Iveagh Play Centre

Iveagh Play Centre, McDonnell and Reid, 1911 IAA 98/41


McDonnell and Reid won the 1911 architectural competition to design a new ‘Play Centre’ for the Iveagh Trust and . The building, the Irish Builder noted, would provide ‘class rooms, gymnasium, two assembly halls, refreshment and distribution department, lavatories etc.’ and would be ‘a novel one so far as Dublin is concerned’ (Irish Builder, 27 May 1911, p. 353). Very much a product of Victorian thinking on social responsibility and philanthropy, the creation of the Play Centre was informed by the philosophy of Walter Besant (1836-1901) in particular. The poor, Besant held, should have the same opportunities as the rich for exposure to education and enlightening entertainment, and if so exposed the tensions between rich and poor would be much reduced. The Play Centre would thus be a ‘people’s palace’, an ‘intellectual and social centre enriching the lives of the poor’ (The Iveagh Trust, F.H.A. Aalen, Dublin, 1990, p. 50). Built from 1912 by McLaughlin & Harvey at a cost of £35,000, the Play Centre is, according to the Buildings of Ireland, ‘the most ambitious school building in the city’ (Buildings of Ireland; Dublin, Christine Casey, 2000, p. 654). When it opened in 1915, 900 children were using the building daily.