as best Heritage project  2020 at the recent All Ireland Community and Council Awards presented by IPB insurance and LAMA.

The premises, built in 1909, designed by Architect William Scott is a landmark municipal building and home to Arts in Cavan. Cavan County Council commissioned Bluett & O’Donoghue  to lead the complete refurbishment of the building to secure its long term sustainability. It now serves as an important focal point for Civic life in Cavan.

Cork Courthouse “Public Building of the Year 2019

We are proud to announce that Cork Courthouse won the award for ‘Public Building of the Year 2019’ at the Irish Building and Design Awards at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, Dublin.  Michael O’Boyle attended the ceremony and collected the award together with Wilson Architecture and BAM Building.  This complex and high profile project required the conservation and adaptation of the nineteenth century former Model School in Cork and the introduction of a modern courthouse extension on a tight inner city site to the rear.  Our work on Mullingar Courthouse was also shortlisted in the ‘Heritage and Conservation’ category at the ceremony.

Cork Criminal Courthouse receives 3 awards.

We are very proud to announce that the Cork Criminal Courthouse by OPW Architects with Wilson Architecture and Bluett O’Donoghue  received three awards at the 2019 RIAI Architectural Awards.. This is a fantastic result following tough competition from 41 shortlisted projects.

  • Winner of  the Innovation award
  • 2nd place in the RIAI Public Choice Awards
  • 2nd place Cultural – Public Building award

Congratulations to Michael O’Boyle  who lead the Bluett & O Donoghue Team.

Irish Architectural Awards 2019

Bluett & O’Donoghue are honored to  have the Cork Criminal  Courthouse shortlisted in the  – Irish Architectural Awards 2019.

The prestigious  development  was completed in conjunction with  OPW Architects  and Wilson Architecture.

Why not vote for  this project:   link to the following RIAI site:

Voting closes at midnight on Friday, 31st May


Tubbrid Castle, Co. Kilkenny, Irish Times, February 2019

A Castle earns its keep in Kilkenny

John Campion Jnr: “Dad put so much effort into saving it from falling down, I felt it would be a shame not to complete the task.”

Many of us dream of being king or queen of the castle but one Co Kilkenny man, a doctor by day and restoration man by night, picked up where his father had left off and turned a tower house, a structure built some 500 years ago and uninhabited for over a century, when it was used as a shed for his family’s dairy herd, into a warm and comfortable home. It took two generations of Campions, a father and son, both named John, to make it happen. Their people have farmed the rich lands of northwest Kilkenny for generations. Tubbrid Castle has always been in their lives. It was constructed in the 1500s reputedly by Margaret Fitzgerald, Eighth Countess of Ormond, and is one of about five in this part of southwest Kilkenny. Skirmishes saw the property pass into the hands of the Shortalls who owned at least three similar structures in the area and then to the local landed gentry, the St Georges. It was still in their ownership when a Catherine Campion, John’s great, great grandmother, is listed in the Griffith Valuation of 1851 as residing in the castle as a tenant of Sir R.B St George.

Tubrid Castle, Portlaw, Co Waterford. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

His great-grandparents bought the lands on which Tubbrid Castle stood around the turn of the 20th century, when the Land Acts allowed tenants to buy the lands they were renting from their landlords. It was a bleak house, Campion recalls, devoid of a roof and no glass in the windows. Around the same time the family moved into a farmhouse a couple of hundred metres from the historical house and they took a limestone fireplace from it with them. Carved in two pieces, each bore the numerals 15 and 96 marking 1596, possibly the year the tower was built.Growing up, John Campion Snr had plans to rehabilitate the tower house. When he had reared his family he started turning those dreams into a reality and began works in 2004 when he was in his mid-50s. He hired a conservation engineer, Ivor McElveen, who suggested he repoint the exterior, put a roof on it and even employed professional stonemasons to rebuild the door and window lintels.He applied for planning permission in 2016 and had to submit archaeological impact reports, and retain an archaeologist throughout the works.

“But the efforts to make it safe and habitable are eclipsed by the original physical effort it took to erect it. In an era of mechanised cranes and power tools the effort is unimaginable.” With his architect, Cormac O’Sullivan of Bluett & O’Donoghue Architects, he went through every detail which meant by the time Murphy Brothers Building Contractors came onto the site much of the problem-solving had been done.

One of the bedrooms in Tubrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
One of the bedrooms in Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. 
One of the bedrooms, Tubrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
One of the bedrooms, Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. 
Under th eaves at Tubrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
Under the eaves at Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny.

Full Irish Times article ….. Tubbrid Castle

The Heritage Council Conference, Kilkenny, November 2018

“Dig: the value of archaeology for society and the economy”, November 2018

The Conference addressed the value of archaeology for society and the economy. Michael’s presentation took three late-sixteenth/early-seventeenth century buildings (Rothe House, the Hole-in-the-Wall and Fethard Tholsel) to demonstrate the role of the conservation architect.

Refurbished and extended Waterford Courthouse formally opened

Chief Justice Mr. Justice Frank Clarke joined Minister for Justice & Equality Charles Flanagan at the official opening of Waterford Courthouse on 9th April 2018. Michael O’Boyle was the lead Grade 1 conservation architect for the refurbishment and conservation of the historic Waterford City Courthouse.. The project involved full re-roofing of the courthouse building and portico, stone repairs, the creation of a central entrance hall and the introduction of four fully-serviced courtrooms into the historic wings. The works were carried out in close consultation with the OPW (Office of Public Works). The newly refurbished courthouse contains some 6,000 sq m of accommodation, increased from 1,100 sq m.  There are now six double height courtrooms, and ancillary accommodation for judges and staff, including extensive office facilities. There are consultation rooms for practitioners and clients and a suite to provide a quiet, private and secure area for victims, families and vulnerable witnesses.There are spacious public lobby and waiting areas and spaces for the media to work – both in court and in a dedicated media room. Facilities for persons in custody include a secure entrance for prisoners reducing the public access to them.