National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland was founded in 1854 to commemorate the Irish railway builder, William Dargan. The Gallery designed by Charles Lanyon in 1856 lies on Merrion Square in Dublin. The Gallery houses largely Italian and Irish paintings. The competition called for extending the existing Gallery.

Safdie’s design extended the third wing creating a new entrance on Clare Street, through a glazed curved wall containing a Great Hall. The oval shaped Great Hall leads into the Grand Stairway, which gently ascends the 6-metre rise from Clare St. to Merrion Square. Eight galleries on the upper levels are organized perpendicular to this grand stairway and read as individual “houses” of equal height. The Great Hall is at the core of the design and functions as an extension of the street.

Behind a transparent curved glass wall, Safdie placed a dramatic Grand Stairway rising right up to the top floor of the original gallery and vanishing into the sky as in the National Gallery of Canada. On the south side, the Great Hall is contained by a curved, battered, limestone-clad wall with openings looking into the shop, restaurant and upper gallery levels. The Grand Stairway connects to the upper gallery of the wing, which was built in 1864 and is bound by inner stone walls built in the spirit of the old museum. The gently curving roof over the Grand Stairway, visible from the street and from within, evokes the form of a great vertebra, the hull of a ship, the marine tradition in Irish life, the memory of land and sea.