The John’s Hall project is a 30-year commitment by the IHS to the town of Birr, beginning with the restoration of a set of historic buildings in Birr, County Offaly, as an educational and community resource. Our ambition is to establish a third level teaching and research institute in the town, focussed on our natural, built and community heritage. While predominantly teaching in the fields of environmental science, landscape studies and biodiversity & conservation the school’s curriculum will also extend into cultural heritage program and ‘service’ based projects. The venture has the capacity to attract third level students to Birr from all over the world – as well as acting as a teaching hub for Irish students, adult education, vocational training and, potentially, link in with the town’s primary and secondary education systems. Crucially, the building is also intended to act as a hub for several local community groups with an interest in rural development and the above themes, which will see full use of the site in time – something that has been desired by the local community for a considerable time.
This project is centred on the restoration of the old Town Council offices and ancillary buildings. The roof of the offices had been compromised, with the building in danger of dereliction and collapse in 2019. The project will see the repair of the building – a potential eye sore in the town – for use as a microscope laboratory, tutorial rooms, classrooms, welfare space, community ‘hot-desks’ and offices. In November 2019 a 30-year lease was finalised with Offaly County Council for the ‘Town Council Offices’ and adjacent outbuildings. The lease included provision for access to the main John’s Hall building for use as a lecturing and exhibition space, with significant scope to develop this iconic building as a touristic space in future years