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The Architect of No. 42. O'Connell Street

Updated: Mar 13

The doorway to a Georgian town house on O'Connell Street, Dublin.
No. 42 O'Connell Street

No 42. O'Connell Street, Dublin 1, is a terraced three-bay four-storey Georgian town house. The house was built around 1752, a very significant year in architecture, with buildings such as the Mansion House in London and the Valetta Waterfront in Malta, completed. Other notable buildings completed during that year are the Mariinskyi Palace, Kiev and the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, among others.

Historic Importance

No.42 is a red brick terraced Georgian townhouse on Upper Connell Street. It was built by Robert Robinson, state physician and Professor of Anatomy at Trinity College, Dublin. The O' Connell Street house is found on Rocque's map of 1756 and is the only intact eighteenth-century house to survive on O'Connell Street. The townhouse has national importance due to its design by architect Richard Castle (with construction supervised by John Ensor) and plasterwork believed to have been executed by Robert West.

Richard Cassels

Richard Cassels, (1690 – 1751) was an architect who ranks with Edward Lovett Pearce as one of the greatest architects working in Ireland in the 18th century.

Printing House, Trinity College, Dublin 2

Cassels worked on the Houses of Parliament with Pearce, who acted as a mentor. The Printing House of Trinity College was Cassels' first solo commission. The building was designed to resemble a temple complete with a doric portico. This portico is a particularly interesting feature symbolising Cassels' early work – a portico is very common feature of Palladian architecture.

Villa with superimposed portico, Book IV of Palladio's I quattro libri dell'architettura, {{PD-US}} Andrea palladio fourth book image

In the printing house, the portico becomes blind, simply suggested. This is important as it is a feature of his final Dublin masterpiece. Leinster House, constructed between 1745 and 1751. In 1741 Cassel designed the Bishop's Palace in Waterford, Ireland.

Leinster House, Dublin, Designed by Richard Cassels in 1745. Vue de Leinster House, à Dublin Jean Housen. CC BY-SA 3.0

A comparison of the Printing House and Leinster House shows the evolution from the Palladian style to the Georgian style in Ireland.

This protected structure is planned for demolition, (with facade retention only), as part of the 'Dublin Central' office complex planned for O'Connell Street. Dublin authorities have a tradition of allowing large-scale office developments for totally unsuitable sites.

In 1972, a massive office complex was proposed as part of a 'Central Business District' to be located in Parnell and Moore Streets., close to Upper Connell Streets. This never proceeded, the 18th century street was demolished to facilitate it, The IIac Centre was built instead on the levelled land. In the words of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Parnell Street was "blighted by 1970s road widening schemes and unsympathetic recent commercial developments."

This planning carnage has been dignified with the title of 'development', other examples being the demolition of the Metropole Cinema, also for another shopping complex. It was designed in a severe neo-classical style and was one of the greatest architectural losses in the late 20th century in Dublin City. Today, this tradition of cultural despoliation and demolition relentlessly continues.

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