THE OLD EBLANA Theater will become a new training center for Bus Éireann staff, despite strong objections from the Arts Council over the potential loss of a cultural venue in Dublin.
Dublin City Council has granted Bus Éireann planning permission to go ahead with its plans to make major changes to Dublin Central Bus Station in Busáras, including changes to the Eblana Theatre, which is located in the basement of the building.
The proposed change of use of the facilities to a training center is part of Bus Éireann’s plans to move its headquarters from its current location in Broadstone to Busáras.
City council planners requested more information from Bus Éireann about the justification for the loss of an existing theater space, as planning policy requires that the cultural and artistic use of buildings in established cultural quarters be protected to the extent possible. possible.
In response, the company said that the theater had not been accessible to the public or CIÉ staff for almost 30 years and that public awareness of its existence had decreased during that time.
However, Bus Éireann recognized that it retained a value of curiosity even in its state of neglect by those who knew the theater.
It said that the space, when converted into a training center, would maintain its original proportions, ensuring that the change in use would be reversible, while the company stated that the space could be used occasionally for cultural uses, such as shows and exhibitions.
Bus Éireann said broader changes to the iconic Michael Scott-designed building would allow full use of the public esplanade in Busáras for arts and cultural events.
The company said it planned to use part of the space to display corporate history and memorabilia, including CIÉ’s historic posters and photographs.
The city council imposed a condition for the granting of the building permit that requires Bus Éireann to retain the original luminaires on the roof of the theater and ensure that the integrity of the theater space is respected and maintained.
It also requires the state bus company to place all five rows of seats on the Eblana in secure storage and ensure that all plays within the theater space are reversible.
Council planners commented that they said the loss of the Eblana Theater as a small, intimate performance venue was “regrettable”.
However, they said they had no objection to the plans as the reforms inside Busáras are reversible.
The Arts Council had opposed the Bus Éireann plans out of concern that the proposed changes would result in the permanent loss of the original use and architectural character of the Eblana Theatre, which has been closed since 1995.
Arts Council director Maureen Kennelly said the proposed development “does not take sufficient account of the building’s historical and cultural status and its place in Irish architectural culture”, although she acknowledged it was currently “in disrepair and out of use”. “. .”
He stated that some buildings had “value and meaning to society beyond their function or economic value”.
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The Arts Council highlighted that Busáras is listed as an international category building by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Kennelly asserted that Busáras already had “a history of small inappropriate changes” so the current proposal could have a cumulative negative impact on a single building.
Busáras, also known as Áras Mhic Dhiarmada, which also houses the Department of Labor Affairs and Social Protection, was built between 1947 and 1953 and is one of the first major works of modern architecture in post-war Europe and one of the first modern. buildings to integrate art and architecture with its interior containing mosaics by artist Patrick Scott.
Michael Scott’s vision for Busáras as a major civic building included plans for a top-floor nightclub, as well as a newsreel cinema, a nursery school, and a barbershop.
A conservation report noted that the Eblana Theater was effectively encased in a “time capsule” with unopened soda bottles in the bar area and a poster for Lee Dunne’s play “Goodbye to the Hill” at the entrance.
According to the latest plans, the current baggage storage in the basements of Busáras will be converted into a gym and changing rooms for staff, while there will be new offices for staff on the ground floor and the mezzanine floor will function as the new central office of Bus. Eireann.