THE Office of Public Works was told that three historic structures in the Botanic Gardens were in danger of collapse and that loose glass panels in the buildings were a safety hazard to the public and staff.
The Aquatic House – a complex of three buildings in the Dublin gardens – had “significantly deteriorated” because of weather ingress, timber decay, and rusting ironwork.
An internal report said the dismal condition of the complex was in “direct contravention” of the OPW’s legal responsibilities to safeguard the buildings.
Last month, the OPW announced a €250,000 emergency project to stabilise the Aquatic House and remove all vegetation from the three structures.
They said they hoped eventually to “faithfully restore” the buildings and reopen them to the public subject to the availability of funding.
The Aquatic House complex dates from 1854 and was, according to an internal OPW report, considered to be of “significant architectural and historical importance”.
Despite that, the three buildings – the Cactus House, the Lily House, and the Fern House – were allowed to fall into such disrepair that they had to be closed to the public in 2007.
They had been surrounded by hoarding and protective netting because of incidents of “blown out glass”. This had been a risk to members of the public and the buildings continued to deteriorate.
A recent survey of the complex warned: “The resulting effect of this accelerated deterioration is that the complex is now in danger of significant further loss of fabric and/or potential collapse should immediate emergency works not be progressed.”
It also said that there was a legal responsibility on the Office of Public Works to take care of protected structures.
The survey found “extensive corrosion” to wrought iron beams that supported the roof structure of the Cactus House. Glass panels from the roof were also missing while others were loose. Inside, the Cactus House was over-run with Buddleia which was damaging walls, glazing, and timber panelling.
The Aquatic House was in even worse condition with the roof having shifted. “There is a major concern that adverse loading (wind or snow) could cause a partial collapse in this area,” the survey said.
An OPW spokesman said Phase 1 works have commenced on the Aquatic House complex which was the “first step” towards a fuller restoration in the years ahead.
He said: “Total project cost for Phase 1 will be €250,000, including VAT and professional fees. In Phase 2, which will be subject to the availability of funding, the OPW plans to faithfully restore the Cactus House and the Water Lily House and provide a new, redeveloped Fern House.”