Casting off

From the archive

Spring 1954 - The architecture of buses 

Thirteen years before Preston (see previous page), Ove Arup had designed an equally groundbreaking bus station in Dublin. A mixed-use building that contained offices for the Department of Social Welfare above the two-storey concourse, Bus├íras was proclaimed at the time as both Ireland’s first modernist masterpiece and Europe’s first post-war office building.

Concrete Quarterly’s reviewer certainly thought it possessed a degree of finesse and technological prowess that set it apart from most contemporary infrastructure projects. “[Architect] Michael Scott has designed the structure entirely in reinforced concrete and has given it a richness of finish, both inside and out, that is uncommon in these days,” CQ wrote. “There is much glass, and facings of Portland stone, of brick and of colourful mosaic, bronze fittings, and polished woods.” Of particular note was a cantilevered canopy, covered in a multicoloured, diamond-patterned Italian mosaic, with its sides “uptilted like the wings of some great bird alighting on the roof”.  Arup also designed another canopy, to announce the entrance of the bus station itself.

This undulating structure was just 7cm thick and projected more than 6m, and its shell concrete design reduced the need for supporting columns – a sense of lightness that would be echoed at Preston a decade later. “To Dublin, city of beautiful, dignified architecture, this new building adds both beauty and dignity,” said CQ. It also brought a blast of the future. The offices were air-conditioned and double-glazed, and the space between the window panes could be heated to eliminate condensation. Suspended ceilings concealed ductwork and sprinkler heads. The message was clear: with its flagship bus station, post-war Ireland was changing gear. 

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