Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - BUSARAS

'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageis a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

BUSARAS

Architect: Michael Scott

Completed: 1953

Commissioner: Córas Iompair Éireann

Trivia: Busáras is officially named Aras Mhic Dhiarmada after Sean MacDermott, one of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation who was executed for his part in the Easter Rising.

For over fifty years Busáras has been the hub for all Bus Éireann’s intercity and regional services in Ireland. Built between 1946 and 1953, it occupied the site of an abandoned four storey bonding warehouse on Store Street. This was the first large ‘modern’ building in the city of Dublin, integrating art and architecture to create a fusion of Le Corbusier and post-war utility. It was also one of the first major public buildings constructed in rubble-strewn Europe after the Second World War. As such, when completed in 1953, it garnered considerable attention across Europe. It cost over one million pounds to build and was scrupulously detailed with assorted stones, multi-coloured mosaics, exotic woods and handmade bricks. The willingness of Sean Lemass’s Fianna Fáil Government to finance such a radical design represented a major public statement of a brave new era in Ireland's development.

Busáras was the brainchild of A.P. Reynolds, a Meath man described by Taoiseach Sean Lemass as ‘the greatest transport wizard in Europe’. In 1945, Reynolds was appointed head of the new National Transport Company, Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE). Reynolds announced plans for a new bus station, purchased the Store Street site from the Dublin Port and Docks Board for £13,000 and commissioned architect Michael Scott for the job.

Michael Scott (1905-1988) was arguably the most important 20th century architect in Ireland. Born in Drogheda, he claimed to have become interested in design ever since he ‘caught a glimpse beneath my teacher's skirts of a well formed wooden leg’. In 1939, he caught the international eye with his award-winning Irish Pavilion at the New York World Fair. At this time, he also became friendly with Reynolds. A shared passion for horseracing was consolidated when Scott made some alterations to Reynold’s house Abbeville, designed by Gandon and later owned by Charles Haughey. When Reynolds became head of CIE, he immediately appointed Scott Consultant Architect.

Although Scott tends to be given credit for Busáras, the concrete landmark was the result of a collaboration of bright young architects and designers operating under his supervision. Wilfrid Cantwell was the main designer and principal architect. The painter Patrick Scott was responsible for the internal and external decoration, most notably the terrazzo floor mosaics and the Eblana Theatre, a newsreel cinema. Kevin Fox looked after most of the detailing. Kevin Roche contributed to the external appearance of the restaurant on the pavilion top storey. Fred Hilton also played a role in the design. Robin Walker was responsible for the design of restaurant furniture and interior fittings. Patrick Hamilton ran the drawing office and effectively got the building up. Ove Arup was the consulting engineer who devised the buses shelter on the eastern side, canopied beneath a wave of rippled concrete. And Michael Scott was on hand to autograph the finished work. It was to win him the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture and many accolades from architects all over the world. It featured on the highest value stamp issued in the definitive Architecture postage stamp set issued in 1982.[1]

The station has gone through a considerable revamp in the past few years, bringing it in step with the modern age of travel. Much of the original interior has been swept aside to make way for structures better suited to these GPS-driven times but rather unsympathetic to the original design concept. A new pine and brass ticket counter was installed along the front of the old shopping mall. A vast LED information timetable was elevated upon the otherwise continuous glazing of the concourse. The classic wooden benching was replaced by upholstered airport seating.

Christine Casey described Busaras as ‘undoubtedly heroic and potent … with passages of immense lyricism, but also a rough diamond, awkward and downright dull in parts’. Another author described it’s present day incarnation as ‘a complete visual nightmare’. But there can be little doubt that, with 50 million passengers a year, Busaras is operating more efficiently today than it has in many long years. Since 2004, it has also been serviced by the Red Line of the Luas. The upper levels also houses the Department of Social Welfare (now Social and Community Affairs - check).

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