National Gallery of Ireland review – Dublin’s treasures breathe at last

By Rowan Moore

Passing decades left this temple of culture heavily congested. Now a €30m revamp has let in some air and light…

I keep hearing about the plant rooms. The director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Sean Rainbird, is particularly keen for me to view these concrete vaults, never to be seen by the general public, containing the ducts and machinery that will keep the galleries at the right temperature and humidity to preserve the treasures on show.

There’s a reason for his enthusiasm: the gallery is the only cultural institution to have achieved a major capital project since recession hit the country, and about a third of the €30m construction budget of its just finished renewal has gone on the mechanics, electricals and fire precautions that enable the gallery to function.

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