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December 1, 2011

The Main Guard Scoops Top Conservation Prize from RIAI

logo_riaiThe restoration of The Main Guard, Clonmel, Tipperary, has been awarded the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s (RIAI) Conservation and Restoration Silver Medal. The Medal is considered one of Ireland’s most prestigious architectural awards and was presented to Margaret Quinlan of Margaret Quinlan Architects. The medal is awarded to an architect or architectural practice for excellence or exceptional merit in Restoration and Conservation.The refurbishment of The Main Guard was undertaken on behalf of Margaret Quinlan’s client, the Office of Public Works.

Speaking at the presentation of the Silver Medal, Paul Keogh, President, RIAI, said, “The Main Guard is possibly the oldest surviving classical public building in Ireland and was, like many other national architectural treasures, neglected and forgotten and had little chance of surviving in its original, purposeful and beautiful form. Urban development has swept away many similar building in cities and towns around Ireland. Miss Quinlan’s dedication and perseverance in restoring and conserving this building is as much a testament to her passion as to her considered and sensitive response to how an historic building can be restored and revitalised for the benefit of the wider community as a whole.”

James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, built the Main Guard in 1675 as the courthouse for the Palatinate of administrative area of County Tipperary. In 1715, the Palatinate jurisdiction was extinguished. In about 1810, the ground floor, a loggia of open arches, was converted into shops, a basement excavated and additional floors inserted. It was not until 1994 that the building was declared a national monument. The Office of Public Works began painstaking renovations at this stage. After ten years it was finally re-opened to the public with the open arches again a feature of the streetscape of Clonmel.

Speaking on the award, Margaret Quinlan said, “It is a great honour to be presented with the Silver Medal. I grew up in Clonmel and remember the slow deterioration of the Main Guard. Before I began this project, it was closed up for safety reasons with a hoarding around it in case of collapse. Today, due to the input of Clonmel Borough Council and the National Monuments section of the OPW, this building, which is so important in the history of the town, is safe once again. As well as being a focal point for visitors to the area, it is now a meeting place and is being used in a contemporary way for recitals, lectures and exhibitions, all contributing to the arts life of the town. What I am most proud of is that the Main Guard with its open arcade is at the heart of Clonmel again – as it was when it was built in 1675. ”

Paul Arnold, Chair of the Silver Medal Judging Panel, added, “In addition to Miss Quinlan’s outstanding work, all those who entered the Silver Medal should be recognised for their commitment to their profession and passion for helping to conserve and restore Ireland’s architectural heritage. Additional recognition goes to Howley Hayes Architects, based in Dublin, who were Highly Commended at the awards ceremony for his work in restoring the Browne Clayton Column, considered by some to be one of the most extraordinary ornamental landscape structures in Ireland. Architectural practice McCullough Mulvin, also based in Dublin, was also Highly Commended for their work in conserving the Sligo Courthouse.” The Jury were Paul Arnold (Chairman), Fionnuala May, Grainne Shaffrey, Kevin Blackwood, Maolíosa Molloy, and Susan Roundtree.

Concluded Paul Keogh, “Conservation and restoration are a continued area of growth for architects. However, it is an important area for Ireland for a far greater reason- our heritage, and our wealth of historic buildings- is part of what makes this country unique. It is important to preserve the very best of our past in order to continue to attract tourists and present Ireland as a distinctive cultural and historical offering. 50% of all tourists are cultural tourists. We need to cherish our landmarks so that they can be enjoyed by Irish and visitors alike. Conservation architecture is a key part of this and these awards are vital in recognising the work undertaken by architects for the benefit of Ireland.”