I found out about it by listening to the podcast What do Builidngs Do All Day? Episode 6 Cosmoform an Architectural Podcast by Emmett Scanlon in which he was talking to the creators of the Zine Cormac Murray and Eamonn Hall.
The Building is Irelands’ Met Office HQ. Finished in 1979 it brought together the different Meteorological departments under one roof for the first time. The most striking thing about it is that it’s a truncated pyramid. Like a modern ziggurat it sits along a leafy brick Victorian suburb in Dublin.
Liam McCormick is a famous Irish Architect who never built outside of Ireland but who was particularly known for being a designer of a set of wonderful modernist Churches. He deserves a wider reputation outside Ireland for sure. But the Met Éireann is a departure for him as he did not often design non ecclesiastical buildings.
So Cosmform lays out a story of how this building came to be and how it came by its unusual appearance. The key inspiration was from a building by the Swiss Architect Justus Dahinden and his Ferrohaus which some ten years before Met Éireann was planned was built on the shores of Lake Zurich. It is also a truncated pyramid a mixed use building clad in core-ten for a steel firm.
Justus Dahinden was a notable Architect and also theorist about architecture. He called this shape Cosmform as he believed it conveyed a strong sense of primordeal power. Like the pyramids and Ziggurats littered across the globe built by many different cultures and often having a spiritual significance.
Liam McCormick appears to have taken the form and applied it to Met Éireann. There are also some programmatic concerns it solves neatly. The labs and reasearch teams needing the space at the bottom fill the biggest levels and the offices and broadcasting units higher up.
The form naturally brings people to look up and the idea of a simple form that could unify the program, a formal gesture to the skies and something a little more primordial is nice. But the masterstroke is to recognise all these elements and bring them together in one strong Architectural gesture.
I don’t want to just copy out the contents of the Zine though. I was stuck by a few things about it and reading the zine in conjunction with listening to the podcast.
The Zines essay is really distilled down to the architecture of the building, Cormac doesn’t talk much about the building but a lot about its architecture.
What do I mean? Architecture is not the buildings themselves but rather a comparison of buildings, their criteria, their meaning and their culture in the context of the building. It’s these things primarily the zine is concerned with.
It has one picture of the front of Met Éireann, one of Ferro-haus and one of The Temple of Kukulcan, Yucatan. The images are printed in silver so they are quite ethereal. The high graphic quality of the Zine is not the product of many good photographs then but the graphic design of the whole.
Also the essay does not dwell on the size of the ground floor or the structure used to hold the angled outer walls rather it distills the architectural links of the building and shows the connections with McCormicks shared architectural concerns in his churches and with Nature.
It’s a beautiful way to evoke a building, talking about it’s more fundamental, spirital connections without having to describe the building like a standard architectural monograph would. I wish there was more good architectural writing like this.
Listening to the podcast about it and the design of the zine only adds I think to this, taken together one relatively old and one relatively new form of meda have combined to give a lovely sketch of an underappreciated building.
Cladding – One Last Thing
One last thing I wanted to add was that McCormick originally wanted the building to be clad in welsh slate, but the Government stepped in and it was clad in Irish Limestone which failed in the nineties and was replaced with powder coated aluminium panels.
For the record I think that the original Slate idea would have suited the best, matching the slate of the roofs of the buildings around and glistening in the sunlight on a wet day something I think would have showed that this Cosmoform was a tribute to the nature it also watches.
The Dublin Enquirer has a nice article about the Zine and the building