Galvanizing the Glucksman

Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork

The Lewis Glucksman gallery is a showcase for UCC’s art, ethnographic and scientific collections and the personal initiative of UCC president, Gerry Wrixon. A wooded limestone precipice overlooking the Lee’s meandering south channel dominates the campus, once the site of an ancient Augustinian abbey. Perched on the cliff top is a three-sided, south-facing Gothic quad of white limestone quarried from the escarpment.

Mindful of the heritage and the natural beauty of the Leeside setting, architects O’Donnell and Tuomey have created a building that has been has been described as “a brilliant diamond set in the city’s tiara”. The base of the building is a limestone clad concrete structure with galvanised steel windows cut into the solid plinth. Timber clad gallery spaces are supported on a concrete ‘table’ structure cantilevered from columns to protect the root structure of the surrounding trees. Granite aggregate concrete was sandblasted to reveal reflective mica in the surface of the structure. Angelim de Campagna, a sustainably sourced hardwood, is bent around the external envelope of the gallery structure with galvanised steel bay windows peeling out from the wall surface. Services are routed in the thickness of the walls and floors to minimise extraneous visual intrusion in the gallery spaces. The intention is that the natural finish materials (sawn limestone, galvanised steel and untreated timber) should age and weather into the landscape.

Architect Jitka Leonard joined the Glucksman project soon after it started and explains how well hot dip galvanized steel works well with untreated timber. “Galvanizing is a natural finish for steel. We didn’t want a secondary finish like paint; we chose it because as the timber weathers over time the hot dip galvanized panels also change. They work well, both weathering together.”

The Galco Factor

“We were a little bit worried about the quality of the galvanizing because it’s not always a perfect finish. But Ed Byrne, Sales & Marketing Manager with Galco, was really encouraging and brought out a big sample of galvanized sheeting which looked very good and was exactly what we wanted to achieve. It was a perfect piece.” Detailed discussions between architect and galvanizer resulted in the optimum selection of steel thickness, panel size and quality control procedures to ensure the desired results were achieved.

An exercise in quality control

Jitka inspected literally hundreds of pieces individually approving only the best quality material. “Galco was aware that they would have to re-do a piece if it wasn’t approved so they put even more care into it. We were happy with the galvanizing. Galco galvanized everything in Dublin. If a piece wasn’t up to scratch it could be remedied before being shipped to Cork. Each piece was checked, sometimes twice. It was time-consuming but it saved time in the end for the team in Cork.”

Like so many architects, O’Donnell & Tuomey appreciate the sustainability of hot dip galvanizing as well as its softer finish compared with stainless steel. It is more cost-effective than stainless steel too. Jitka has the last word. “If we see something we like or think is the right finish for a project we’re working on, we’ll use it, or remember it and use it on future projects.”

Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, architects of the Lewis Glucksman established their partnership in 1988. The practice has developed an international reputation for cultural and educational buildings including the Irish Film Centre, Ranelagh Multi Denominational School and the Furniture College, Letterfrack. Mark Irving’s book ‘1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die’, published in October 2007 ranks the Lewis Glucksman Gallery as one of the world’s greatest achievements in architecture.


RIAI Best Public Building in Ireland 2005
RIBA 2005 award winner European category
2005 Project of the Year, UK Buildings Services Awards
2006 Hot Dip Galvanizing Awards overall winner


jitka leonard 2
Glucksman (3)











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