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September 4, 2008

Ghostly sign sealed as hospital expands on Lincoln Place

Leaving well enough alone is not something we are good at, according to architect Valerie Mulvin. So when it came to advising on what should be done with the faded Finn’s Hotel sign on the gable of a building on South Leinster Street, she felt that retaining its “ghostly presence” was the only solution. Tarting it up by repainting the lettering would have been quite wrong, not least because it would have destroyed the sense of discovery by aficionados of Ulysses “who know what they are looking for and will enjoy the experience of finding it”. And so, it was conserved as a subtle reference for them. Finn’s Hotel is where James Joyce’s future wife, Nora Barnacle, was working as a chambermaid when he met her on June 16th, 1904 – the day he immortalised in his master work. It is also mentioned in Ulysses, like so many other places in Dublin, including Sweny’s chemists just round the corner in Lincoln Place. The issue of what to do with the old sign arose from a project to provide more space for the nearby Dental Hospital in the terrace of four redbrick buildings on the north side of South Leinster Street, where the long run of railings fronting Trinity College along Nassau Street finally comes to an end. The hospital, which was transformed several years ago by ABK Architects, wanted more space for academic offices and research facilities, and bought the buildings from Trinity – although the college retained three ground-floor retail units; it is also landlord of “The Lincoln’s Inn” pub (it used to be known as the Lincoln Inn). McCullough Mulvin Architects, who did the Ussher Library with KMD Architects, won the latest commission, largely because of their sensitive approach to the existing buildings (all protected structures) and their ingenious idea of adding four “pods” at roof level that will only be visible from the rear, in views from College Park.

The Irish Times

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