The Four Courts, Dublin
Architect: James Gandon (1786-1802)
Photograph: Unidentified artist (1880s)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
From the late 1760s onwards, there was a series of initiatives to enhance Dublin with suitably grand public buildings. Of these, the Four Courts (1786-1802), designed by James Gandon is one of the finest, with its great Neo-classical bulk dominating the River Liffey.
Gandon (1742-1823) was an English-born architect who made his career in Ireland. He possessed both an awareness of contemporary French Neo-classical theories that he learned from his master Sir William Chambers and a willingness to learn from previous great dome builders, in particular Christopher Wren and his St Paul’s Cathedral. Gandon combined the solid stone drum of St Paul’s with the dome of the Pantheon in Rome. The result was a building of Roman grandeur in the heart of eighteenth-century Dublin.
Gandon loved domes, seeking to incorporate them in several designs for public buildings, including Dublin’s Custom House (1781-1791). Together with The Four Courts these two domes provided the most prominent features of the Dublin skyline until they were diminished by dreary late twentieth-century office blocks.