Kilkenny architect’s work is pride of place in leading Dublin museum

Brian Keyes


Brian Keyes

Kilkenny architect’s work is pride of place in leading Dublin museum

The model on display in Henrietta House

A Kilkenny architect has contributed a veritable ‘masterpiece’ to our capital’s newest, and now most popular museum.

‘14 Henrietta Street’ in the heart of inner city Dublin, depicts the glory of these great, Georgian buildings and how they developed in to the tenements in the 1880’s. And situated in the middle of the building, in a centre room, is a model of how the property was utilised those decades ago, by architect Ronan Costelloe.

Ronan is the son of Kieran and Eilis Costelloe. Kieran would be no stranger to woodwork or construction - a furniture maker and antique restorer now enjoying his retirement and Ronan’s mother Eilis was the former principal of Scoil Bhríde Lisdowney.
“As part of the ‘14 Henrietta Street’ project, I was commissioned by Dublin City Council Heritage Office to design and build a scale model of No. 14 when the House was in use as a tenement. Charles Duggan, Dublin City Council Heritage Officer and Dr. Ellen Rowley, Project Curator, came up with the idea to depict No.14 in this manner,” said Ronan, who immediately accepted the challenge.

The models were put together at the Costelloe home in Clontubrid, Lisdowney.“I work as an architect in Dublin, but the model construction was in my father Kieran’s workshop in Clontubrid. With his experience and expertise of working with old furniture I was able to take and heed his advice throughout the entire design and build process,” added Ronan, who remarked that he took over not just the workshop, but his parent’s home as well, with pieces of the model as it began to take shape.
Kieran offered priceless support, and proved to be an essential mentor for Ronan with this project.
The large mahogany model of 14 Henrietta Street, built to a scale of 1:15, depicts the house fully subdivided into 19 tenement flats of 1, 3 and 4 rooms over its five floors. Its sides and rear are glazed to allow clear views of the partitioned rooms, the surviving 18th century plasterwork and joinery which has absolutely wowed visitors.
As the model began to take shape, in its various pieces, it had to be created piece by piece and then transported to Dublin, before being assembled on site.

“To begin the design process a set of concept drawings were prepared based on original survey information to agree the size and style of the model. These drawings were developed to become a fabrication set used to construct the model and as the guide for the laser-cutting and machining work processes,” said Ronan who revealed the detail of the build including 18 laser cut sash windows, mahogany slates and chimney stacks with turned pots, mouldings made from beech and poplar to create the cornices, Basswood was used for internal panelling.
And the exterior itself was comprised of an edge-banded, birch plywood substructure for floors and walls, with an over-veneered mahogany façade depicting the brick work.
The attention to detail was not just in construction, but also the finishing touches.
“Examples of wallpaper and linoleum which were found in the house were printed and applied in most rooms with paint types such as Reckitt’s blue and Raddle red used in the hallway and stairs,” said Ronan.
A network of LED lights was also incorporated, showing clear views of the rooms and its contents, including its purpose. The model is raised on a period mahogany plinth with bracket feet in a Georgian style which is inspired by the dramatic decorative elements of the original house.

The model was French-polished, the intention being that it would stand like a piece of antique furniture in a period setting and that it proudly does - attracting hundreds of visitors every week who look on in wonder at how over 100 men, women and children once lived in this five storey dwelling.

Pictured above are the assembly team - Left - Ronan Costelloe, Francis Cleere, Francis Sheppard, Kieran Costelloe and Andy Hanhauser Picture: Mark Halpin

No.14 Henrietta Street was built by Luke Gardiner from 1748 and first lived in by General Richard Lord Viscount Molesworth of Swords with his wife Lady Mary Molesworth and their growing family. The house was converted to tenements in 1877 and gradually filled up with families so that by 1911, seventeen families occupied the house. No.14 is now open as a museum telling the story of its Georgian origins and tenement legacy: