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5 of Ireland's most underappreciated shopping centres, according to an architect

We spend a lot of time in shopping centres. But how often do we consider their design? We asked an architect for some highlights.

WHAT DO YOU think of when you think of an Irish shopping centre? Decadent food courts? Confusing labyrinths of escalators? Teenagers wandering around aimlessly? 

Yes, shopping centres hold a special place in the hearts of Irish people. But have you ever stopped to consider their architecture and design?

We consulted Michael Hayes, architect and editor of 2ha, to get the skinny on noteworthy shopping centres around Ireland deserving of greater appreciation. 

1. Blanchardstown Centre

“One of the first, and largest, of Ireland’s destination shopping centres, the Blanchardstown Centre has managed to maintain much of its ‘oh-so-90s’ features,” notes Hayes of the shopping centre, which first opened its doors in 1996.
Entrances signified by dynamic canopy structures lead to an internal avenue of expanding glazed vaults reminiscent of high Victorian railway architecture. Please don’t ever change, Blanchardstown.

2. The Square, Tallaght

The Square may not be known for its glamour, but it is a stone cold classic. 

“Kind of amazing simply because it involved building a glass pyramid in Tallaght, the mall really stands out for its central atrium,” says Hayes. “In a building type often designed to keep people moving and shopping in a linear direction, there’s something old-fashioned about a square, a gathering point, that allows for personal rest and public spectacle.”

Bonus points for those 2000s radio ads that we all still remember.

3. Briarhill Shopping Centre, Galway

67_171007PD019 Source: Paul Dillon Architects

67_171007PD003 Source: Paul Dillon Architects

First opened in 2007, this shopping centre located on the outskirts of Galway is a fine example of a suburban shopping centre.

“Situated in the dysfunctional landscape of stone walls, roundabouts, and general haphazardness that is the periphery of Galway City, Briarhill Shopping Centre is a rare example of an architecture with flair and intention applied to a typology so often overlooked,” says Hayes. “Designed by local practice, Paul Dillon Architects, strong forms belie an ambition and care that more of our suburbs deserve.”

Also home to the most beautiful KFC you will ever eat in.

4. Victoria Square, Belfast

Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, Victoria Square stands out from other shopping centres.

“Unlike the inward-facing approach of most shopping centres, Victoria Square is quite unique in that it sits within an existing network of city streets,” says Hayes.

“While it does raise questions regarding privatisation and public space – although to differing degrees, all shopping centres do – it still provides a three-tiered pedestrian route topped off with a glass dome and impressive views of Belfast beyond.”

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5. Blackrock Shopping Centre

While it is currently undergoing redevelopment, Hayes says Blackrock Shopping Centre was rather quaint and lovely in its original incarnation. 

“Not too long ago this place stood out for its small-scale and intimate atmosphere,” he says. “Centred around an external two-storey courtyard and supported by a pseudo-American-plantation house style, a walk through the centre could feel both domestic and exotic at the same time.” 

And a special mention goes to…

Stillorgan Shopping Centre

 Built in 1966, Stillorgan Shopping Centre was the first ever shopping centre built in Ireland. However, Hayes reckons it has lost its charm and tarnished its own legacy.  

“The Stillorgan Shopping Centre is the ‘Raging Bull’ of Irish shopping centres – the former champ who threw it all away,” he says. 

A series of poorly made design decisions have either removed or undermined much of what made Ireland’s first shopping centre unique. An example of how not to redevelop an historic property.

So now. 

Many thanks to Michael Hayes, architect and editor of 2ha, a magazine interested in the suburbs. 

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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