Tom de Paor's Pumping Station | icon 010 | February 2004

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photo: Dennis Gilbert/ View photo: Dennis Gilbert/ View

words Kieran Long

Tom de Paor has completed a new pumping station in the Dublin suburb of Clantarf, making a local landmark from a piece of infrastructure.

The building, which sits by the sea to the north of the city, is clad on three sides in copper shingles and attempts to create new public spaces around itself while accommodating large amounts of pumping and monitoring equipment, a store and a small canteen for the parks department.

The pumping station sits on the foundations of an older building, generating a complex internal geometry. De Paor says: “It is dictated by the geometry of the existing foundation, but it then starts to rotate around itself, and recalibrates all the external space with complex views of itself and its relationship with the sea.”

The building is made from shot-blasted cast in situ concrete, with the pre-patinated copper rainscreen. The geometry of the roof channels water down the exposed concrete façade, which will eventually turn a blue-green colour as the phosphates from the copper stain the surface. The material subtly references the copper domes of many of Dublin’s public buildings.

De Paor says that he has consciously made a public building with no interior, but that it creates an activity around it that can be called civic. “The building is accessed on three sides,” he says, “and you get partial glimpses into this highly manipulated interior full of machines – the secret workings of the city. It encourages people just walking around it in that quizzical way.” At night, light from the high-level clerestory window and steam emerging from a grille provide clues to the inner life of the building.

Internally the building is split programmatically with a triangular-shaped space for the parks department, and the rest of the building accommodating monitoring equipment for the underground pumps and a crane for maintenance.

The pumping station is the first phase in a strategy for Clantarf that will eventually take in the landscaping of the riverside, removing city centre car parking, and reworking street furniture. Funding is not yet in place for the next phase, which will be a new landscape with a 250m bund stretching along the seaside.

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