Exo, Dublin’s highest office block, gets planning approval

Dreadful office design proposed for Dublin

The Exo, Dublin’s highest office block will have its structure on the outside.


See? Get it?

Exo. Exoskeleton. Get it?

Clever or what?

So clever they had to put it in the name, since no other building in history has ever had an externally-expressed structure.

Apart, of course, from the Pompidou Centre.

Centre Pompidou

Oh all right then. But apart from the Pompidou Centre, no other building in history has ever had an externally-expressed structure.

Bush Lane House?

Bush Lane House

All right. I’ll give you that. But apart from the Pompidou Centre and Bush Lane House —

The Irish Central Bank? In Dublin?

Central Bank of Ireland

In this bizarre what-did-the-Romans-ever-do-for-us kind world, the developers (I won’t blame the architects) seem, like ten-year-old children, to have been carried away by the notion that you could actually see the steel frame of a building. I’m surprised they didn’t call it the Look! Look! A digger! building.

I’d be more inclined to call it the 40 Benson & Hedges building because as far as I can see it just looks like two cigarette boxes on a pub table. In the old days, this would have been known as a bold, uncompromising architectural statement. People believed that sort of thing once upon a time, but today it’s better known as lazy, derivative dross.

Admittedly, the designers were somewhat constrained by the fact that they had to construct the new building on foundations already poured for Harry Crosbie’s failed Watchtower project, but that didn’t force them to build a pair of drab, Soviet-style cuboids. Nobody is fooled by steelwork on the outside: it’s still a horrible pair of glass cigarette boxes and it’s not as if Dublin hasn’t already suffered enough from such architecture. I give you the dreadful Hawkins House and O’Connell Bridge House.

O Connell Bridge House

Who will save Dublin from this sort of nonsense?

On the positive side, of course, the high(ish) rise is a welcome aspect of the scheme. For years, Dublin administrators proudly boasted of their low-rise city while conveniently overlooking the corollaries that it was also a high-sprawl city, that its dispersed population made an efficient mass-transit system uneconomic and that the cost of providing infrastructure including roads and sewerage was grossly out of proportion to the population. Typical Irish hubris, in other words, disconnected from the experience in every other European country.

It’s not as if, at 17 storeys, the Exo is particularly daring but at least it’s a move in the right direction. Now all we need is creative design to complement that tendency until eventually we begin to see a commercial and residential centre of appropriate height, combined with a human scale and attractive buildings.

Horrible cuboids, even those wearing an exoskeleton, we can do without.

We’re no longer the credulous untravelled Irish of the 1960s when any old huckster could throw up a Soviet-style panelak in the name of modernity and get away with it. People no longer believe old-fashioned architectural waffle and nobody is impressed by glass cubes, apart from the purists at an architects’ piss-up.

3 thoughts on “Exo, Dublin’s highest office block, gets planning approval

  1. Ah Jaysus, the Benson & Hedges building – I love it. I hope it sticks.
    The incongruity of “Guinness” on O’Connell Bridge House is baffling. I remember going into that building once to see a man about a grant for a bungalow.

  2. It’s unlikely the B&H joke would filter through. More likely they’ll go for some of that famous Dublin wit we keep hearing about. Pity the Box in the Docks is already taken but no doubt they’ll come up with another one.

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