The Long Mile Works
Long Mile Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12 (beside Drimnagh Castle)
Last occupant: IMC Packaging
Previous occupant: Fox & Co. Bar suppliers
Architect: Robinson, Keeffe & Devane (1951-1953)
Over the past 20 years or so I have passed this building with a little lift of excitement, and each time made sure I marked out its exact whereabouts along the road in case I would come back one day and find that it had vanished. This can happen in places like the Long Mile Road. Thankfully it is still there, but only just and looking very sad. The building is now unoccupied and in a poor state of repair, though not beyond refurbishment.
When I noticed the Long Mile Works first, it was always the exception to the general run of buildings on the road. It was very well kept and formidable in its architectural presence. It is a very simple factory building with a front office piece and entrance hall and porch. At the rear is the factory floor with north light roof trusses. It is quintessentially ’50s modernist in its expression with the power of the front wall controlling its south facing elevation. Its simple and perfectly composed front façade made me fall for it initially.
So what is 1950s about it? The powerful front wall is finished out in a roughcast plaster with a cream finish which gives it an Irish feel. It is decorated at the higher level with a simple square smooth plaster motif. The roof overhangs the wall and also projects with a raking flange at either end. The thrust-out entrance hall and porch is made in a grand piano shaped plan and finished with a smooth tile in contrast with the front elevation. It is capped with a projecting flat roof and finished with steel windows so typical of the time. Inside, 20 years ago at least, it had a fully lined plywood-panelled entrance foyer. The offices behind the façade wall are expressed as a secondary order with their own small projecting head detail and beautiful blue tiled supporting panels at structure points along the façade. Naturally the windows are of fine galvanised steel. Even in its present state the building looks happy and contented with it nice blue panels.
All in all there is a lot to be loved about this simple and honest building. It reminds me that architects are more fundamentally related to artistic principles than, say for argument sake, the building regulations. We all start to create on a blank sheet and hope to end up with a composition such as The Long Mile Works.
Quilligan International Architects work in Ireland and the Middle East on RIAI Conservation projects, master planning, sustainability, urban studies, architecture and interior design. They are based in the ever changing market street, Camden Street. www.quilliganarchitects.ie
Words & Images: Paul Quilligan