Johnstown Castle Estate was bequeathed to the Irish State by Captain M. V. Larkin in 1945. The estate has since served as an important agricultural science research centre incorporating both laboratory analysis and field experiments. There are several buildings located on the estate including the original Castle building dating from the 1500’s which has served for many decades as Teagasc’s administrative headquarters.
In recent years Teagasc decided that the continued use of the castle as administrative offices was no longer viable because the ongoing maintenance of such an important heritage building was becoming an unnecessary burden. Furthermore, the separation of their research and administrative offices was an impractical arrangement. It was decided therefore that it would be more appropriate to handover the castle to the conservation expertise of the OPW and to construct new administrative offices connected to the nearby existing laboratory buildings.
Teagasc’s brief required the extension to provide research and administrative offices, meeting rooms and canteen facilities as well as a new reception and public area which would present a fresh contemporary facade for Teagasc’s research centre.
The new accommodation is contained in a single storey extension connected to the existing laboratory building at a position pre-determined during earlier refurbishment works. The extension expands from the existing building in a radial plan comprising of two parts. A canteen is positioned at the interface between new and old to create a social hub where the administration and research activities interact. The radial plan allows the building respond to limitations on height and footprint imposed by the adjacent Met Eireann station. The expanding fan shaped plan facilitates the varied room sizes required by the building brief and places the largest volumes at the extremity of the plan, presenting a scale appropriate for the building’s public face.
The building’s form evolved as a response to the abstract forms created by the intersecting layers and profiles of the local landscape. The new building is composed of two volumes: a curved copper clad segment containing research offices and a fibre cement clad funnel containing meeting rooms and larger offices. The façade of the main meeting room presents a dramatic public face with floor to ceiling glazing, and solar screening provided by bronze-clad vertical fins.
Fibre-cement panels and untreated copper were chosen as the materials for the building exterior to express the contrast between the two building volumes and also to reflect the scientific analysis taking place within a controlled laboratory environment. The surface texture and colour of the copper weathers and reacts over time to environmental exposure contrasting with the stable, inert surface of the fibre cement panels.