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Historical Background

The present classical building, situated along the quayside, replaced the former City Hall which was destroyed during the burning of Cork in 1920. The City Hall was officially opened by Eamon de Valera on the 8 September 1936 and was designed by the firm of Jones and Kelly in Dublin. The building is faced with dressed limestone, quarried locally in Little Island and incorporates an elegant concert hall and the more recently created Millenium Hall which serves as a second multi-functional and versatile events venue.

Context for the New Building

It had been apparent for many years that Cork City Council was urgently in need of a substantial and centralised new building, to consolidate its offices from a variety of disparate locations around the south of the City into the one City Hall ‘campus.’ The area occupied by the old swimming baths along Eglinton Street, together with an area to the south of the original building (used as a car park) had been identified as a suitable site since 1999.

From the signing of contracts in late 2004, it took just two years to complete the extension project, which has been hailed as a great success since its official opening in June 2007.

Bourne of City Manager Joe Gavin’s desire to amalgamate all City Council services to a city centre premises, the project was spearheaded by a small dedicated team, who initially compiled a detailed design brief for what the new building should encompass and managed the continuing design development process as the scheme progressed on site.

Following much interest, the design, build and finance contract was awarded to Wexford based developers, Cleary Doyle Contracting Limited, whose project design team was led by ABK Architects.

In their brief, the Council emphasised the need for the new building to complement the existing historic City Hall. The purpose of the extension was to provide modern office and public space within a new building that had a strong identity, but should not crowd out City Hall; it had to be designed sensitively, so as not to compete with the established and well-respected existing building.

The New Civic Offices

The result is a four storey building, providing approximately 100.000 sq ft (gross) of space, stretching from Angelsea Street to Eglinton Street.

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Awards - Faced in Italian marble, City Hall’s €35million extension has been acknowledged extensively in both Ireland and the UK for its architectural merit, with a European Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in June 2007 and has featured in a number of major architectural publications (see links below).

In September 2007, the building was awarded runner-up for the annual national RIBA Sustainability Award in the UK and in November 2007, the building won a further Design Award from OPUS, in the over €10m category.

The following year, in 2008, the building received 3 separate Awards from the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, for ‘Sustainability’, ‘Accessibility’ and ‘Best Public Building’, an AAI (Architecture Association of Ireland) Award, a LAMA (Local Authority Members Association) Best Eco-Friendly Building Award and in March 2009, a UK Civic Trust Award.

Planning - The new facility now provides a state of the art, one stop shop incorporating all City Council services.

All public interaction takes place on the ground floor, which also accommodates sections of the departments of Finance, Housing and Community and Planning and Development, where queries are dealt with directly at their respective public counters.

All other queries are initially dealt with at the Reception Desk. 

11 Interview Rooms are located at the interface between public and private spaces at this level, where more private discussions can take place. 

On the first floor, the departments of Housing and Community, Finance and Planning and Development are continued.

The second floor houses the newly relocated departments of Community and Enterprise, Recreation Amenity and Culture, the Docklands Development Directorate and the City Architect’s Department.

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The City Manager’s office is located on the third floor, alongside Corporate Affairs and the Personnel Department.

Environment, Roads and Transportation, Law and Information Systems departments remain in the original City Hall building.

The offices of the Lord Mayor and elected members of Cork City Council also continue to operate from the same building.

While the new extension to the building will serve as the nerve centre for the Council’s administrative capacity, future refurbishment works to the original City Hall will be influenced by the need to locate the cultural and political aspects of the City Council’s work within its walls.

Generous links have been ingeniously created between the new and old buildings at both ground and first floor levels, where the new structure wraps itself around the previously external facade of the Concert Hall Stage.

At ground floor this allows functions to now have the potential to integrate the new atrium space with either the historic Concert Hall or the multifunctional Millenium Hall (designed by City Architects in 2001 from an existing external courtyard in City Hall) or both.

The central atrium stretches from the ground floor to the roof, five stories above, flooding both the public concourse and all departments below with natural light.

The atrium also features as a civic hall, designed to open up the extended City Hall to public use, providing a through route from Eglinton Street to Angelsea Street. The far west end of this route terminates in a graphic expression of civic identity, in the form of a marble-clad bus shelter.

In an intelligent interpretation of the brief, ABK integrated the City Hall’s southern facing Concert Hall wall within the new building, featured alongside a marble stairway leading to the upper floors (see photo above).

The choice of carrara marble, a white Italian marble with flecks of grey, was specifically chosen to work in harmony with the limestone used in City Hall.

NCO Image 05Environmental Features

The extension to City Hall is a living breathing structure, with particularly advanced environmental standards and designed with an unusually high level of sustainability, controlled by means of an ‘intelligent’ Building Energy Management System (BEMS).

Examples of this include a geo-thermal heating system, that uses the water present underground to gently heat or cool all levels of the building in winter or summer respectively.

Two freely rotating open air vents known as ‘wind cowls’ on the roof of the building provide a revolutionary new air circulation system.

NCO Image 06The cowls align themselves to the prevailing winds, enabling fresh air to circulate through the building via a network of ducts which, in turn, supply low velocity vents in the office floors. Return air is extracted at high level in the atrium, passing through a heat transfer system before being expelled at roof level.

The building features an intelligent office lighting system, which reacts to external light levels, reducing energy use wherever possible.

Finally and perhaps most notably, the extension to City Hall features a coloured LED lighting system at each level of the prominent, west facing glass block, capable of lighting up this crystalline volume in a myriad of colours, on a rotating basis.

Published Articles

The new building is featured in several articles in the international Architectural Press, under the following websites:

(view publications under the ‘Business’ tab, key in ‘Architectural Review’ and find the April 2007 edition. The article, by Rob Gregory, is entitled “Civil Service in Cork: ABK display good manners extending Cork’s City Hall”)

(Explore Previous issues of BD Magazine and look up edition dated 13th April 2007. Under the ‘Works’ heading, the article, by Robert Payne, is entitled “Cool Heads at City Hall”)

TV News Coverage

The building’s opening was marked by coverage on RTE’s Six One News on Monday 11th June 2007. This can be found under the following address:

Design & Construction Team

Architects: Ahrends Burton Koralek , M&E Engineers: Homan O’Brien & Associates, St Engineers: Michael Punch & Partners, Contractors: Cleary Doyle Contracting, Project Planning, Co-ordination & Client Liason: City Architects, Cork City Council,

For further information, contact Neil Purkiss, Senior Executive Architect, City Architect’s Dept,   Email: