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February 5, 2008

Alien design concept in foreign aid building

We spent nearly €177 million on Irish overseas aid 10 years ago and now that has risen to around €914 million as we head for the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of our GNP on overseas aid by 2012. And now there is a dedicated building, on the ground floor of a 1960s office block at the top of O’Connell Street, which shows how that money is being spent, about the countries it is being spent in, and how you can volunteer to help. Anyone can drop in to the centre six days a week and schools are also being encouraged to visit. But visiting children will not just learn about far-off lands; they will also discover how wild architecture can be. The first room you come to, in the former Eircom showroom that has been converted by Tom de Paor Architects, is the projection room where films are shown about our global brethren – but these are not the only projections taking place, the ceiling also protrudes into the room in the form of angles. Such soffit acrobats are continued throughout the building and were achieved, says de Paor, “the old way, with string and a dialogue with the builders”. In quieter rooms the ceiling angles drop even lower for gentler acoustics, a relative silence that is also achieved with carpets, while the more open spaces are floored in the same granite as the street to encourage the link between the two which is also eased by huge glass windows and new external overhangs which allow people to shelter while they contemplate what is happening within the building.

The Irish Times