Dubbed by Micheal O’Leary as something akin to the Taj Mahal in India, the doors of Dublin Airport’s swanky Terminal Two were thrown open in January 2010 at perhaps the most inopportune time imaginable. Economic apocalypse meant that the much maligned Terminal One was no longer wall-to-wall with Celtic Tiger Cubs and issues of congested arrivals suites and check in desks were no longer quite the issue they once were.
By the time T2, designed by London-based aviation experts Pascall and Watson, was complete, the deeply contested structure boasted the biggest room in Ireland in the check-in hall and RTE news, ever on point, heralded it as a ’21st century gateway to a New Ireland’. Falling tourism figures on the other-hand, led Michael O’ Leary to wear a funeral suit and escort a tricolour draped coffin into work in the Ryanair headquarters; all in all a pretty average day in the capital.
With a workforce of 2,600 on site on any given day and apparently not a county unrepresented in its construction, the build was like conducting a feat of engineering open heart surgery, apparently. Necessity had it that T1 would operate as normal; tight spatial and budgetary constraints left no room for error and the project was by all accounts meticulously handled. Yet T2 was received as an iconic and unrivalled white elephant and with a €600m price tag, a dismal drain of the country’s finances.
The creation of Terminal Two set new standards for sustainable terminal design and made Dublin airport one of the most energy efficient airports in the world. Incredibly, the original airport, built in 1940 and designed by Desmond Fitzgerald, considered one of the Republic’s most important pre-war buildings in the International Style – was heated by turf.
Terminal Two is the largest public building ever constructed in Ireland and despite the naysayers, despite its initial reception as the most visual representation of, what’s the right word, stupidity, and despite people claiming it as a meeting room for the IMF, T2 proved successful at least on the international stage. With Aer Lingus as the anchor carrier it’s probably unsurprising that a certain someone piped up. The interior is supposed to summon the Irish landscape, all grey slate and green hues, granite and natural wood surfaces while the abundance of natural light banishes the wild fluorescence of T1 to memory.
Dublin airport had a previous, well-earned and hard fought reputation for being a place of misery, stuck in the 1970s and not really the venue to welcome the great and good in to the country; it provided a pretty bleak parting image for those on the way out, too. There’s some pretty impressive but fundamentally boring facts and figures about the new build (it houses the longest conveyor belt in the State, for example) but it’s probably safe to say by now that what was an outrageous gamble on behalf of the government could now be viewed as something of foresight. Dublin couldn’t have a silicon dock without a Terminal Two and if one arrives in the night time, is tired and has drowsy eyes, it can even look like something out of Bladerunner.
Words: Jeanette Farrell