INTERNATIONAL architects will be asked to design the new Abbey Theatre on George's Dock in Dublin city centre.
Arts Minister Seamus Brennan yesterday appointed a 13-member jury which will choose the final design after an international architectural competition begins this month. This means the national theatres's move from its current home on Lower Abbey Street will finally go ahead.
Yesterday the minister said the new Abbey on the George's Dock site would be the "centrepiece of a new wave of cultural, social and economic amenities" in the Docklands.
"I am confident that when the international design competition is complete we will have a world-class design for a new iconic landmark building for the city," he said.
"It must be a design that reflects and embraces the great surges in creativity and culture we are witnessing in the Ireland of the 21st century, while at the same time acknowledging the historic significance of the Abbey to Irish life over more than a century."
When completed the new waterside building would give Dublin an "iconic and dynamic structure" which would reflect the city's position as a "global capital of culture and creativity".
The new Abbey will be over 24,000 square metres and include three theatres, rehearsal spaces, shops, bars, restaurants, gallery and exhibition facilities and a cinema and lecture hall.
Currently the national theatre has 632 seats across its two auditoria -- the Abbey and the Peacock -- but the new building will provide space for 1,000 seats across three auditoria. Each theatre will have its own foyer, auditorium, stage, dressing rooms and technical control rooms.The building will be financed under a public, private partnership deal, meaning the private sector will pay for construction. The cost of the new theatre is not yet known.
Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail, who sits on the jury, said it would provide "world-class" theatre space.
"The facilities it will boast, such as three new theatres, state -of-the-art production resources, proper back-stage services and enhanced rehearsal space, will serve and support the best of Irish and international theatre while providing Ireland's present-day and future theatre audiences Irish audiences with a thrilling, qualitative experience," he said.
Judge Bryan McMahon, chairman of the Abbey Theatre board, who is also a jury member, said a jury would ensure that an "exceptional design, representative of a national theatre in the 21st century", would be delivered.
The new theatre is among a range of new buildings for the Docklands, including a National Convention Centre, the Grand Canal Theatre, the CHQ building, the Point Village and the U2 Tower.
Other jury members include Sean Benton, chairman of the OPW; former Dublin City architect Jim Barrett; John McLoughlin, of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; Mels Crouwel, national architect of the Netherlands; and actress Fiona Shaw.