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Building of the Month - May 2008

P.J. Carroll, Dublin Road, MARSHES UPPER Td., Dundalk, County Louth

P.J. Carroll, Dundalk 01 - Representative View 

Figure 1: The low spreading form of this elegantly understated building and its superb integration into the landscaped site render it an exemplar of sensitive modern design

Begun in 1967 and opened in 1970 the P.J. Carroll factory was designed by Ronnie Tallon (b. 1927), the renowned Irish architect of the firm of Scott Tallon Walker Architects (fig. 1).  Tallon's design is a clear homage to the great German-American architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the great masters of modern architecture.

Robin Walker (1924-91), also of Scott Tallon Walker, had studied with Mies van der Rohe in Chicago and maintained contact throughout the 1960s by visiting the architect approximately every eighteen months.  Tallon accompanied him on these visits.

Tallon, like Mies van der Rohe and his followers, was an advocate of a modern style which turned its back on historic revivalism and was representative of its time.  He realised the potential of modern materials, particularly plate glass and steel, which he manipulated to create buildings such as the Bank of Ireland (opened 1972) in Baggot Street, Dublin; and the RTE complex (completed 1967) in Donnybrook, Dublin, both of which are renowned for their simplicity and free-flowing open spaces.

Sold in 2002 and now part of Dundalk Institute of Technology, the former cigarette factory is an outstanding addition to our architectural heritage.  It is a long, low building set comfortably in surrounding grassland and originally fronted by a pond, now dry (fig. 2).

P.J. Carroll, Dundalk 02 - Setting 

Figure 2: A view of the pond, now dry, once allowing an attractive interplay between the sheer surfaces of the glass of the factory and the water

Constructed predominantly of prefabricated steel and plate glass, the factory exudes elegance and simplicity.  Tallon was an advocate of mathematical proportion in design, which he applied to this building to create a sense of harmony, both externally and internally.  On a practical level it requires little maintenance other than cleaning the glass and reapplying bronze paint to the steel elements. 

The Carrolls were great art patrons and, together with Tallon, chose a collection for the building that brought together works by leading contemporary artists, including Louis le Brocquy's (b. 1916) first An Táin tapestry.  Art was displayed not only in the reception area, but also on the factory floor.  Still in situ is Sails, a mobile sculpture by Gerda Froemel (1932-75), which sits in the now-dry pond.

On completion, Tallon's work was reviewed in international architectural journals and heralded throughout Europe as a great icon of the Modern Movement.  It was later recognised in a Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland public poll as one of the top ten Irish buildings of the twentieth century.

All photography by Stephen Farrell from the NIAH publication An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Louth

P.J. Carroll, Dundalk 03 - Introduction

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