The Lewis Glucksman Gallery

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There were plenty of interesting older style buildings in the centre of Cork, but nothing in the way of Modern architecture. However, I’d heard that there was an example of a modern building – an art gallery – on the University campus, a 20 or 30 or minute to the west of the town centre along the south branch of the River Lee. So after walking round the city centre I decided to set out and wander over for a look.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was worth the walk- indeed there was a lot to interest me on the University campus – a post or two to follow.

The Lewis Glucksman Gallery, stands on the river side, just inside the main entrance of the University. It’s named in honour of Dr Lewis Glucksman who the Gallery website as

a successful investment banker and renowned philanthropist

The architects were Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey of the Irish firm O’Donnell+Tuomey, which they established in 1988.

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Entrance is through the podium which is at street level. As the street is raised above the level of the river there’s a storey underneath which accommodates a restaurant.

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The base of the building is a concrete structure clad with limestone with galvanised steel windows. The gallery spaces are clad in timber (Angelim de Campagna, a sustainably sourced hardwood), which, according to the architects

is intended to be understood as a wooden vessel which resonates with its woodland site.

The timber clad section is supported on a concrete ‘table’ structure cantilevered from columns. The concrete was sandblasted to reveal reflective mica in the surface of the structure. There are galvanised steel bay windows projecting from the structure, allowing light to enter the galleries.

The architects tell us that

The intention is that the natural finish materials (sawn limestone, galvanised steel and untreated timber) should age and weather into the landscape.

Inside, the gallery spaces are accessed by wooden staircases

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With white walls and large windows, the gallery spaces are very bright and airy

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The curved structure and large projecting windows and positioning of internal walls has created some interesting spaces

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The building is set in a very pleasant green space with a large lawn at river level and is surrounded by mature trees.

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Amongst awards it has received it was the RIAI Best Public Building in Ireland 2005, the RIBA 2005  European category award winner and was shortlisted for the 2005 Stirling Prize.

I thought it was an exceptional building, that fulfilled it’s function well and looked beautiful, and which both complemented it’s surroundings and was enhanced by its setting.

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2 thoughts on “The Lewis Glucksman Gallery

  1. Delighted you posted about this as I have it on my bucket list of places to see. Did you know the gallery suffered when the Lee flooded a couple of years back? And with art work stored in its basement, that caused some measure of concern at the time? Hopefully, that problem has been addressed since.

    • I’m not surprised there’s a flood risk as it’s right on the banks of the river. Given that I’m surprised they stored the artworks in the basement. But it’s easy to say that in retrospect

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