Part of the RIAI Network

1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

Cork Opera House

  • Architect:
    Murray O'Laoire
  • Award Type:
    Regional Award 2001
  • Location: Munster
Cork Opera House


Southern (over £100,000)

An inventive response by the architect to a difficult brief in an architectural competition re-invigorates and gives drama to an important theatre and opens the building to its civic surroundings. 

Clients Comments
In 1999 Cork Opera House had achieved the first phase of a capitalprogramme that arose from an RIAI competition conducted by the City Architect in 1993. The competition was tied into preparation of a blueprint entitled ‘The Historic City Centre Action Plan’. The City planners and an independent company, Urban Initiatives, promoted the view that the area and its cultural institutions - the Crawford Gallery and the Opera House - had to be seen as a whole 

Then in 2000, financial support from Cork County Council, The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaoin and the National Millennium Committee allowed the Corporation and the Board of Cork Opera House to proceed with work to realise the architectural statement at the heart of Murray O’Laoire Associates’ competition winning submission. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only does the Opera House now have a sharp, modern front-of-house, but it also benefits from the development of the new plaza in Emmet Place. The Crawford Gallery brings on-stream a new gallery, and the overall effect of the three separate developments has been greater than the sum of the parts, transforming the area into an attractive public space for the new Millennium.

Architects Comments
The recent development at the Cork Opera House is part of a 10-year plan to refurbish the original 1960’s building, creating a contemporary centre for public entertainment. Part of a tripartite plan by Cork Corporation to consolidate a cultural precinct in the city, its success was anchored by simultaneous development at the Crawford Gallery and the pedestrianisation of Emmet Place. The new extension greatly increases the foyer space, providing a more ceremonial space with new central entrance into the main auditorium.

A café area is provided on the ground floor for possible daytime use. Bar, service and public areas are significantly increased on the first and second floors. A new large glazed façade will visually link all three floors and provide new dramatic views over Emmet Place and, more importantly, the river. The external treatments are elemental: Glass box, Stone portal and tower elements, timber doors. A new extension into the public domain of Emmet Place marries an internal semi-circular void with an external semi-circular amphitheatre. A series of new windows on the North Wall help animate the river elevation.