The refurbishment of two of the three surviving buildings of Richmond Barracks is one of the state’s seven 2016 permanent reminder projects. It provides both an authentic historical visitor experience and a contemporary communal cultural and educational resource. The site has over 200 years of military, political and social history. The Gymnasium was the principal holding area for prisoners awaiting court martial in after the Easter Rising. After independence the barracks became a tenement known as Keogh Square. The barrack dormitory block was later converted into classrooms for St Michael’s School.
The design challenge was to cover a very diverse range of interpretive narratives for the site, whilst preserving the both the emotive ambience and the multipurpose usability of the spaces. Extensive community consultation and gathering of oral history was undertaken to ensure a balance between the important historical narrative and the site’s wealth of social history.
Wall panels and a memorial tapestry in the Gymnasium highlight 77 women court martialled here. The history of the site is displayed on the outside of an audiovisual pod. This is octagonal to reflect the roof lantern above. Inside, text and images accompany a range of witness voices relating events in 1916. The pod can be moved around to reconfigure the space for a wide range of temporary exhibits, social and cultural events.
A double classroom has been restored to its 1950’s appearance using items largely found in situ. A second contains dressed sets of: a barracks dormitory, 1920s tenement and 1960s Corporation flat. Another double classroom opens into the spacious new community garden. This is a café, seminar and exhibition space. Video tables relate the site’s social history. The glass panels in the corridor reflect the changing uses of the building with portraits of soldiers, past pupils and local residents.