The Arts Block is something of a mecca for future leaders, those who wear beanies and silver brogues, eat Tang and swing through Dublin’s social scene like a chimp swings from vine to vine. Naturally enough, aesthetic is key for the arts student. Hence, like the famed red catwalk of the Lecky, they deserve nothing more than to be greeted every morning by a sophisticated entrance. However, up until this year, the Nassau St entrance undoubtedly suffered from a swag deficit. The concrete walls brushed with dirty raincoats, the tiled floor: conventional and meh, like the brown leather sandals your Dad brings on holidays. It couldn’t be further from reflecting the architectural magnificence of campus. This was all to change forever in early 2017.
Like a loyal friend, ABK architects – who designed the Berkeley library – returned to Trinity, executing the rejuvenation of the Nassau St entrance. In keeping with their use of only the finest building materials, it seems that nothing was compromised in the alteration of this space. The white block walls outside the Douglas Hyde were painted in a carefully selected rich brown hue, akin to an elephant mud bath. The voids in the stepped concrete walls on the right are filled with minimalist wooden benches illuminated by long, vertical strips of fogged lighting. Smooth copper finishes add to the multitude of textural layers in the space. Yet, by and large, the most significant and spine tinglingly brilliant element in this design was meant to be the floor.
The bright-poured concrete was to frame the floor’s square wooden blocks, planned to correspond with the hexagonal wood flooring beneath Front Arch. For a few excellent days, there existed a wonderfully executed conversation between old and new, emphasising the skill and thought given to this project by the architects. It was not to last, however. Not long after these wooden blocks were laid, under some undisclosed and mysterious circumstances, they were removed and replaced with dark concrete slabs, shamelessly cutting the link between old and new. It appeared as if the blocks had not been set properly, and quickly became grimey and crooked from countless rainy feet trodding over them. As the world keeps turning and arts students ebb and flow through this passage between city and college, I can’t help but wonder when those wooden blocks will return. We live in hope.