The Parliament House (The Bank of Ireland), Dublin
Architects: Edward Lovett Pearce (1729 onwards), James Gandon (c. 1780s)
Photograph: Unidentified artist (1870s)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Work on Parliament House began in 1729 to the designs of the amateur architect Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (1699?-1733). At a time when English and Scottish MPs were housed in makeshift accomodation in Westminster, Parliament House was magnificently impressive.
Loosely based on Andrea Palladio’s proposed reconstruction of the colonnaded terraces of the Roman temple at Palestrina, the entrance front is a powerful and vigorous design. The interior plan, of an octagonal Commons chamber (destroyed) and a rectangular House of Lords with an apse, was clever and rational. The building was later extended to both the east and west behind curved walls and a great portico added round the corner by James Gandon in the 1780s. Parliament House formed a dramatic focal point in the city opposite Trinity College, another great eighteenth-century layout.
When the Irish Parliament was abolished in 1801, the building was sympathetically converted to house the Bank of Ireland. This photograph, dating from the 1870s, reveals the building’s serenity. By now though times have changed, with the wide streets including the sweeping curves of tram lines. Only a single horse and carriage intrude on this peculiarly quiet scene prompting the question ‘when exactly was this photo taken?’