The 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, is, perhaps, Ireland’s foremost Classical building. But its perfect balance and symmetry hides many surprises .. it is the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), the entrance to which is announced by a fabulous giant sculpture of a hare banging a drum.
The hospital was designed by William Robinson for the Duke of Ormonde in 1684, as a home for retired soldiers – a function it performed for 250 years. It has French influences, being inspired by Louis XIV’s home for retired soldiers, Les Invalides, and predates the Royal Hospital Chelsea by two years.
In the 20thC it fell into disrepair until restored by the State in 1984, its 300th Anniversary, and became the home of IMMA in 1991. It is now surrounded by avenues and ancient chestnut trees, dotted with sculptures from IMMA’s collection.
Below the north terrace, formerly the Master’s Garden, lies the stunning formal gardens, the main axes lined with pleached limes,
and focal points created by the garden house, statuary and central fountain.
The garden today is not an historical reconstruction of what may have existed here but rather a re-creation in the spirit of a Formal garden of the 17th and 18th centuries, as befitting the classical buildings it fronts.
The box-hedged walks lead on, past urns and statues to the perimeter stone walls, heavily clothed in wisteria in early summer
The scent of the white, lavender and purple wisteria is overwhelming
Entrance to the garden is free and office workers eat their sandwiches on the scattered benches amidst the statues and box-hedged walkways.
The juxtaposition of modern sculpture and formality works well; here the 8 Limestone monoliths by Ulrich Rückriem overlook the formal garden, almost echoing the solidity of the yew topiary below.
The view from above outlines the structure created by the parterres and topiary.
This is Edward Delaney’s “Eve with Apple” …
… truly an Eve in a garden of Eden!