Courthouse Proposal

For our presentation for the Institutions module, Myself and Mariela Martin proposed to locate a sculpture by renowned American artist Dale Chihuly in the Cork Courthouse. These were some of our notes from our presentation.


We would like to propose to the City of Cork and the Department of Justice the commission a piece of work by artist Dale Chihuly, a sculptural glass blower, to be displayed in the main entry way of the Cork Courthouse. This artwork is intended to be suspended from the interior of the dome as a permanent fixture to the building.

Focus for Commission:

After several visits to the courthouse, Dominic and I agreed that a work of art was needed for this public building that is regarded as one of the most important buildings in Cork County. While being rich in social history, the courthouse is one of the finest examples of Neo-Classical architecture in Ireland. The building itself is a national asset.




Currently very few artworks in courthouse

Apart from a 2005 installation by artist Maud Cotter at the back of the building there is no evidence of contemporary art in the public areas of the courthouse. In the main entrance hall there is an oil painting dating from the period of the construction of the present building, but this is obscured behind thick glass and is barely viewable.

Bring art into a daily routine where one may be able to contemplate and reflect while engaging with contemporary works

Visitors to the courthouse, whether tourists, employees or those attending court sessions would have their experience of the building enhanced by being able to engage with this artwork.

Entrance hall to be viewed differently, include the contemporary world in a 19th century building that is used as a public office

The courthouse is a late 19th century building, and from that time has fulfilled a very important and serious public role. It is also, however, a building that has a daily involvement in many people’s lives today, and there should be a place for appropriate contemporary artwork within it.

Contribute to the distinctiveness of the courthouse

Cork City Council places great emphasis on the perceived status of the courthouse as a “living antique and thus as an object of economic value.” The location within it of an artwork by a major international artist would serve to enhance that value.

In view of the business of the courthouse and the weight of authority, the proposed work of art would contribute to a feeling of appeasement

The public interacts with the courthouse on many different levels but for people who are involved in attending court cases the experience may not be a pleasant one. The presence of an inspiring and aesthetically pleasing artwork in the building might contribute in some small way to relieving this unease.



Chandelier (suspended sculpture)

When viewing the main entrance hall and its various vantage points, we felt the best location aesthetically for a sculptural piece would be to suspend it centrally between the dome and the circular mosaic on the floor below. Chihuly has produced a number of “chandeliers” which we feel would work really well in this context.

Bigger is not better

Scale would be an important consideration, both in terms of keeping costs down and being respectful to the scale of the main entrance hall.

Allows itself to be discovered

Although this sculpture would be visually impressive, it should also not be seen to be overly ostentatious or compete with the architecture and decor of the existing building. It would be hung under the recently refurbished dome but at a height where it wouldn’t obscure it. Having seen the piece from ground level viewers would be able to see it at a closer distance and from various angles from the first-floor balcony, which extends around three sides of the entrance hall.

Engages with and is appropriate to the Neo-Classical architecture

In the 1990s when the restoration of the interior and exterior of the current building was being planned, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the importance of historic techniques of construction and authenticity of materials used. Although this would be a contemporary piece, the techniques used in its construction have a long historical heritage and the materials an elemental quality and purity which are consistent with these ideals. Also during the interior refurbishment the architects were careful to exploit natural light to allow it to penetrate deep into the lower levels of the building. There would be many natural light sources reflecting though and from the sculpture from above and all around, enlivening the space.


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