Darragh O'Brien Masthead

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Restoration of a disused 18th Century prison and courthouse.


Newenham Mulligan Architects


Courthouse and Museum


Wicklow Council and the Department of Justice


Completed 1999


Plan Magazine Award; AAI Award: Commendation; RIAI: Regional Design Award

Conceptually, we introduced a series of ‘floating’ elements to create buffer spaces between the new and the old. The original prison walls stand undisturbed under an expansive new roof but take none of the physical load. Traces of the original occupants, left behind over centuries are again exposed to the world.

The entry to the main exhibition area is defined by two elevated timber sails that represent the geographical and symbolic heart of the museum. By day the room is transformed with an abundance of reflected natural light.

In addition to the complex client body, we also worked closely with a large group of local representatives to generate a sense of sustainable ownership within the community.


(with Newenham Mulligan Architects)

Project type: Courthouse.
Client: Meath Council and the Department of Justice
Status: Completed 2001
Awards: Plan Magazine National Award for Architecture.
Summary: Restoration of existing 18th Century Courthouse and addition of new court offices.

The site is overlooked by an 11th century Norman castle whose undulating ruined walls inspired the metal roof forms of the new addition. Viewed from above, the building evokes images of discarded mediaeval armour. Working within a complex archaeological, heritage, community and legal context became the central challenge from which this project emerged.

Overlapping, but separate, circulation patterns and activities provided a basic organisational structure for the new addition; attached in only two places to the existing heritage building.

The office areas look out to the castle from behind a massive dry-stone wall. Public circulation is contained within the central atrium - a transparent link between new and old.
Staff feedback recognised that the architectural team were “keen to listen to what we wanted the building to do and seemed to make us part of the design process” and that there was “a quiet sense of relief at the way the new and old have been married”. [link to testimonials ]