Three of the past year’s major Dublin commercial and civic projects have picked up Opus awards in the over €20 million category: the Aviva stadium at Lansdowne Road, the Criminal Courts of Justice and the Grand Canal Theatre. There were four winners in this category and the other building is a spa and leisure building, added to the Europe Hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry. It was designed by Gottstein Architects (which was established by Achim Gottstein, whose father worked on the original hotel in the 1960s).
The Opus Architectural and Construction awards are assessed by a panel who shortlist the submitted buildings and then spend four days visiting them. The core panel has been judging the award for many years and, says chairman Ciaran O’Connor, they are “from different backgrounds and don’t always agree”. This leads to lively discussion over some projects.
O’Connor is an excellent critic of buildings and has a keen eye for good design, planning issues and build-quality. The judges’ citations are balanced and well observed and show that the judges were looking not only for aesthetic qualities but fitness for purpose, ease of use and context.
The citations are not afraid to allude to a building’s shortcomings, even in winning projects. For instance, the Grand Canal Theatre gets an award but with the note that “there was much discussion about the applique of stylistic motifs or “˜branding’ to this building and its relation to the Grand Canal Basin”, hinting that architect Daniel Libeskind’s work has been a bit repetitive and stylistic of late. Yet they acknowledge that the structure, built by John Sisk and Sons, “is an achievement” and that the “design supports and enhances the overall theatrical l experience”.