Most striking to the visitor just inside the College Green entrance is the glorious rotunda of the old banking hall supported by grand pillars, all restored and refinished in subdued historic colors. The hall was fitted with a modest mezzanine restaurant that floats just above the entrance.
Below the hall's luminous ceiling, displays of housewares and furniture provide a colorful contrast. In its spaces, as in its products, Habitat Ireland cherishes the values of simplicity, functionality, and beauty.
The overhead dome proclaims a theme repeated elsewhere in the store, with variations of size, height, and position. For instance, in the ceiling of the modern Suffolk Street entrance hall, a smaller, lower opening surrounds a spherical metallic chandelier, all within a circular soffit that defines a hub for several thoroughly contemporary furniture showrooms.
Malcolm Brighton, owner of Habitat Ireland commented, "We wanted to keep the look and feel of the banking hall because it is such an attractive space. I think the fit-out of the store marries it successfully with the new building, which has a more urban edge to it."
A new pedestrian thoroughfare was created through the interior of the building to connect the Suffolk Street and College Green entrances. The intersection between the two original buildings is made into a dynamic center by the collision of two differently-angled structural grids.
In the retail areas, the architects introduced a "black box" concept to focus customers' attention on the products on display. Lambe explains this as "a treatment whereby the walls, ceilings, and floors are rendered into the background and accents are provided by 'floating' white layers within the black space against which the product is displayed."
The architects used large anthracite ceramic floor tiles and black ceilings that seem to disappear. Selected white-painted plaster walls and soffits provide a contrast. Colored lights in some rooms offer additional visual excitement.
Mellett comments: "The reuse of the College Green side for retail has breathed new life into the building and should be seen as a starting block for other similar projects. Through this project we are signaling that by simple and respectful gestures, it is possible to salute past architectural triumphs while embracing a stunning and exciting future."
Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...