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Cork Public Museum, Fitzgerald's Park.

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This two-storied house was built by Charles Beamish, a brewer c1845 at the cost of £4,000.00 on land he had purchased from the Duke of Devonshire. Shortly after its completion Mr. Beamish had the grounds (destined to become Fitzgerald's Park) laid out with a variety of shrubs and trees, and due to their density the grounds became known as "The Strawberries" and the house "The Shrubbery". In 1886 the house became the home of the Bons Secours Sisters. In the early 1880's it became a private house again in the ownership of Mr. Barry J. Sheehan J. P. who was Mayor of Cork in 1877 and 1884. In 1897 the house became the residence of Mr. Cornelius Desmond a member of the Corporation until he sold it to the Incorporated Cork International Association in 1901 for £3,300. During the Exhibition held in 1902/03 the Committee used the house for visiting dignitaries which included King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

The Municipal Building

After the successful Exhibition the grounds and the house were handed over to the Corporation for the people of Cork. The house was converted into a museum and was opened to the public in 1910. Following the burning of the city's municipal offices in December 1920, the house was utilised as a temporary Corporation offices.

The Museum

The present museum owes its origin to the interest aroused in the city when a "Historical Exhibition" was organised in March 1942 at 97 Patrick Street. It was at this exhibition that its committee decided to investigate the possibilities of setting up a public museum. Following this, a civic meeting was held and a committee was formed to carry through the project. The Corporation and the County Council agreed to finance the project, with the former agreeing to place ''The Shrubbery' at the disposal of the committee.

The governing body of University College, Cork agreed to take over the management of the museum; and following three years of intense voluntary work on the part of the organising committee saw the museum opening to the public on April 4, 1945. It was administered by U.C.C. until 1963; and was funded by Cork Corporation and the County Council; today it is administered and aided by the City Council.

The Design

The design is informed by the conservation requirement of the objects within. It is intended to create a sustainable environment that may be easily and economically maintained. With this in mind, the building is constructed of solid masonry, exposed internally, using thermal mass to regulate the environmental conditions. In combination with this it was decided to naturally ventilate the building.

To maintain the thermal environment the building could only be insulated externally. A naturally ventilated rainscreen cladding was chosen to form a protective outside layer. Clay tiles are used as a contextual material in Cork particularly of the 18th and 19th Centuries. As a material the clay sits in contrast to the rendered finish of the existing house.

The new composition uses the existing building as a complimentary element. Internally the drama of the existing small rooms is offset by the large precise volumes of the new extension. The design influences on the project are widespread. It is contextual yet international and in essence the building is a contemporary response to the care and display of a collection of cultural significance.


The Collection

The collection of the public museum will be exhibited in the new structure as an extension of the existing building and exhibition rooms. In addition, it provides a new purposefully designed entrance, a secure temporary exhibition gallery as well as caf?nd toilet facilities. It will provide, along with the existing facilities, a higher level of office accommodation, research and conservation facilities, and will maximise the efficiency of the running of the building as a visitor attraction, an academic resource, and a place to care for artefacts.

The collection is wide ranging in terms of scope and contains items from abandoned Ogham standing stones to War of Independence memorabilia. The requirement to provide a coherent background for this exhibition defines somewhat the horizon for the design. This and the location of the building, which is the focus of the collection itself.

To this end, the entire composition is related to a particular set of site circumstances: the Park, the Mardyke Walk, the River Lee and Sunday's Well rising on the opposite bank. The primary exhibition gallery addresses the west, this gallery and the caf?ddress the north, the entrance the south, and the temporary exhibition and offices the east.

The building is also sited along the City's western corridor, historically itself a place for walking, extending from the city centre, via the Mardyke to the Lee Fields.


The Main Exhibition:

The main ground floor exhibition space is designed to house part of the collection. The space is large and lit naturally from the North window. The West wall provides access to services. The space also serviced with a series of floor channels and lighting box profiles at regular intervals. Each light profile contains ambient lighting units and singlets for lighting attachments. Extra services may be added over time.

Requirements of natural ventilation stipulate that most exhibits in this space be set within the stable environment of a display case. The environment within any case may be controlled locally. Dehumidification units may be placed within the West wall and/or combined with display cases. A thorough assessment of each object within the collection will inform the specifics of environmental control further.

"The assessment, or audit of existing conditions, which is carried out first, should assemble documented evidence on the condition of the collection supported by an environmental profile of the locations in which objects are housed".

May Cassar, Environmental Advisor, Museums and Galleries Commission, London. Post prints of a seminar held in the National Gallery of Ireland, 1995.

The Entrance:

The entrance begins at the South elevation. The doors open automatically revealing the concourse and the views to the river to the South. The inner glass door opens automatically at a controllable rate. Each visitor must pass by the reception/shop when entering.

The Concourse:

The area beneath the central stepped roof is defined as a circulation space.

The character of the space expresses a function that is in contrast to the main exhibition spaces, and their potential for large numbers of displays in a secure environment.

The nature of the central concourse, as a circulation space, deems that it may carry only a few special displays. The close contact with people moving through the space and the possible use of the space during receptions or openings all necessitate the sparse use of the space with few displays on secure individually lit cases.

Vertical Circulation:

The main stairs is located within a double height volume connecting the hall with the temporary exhibition space on the first floor.

The nature of the space allows for the possibility of large vertical display.

The Temporary Exhibition 1:

The inner temporary exhibition gallery is without windows. The environment is controlled specifically to allow for settings relating to the character of each specific exhibition. Ventilation is heated and cooled and local humidifiers/dehumidifiers control RH levels.

The Temporary Exhibition 2:

The second temporary exhibition gallery may display objects of less stringent environmental control needs. The space allows views to the West to the City Centre to the East and directly North over the river.

The Store Room:

Beneath the temporary exhibition 1 lies the storeroom which provides for the long term storage needs of the Museum with a controlled environment.

The Café:

A small café to serve visitors is located at the end of the concourse below the temporary exhibition space. It enjoys direct views of the river to the North. It can be accessed from within the museum only.

The Existing Building:

The existing building is connected to the new extension at its North-West corner. The connecting room on each floor may take multimedia units comfortably. The rooms connect into the main house and allow connection to the ground or first floors by way of the existing stairs facilitating a continuous flow through the building. It is envisaged to provide an education room for visiting groups/children within the house.



Client : Cork City Council
Architects: Cork City Architect’s Department Architects: Neil Hegarty, Michael Russell, John Hegarty, Sarah Clifford, Neil Purkiss. Technicians: Gerard Horgan, David Ivers, Charlie O’Donovan, Dave Clifford, Garreth Williams
Quantity Surveyor: Manuel O’Brien and Associates
Services Engineer: Arup Consulting Engineers – John O’Sullivan, John Burgess
Civil/Structural Engineers: Horgan, Lynch & Partners
Partner in Charge: Peter Anthony
Project Engineer: Orla Neville
Main Contractor: O’Sheas Builders (Cork) Ltd.
Project Director: Michael O’Shea