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Millennium Wing, National Gallery of Ireland

  • Architect:
    Benson & Forsyth
  • Award Type:
    Best Public Building 2002
  • Location: Dublin
Millennium Wing, National Gallery of Ireland


Dublin (over €3,000,000)

Light, shade, surface, material and space are conjured to produce a public building of presence, drama and integrity. A triumph of architecture and of the competition system.

Architects Comment
In 1996, the National Gallery instigated a design competition for the site adjacent to its rear boundary and perpendicular to its internal striation of rooms. Our winning proposal elevated new galleries above more generally accessible cafes and a shop, simultaneously linking the existing gallery interior to a second public entrance on Clare Street.

We have attempted to create and articulate building that opens up the National Gallery to the life and complexity of the city. Like many Dublin monuments, the new sculptural façade is clad in Portland stone. As a mask to Clare Street, it offers glimpses west to Trinity College and east to Merrion Square and the Georgian streets beyond.

Internally, the public enters a long quadruple-height atrium leading from Clare Street all the way to the back of the original gallery building. The visitor is drawn to the theatrical flight of stairs, beyond which a slender gap offers views of the lawns of Leinster House and the Dublin Mountains beyond.

The new buildings main functions are related to this circulation armature – at the entry level a winter garden has been created between two existing regency structures; the next level is occupied by a suite of galleries and an open plan restaurant. Mezzanines accommodate the Centre for the Study of Irish Art and the Yeats Archive. The uppermost level of the building houses an Audio Visual Room and temporary exhibition galleries.

On the roof above, an observation deck and sculpture court complete the buildings complex dialogue with its host city.

Client Comment

The requirement for a new wing to the National Gallery became evident during preparation of plans for the refurbishment of the Beit Wing in the late 1980’s. The opportunity to extend the footprint of the Gallery became possible when the lot of properties fronting onto Clare Street came onto the market. In 1996 the Gallery, in association with the RIAI, held an international competition to select architects for the project.

Central to the whole design brief was the principle that, with respect to its overriding design philosophy, the new wing should be a building of its time. The Gallery was also very much aware that the new building provided a clear opportunity to generate a more significant public profile, seeming more involved in the day to day life of the community and seeming less remote. The new entrance at Clare Street was to promote accessibility to the institution and its collections.

A further consideration in the whole undertaking was the integration of the new building with the old, providing a seamless arrangement of linkages at all levels.

Since its inauguration in January the Millennium Wing has attracted a huge number of visitors, many of who have commented positively on its architecture. None seem confused or disappointed by its unique (at least in terms of Dublin buildings), modern design. There is a palpable sense of pride in the new extension and the public has taken it to their heart, welcoming it as a very special, and much admired addition to the city’s great tradition of civic buildings.

Raymond Keaveney,
Director, National Gallery of Ireland