De Paor Architects creates development aid showroom in Dublin
Tom De Paor has remodelled a Dublin shop to serve as an information centre on Irish overseas development assistance. It’s an experiment in transparency both for client and architect. In 2008, Ireland is expected to spend €914 million (£680 million) on overseas development assistance, and has recently agreed to increase that annual contribution to 0.7% of its gross national product by 2012. In support of this commitment, the Irish government also allocated funds for the construction of a Dublin-based facility to inform the Irish public about where its money was going and to serve as a point of recruitment for foreign aid volunteers. Completed last month to designs by Tom de Paor, the Irish Aid Centre occupies the ground floor of a sixties office block on O’Connell Street, the city centre’s principal thoroughfare. While it offers a prominent address, the host building is a pretty joyless affair and de Paor has ripped out as much of the ground floor fabric as he could — the previous tenant was a phone shop — leaving just the in-situ concrete frame. The columns’ spasmodic variations in size and spacing remain a source of mystery even to de Paor but broadly speaking, their layout establishes a closely spaced grid of fixed orientation. The new walls are expressed as something quite other: structurally independent elements, never engaging the columns directly, and adopting a markedly different geometry in plan from that of the grid.