Cork Courthouse / Conservation Architecture


The former Model School (1864-65) is a distinctive redbrick building that forms part of a cluster of public buildings adjacent to Cork City Hall, and has been part of the fabric of the city for generations. The repair, refurbishment and conservation of this important building were a central part of the brief for a new courthouse to the rear of the site. Michael O’Boyle of Bluett & O’Donoghue was appointed as Grade 1 Conservation Architect for this project and four other historic sites as part of a PPP courthouse bundle by BAM PPP. Michael was centrally involved in developing the conservation strategy through the successful bid process, liaising with key stakeholders such as the Courts Service and the Office of Public Works; and through the 26 month construction period. The work included the careful removal of cementitious mortar throughout the exterior, and the removal of approximately 40% of the existing bricks on the front façade and its landmark observation tower, with replacements were sourced to match the colour, size and material characteristics of the surviving nineteenth century brick. The front entrance porch was 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 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 refurbished building contains administrative accommodation for the Courts Service, with the large volumes of the former classrooms presented as single spaces. Michael worked closely on the integration of the new courthouse extension with the nineteenth century former school. The Cork Criminal Courthouse by OPW Architects with Wilson Architecture and Bluett O’Donoghue received three awards at the 2019 RIAI Architectural Awards. Winner of the Innovation award ; second place in the RIAI Public Choice Awards ; second place Cultural – Public Building Award.