Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre: A Commercial Crystal Palace - Open House Dublin 2022
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Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre: A Commercial Crystal Palace

Upon entering the building, a shopper is struck by the natural light which illuminates the centre’s interior and needs no assistance from artificial lights except on the greyest days. The amount of plate glass integrated into the shopping centre’s design creates this pleasant visual experience. Construction originally began on Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in 1986. It was a design of James Toomey, and like many other shopping centres of the twentieth century, evokes the historical design of the Crystal Palace.

At the time of the Crystal Palace’s construction in 1851, plate glass was a recent invention, but it developed into an intrinsic aspect of the shopping centre design. The Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park, and is one of the most influential building designs of the nineteenth century. The design was continued in following universal exhibitions across the world, such as the New York Crystal Palace of America’s first world’s fair in 1853. Department
stores and shopping centres across the globe mimic the ethereal design, spread by the international attraction of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

The clear storefronts of almost 100 outlets of Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre appear open and inviting, taking advantage of their layered display to boast products from both local and international sources, much like the Crystal Palace during the Universal Exposition. The light filtering through glass-paned ceilings and windows highlight the centralised hierarchy of space; customers are guided by design to walk through the open space of the shopping centre and observe the options on either side. The shaped iron structure of the interior mimics the exterior’s layers truthfully, as the stacked windows denote levels of shopping and create a new placement of light for each floor.

The airiness of the structure is further emphasised by the arching glass-paned roof and the light colours of the iron-wrought shapes, set alongside painted whites and blues which create a naturally toned environment. The impression of an open air market is complete with benches, lamplights, and plants, making the shopping centre a destination by itself, rather than just a compilation of shops. In the same way the Crystal Palace drew large gatherings of the public, the Dublin shopping centre offers shelter and entertainment in a space which is easy to navigate with purpose or stroll through aimlessly. The Crystal Palace demonstrated a significant moment in pedestrian-friendly architecture, a feature mirrored well in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre.

Contributed by Kate Hirsch


Instagram @kate_hirsch_

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