Medieval Museum

Location:Viking Triangle, Waterford
Client:Waterford City Council
Architect:Waterford City Council Architects

Tom O’Brien Construction were delighted to be selected by Waterford City Council to construct the high-profile Medieval Museum in Waterford City following a competitive tendering procedure and qualitative suitability assessment.

The museum has become a new architectural landmark and major visitor destination in Ireland’s South East. It is located in the oldest part of Waterford City and its vibrant cultural heart, known as The Viking Triangle.

The Museum is Ireland’s only purpose-built medieval museum and the only building on the island to incorporate two medieval chambers, the 13th-century Choristers’ Hall and the 15th-century Mayor’s Wine Vault. The Museum is a striking building where visitors are wowed as they go underneath the new building into centuries old vaults.

A diverse range of historic and protected buildings including the 18th Century Christ Church Cathedral constrain the site boundaries, so the structural solution to constructing this Museum was to form an in-situ concrete frame placed on raft foundations avoiding piling and potentially damaging adjacent historical buildings.

There are four levels to the building: two levels over ground floor consisting of exhibition galleries and audio visual theatres, the lower ground floor level is a multifunctional space and provides direct access to the Choristers’ Hall. The ground floor incorporates the entrance lobby, museum shop and reception.

The magnificent curved facade of the warm butter-coloured dundry facing stone building is designed in a semi-circular, streamlined form and draws in the visitor. The eye-catching 6-metre-high giant sculpture ‘The Waterford Lady’ on the gable was inspired by a tiny 13th century belt mount found in Waterford. The curved façade is like a big jigsaw – no two stones are the same, each one is unique and individual. More than a façade of a building, it is a large-scale architectural sculpture. The installation of this mesmerising curved façade and striking giant sculpture were painstakingly set out and overseen by Tom O’Brien Construction’s in-house site engineers and master craftsmen.

The façade is a long block of warm Dundry facing stone, for which a clay working model was converted to a parametric NURBS surface computer model that was driven off a spreadsheet allowing the curves to be adjusted for correct tangents with the processed output fed to cutting machines. Tom O’Brien Construction’s stonemasons then underwent the highly technical and complex process of installing these stone cuts to create the curved façade.

Approaching the Museum, a glass pavement provides views to the carefully restored Choristers’s Hall below and the façade overhangs framing a gateway portal into the building. The entire width of recessed glazing can be used as entry, with sliding glazed screens being used to open the ground floor to Cathedral Square.

The success of this design is due to the collaboration of people from diverse backgrounds: architects, artists, historians, engineers and Tom O’Brien Construction’s Master Craftsmen. This amalgamation of different disciplines within the design team, allowed achieving this unique result.

To date, the building has received seven national and international architecture & building awards, including at the Stone Federation of Great Britain Awards where the Medieval Museum won the top prize in the natural stone façade category. Beating off stiff competition from some really remarkable and stunning contemporary buildings the Medieval Museum was lauded for the sophistication of its design and the extremely high standard of the workmanship.



  • Best Public Building – LAMA Awards
  • Best Heritage Project – LAMA Awards
  • Best Public Building – RIAI Irish Architecture Awards
  • International Civic Trust Award
  • Best Natural Stone Façade – Stone Federation of Great Britain Awards
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