Deaton Lysaght Architects restored and rehabilitated Thurles Courthouse for re-use as a modern courthouse. Their work was short-listed for the 2009 RIAI Awards for best accessible building and was exhibited.
The site of the Courthouse at "Pudding Lane" was given by the second Earl of Landuff in 1819 and the building was erected in 1828 under the directions of the Grand Jury of the County. The form of the building is the classic market house plan with open arcades on three sides, which would normally be surmounted by the courtroom on an upper floor. The courtroom is at ground floor level however.
This and the dissonance between the fenestration of the interior and the exterior of the courtroom and the addition of the internal bowed end in the courtroom would suggest an alteration of the original building plan. It is thought likely that this alteration took place during or shortly after the construction of the building described in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of 1837: "The sessions house is a neat modern building".
The courthouse did not have an entrance hall, so we placed one within the very long courtroom. The partition to the inserted entrance hall is clad on the courtroom side with specially designed hardwood acoustic panels to match the furniture. All wood was from sustainable sources. The arcade to the front was re-opened and fitted with frameless glass. Extensive acoustic design was employed to ensure adequate sound proofing and sound quality in the courthouse.
The flanking wings (extended forward in 1960s) were cut back to re-establish the dominance of the central block. The limestone facade was conserved and repaired. We repaired the torching to the underside of the slates rather than re-slating, thus conserving all the slates. All parapets were leaded and walls were re-rendered using lime harling.
The architects have provided clear and controlled circulation routes within the building together with logical and useful congregation areas. The office extension to the rear is a two-storey over basement block linked to the building by way of a double height atrium. It is clad in pre-patinated copper and white stucco. A new stepped plaza re-integrates the courthouse into the town plan and provides a congregating area. Level access is provided at all entrances.
According to the client, the architect “has achieved a modern, bright and accessible complex on a very tight site while at the same time enhancing and restoring a protected structure for its continued use as a courthouse within the community, which will meet court requirements well into the future.” He also remarked on one innovative feature of the main court, “the rising witness box, which provides access for disabled witnesses and can also serve as a platform lift to provide access for a disabled court clerk”.