The National Horse Sport Arena (NHSA) is a multi-use, Olympic-standard, equestrian training facility based within the protected garden walls of Abbotstown House: an early nineteenth century country estate in north Dublin. Over time, the estate, and the walled garden in particular, had fallen into considerable disrepair, primarily through a lack of use. Sport Ireland was determined to breathe new life into these grounds by introducing a fresh and innovative focal point, in this case, an aptly suitable horse arena within the protected walls formerly used as the estate’s gardens.
The introduction of an equestrian facility in particular offered real recognition to this country estate’s former glory days. The presence of this new and innovative facility at this specific location feels completely at ease with both the traditions and physical surrounds of this old demesne setting. The arena is designed as both a High Performance Training Centre for equestrian sport as well as being a facility that can be rented by the general public. The latter has meant that the grandeur of this former country estate is now open to a large number, who up until now, would not have known of its existence.
As part of the works requirements, extensive demolition works were required within the proximity of the existing walls while being careful to maintain the character and preserve the integrity of the setting for the new facilities. TOBIN Consulting Engineers specified the performance requirements for each element of works to be undertaken including the subgrade, drainage / porosity to be maintained, and the specialist sand surfacing to provide an international five-star standard equestrian arena upon which Ireland’s elite can now train. The uses of the arena includes:
- Show Jumping
- Carriage Driving
- Pony Club
- Riding Club training
As part of the works, the stable yard area was also upgraded to provide dedicated vehicular access and parking for horse boxes as well as a paddock area. The access road between the horse arena and the stable yard was also upgraded to provide a fine gravel finish suitable for horses. Following a structural condition survey of the walled garden, it was noted that sections of the wall were deteriorating and posed a significant safety risk to visitors and users of the facility. As such, TOBIN procured the services of a specialist conservation contractor to undertake the necessary repair works to the wall.
TOBIN as the Lead Consultant of the multi-disciplinary team (Civil & Structural, Surveys, Environmental, Quantity Surveying, Mechanical & Electrical, PSDP) acted as E.R. providing full PSDP services throughout the project.
The NHSA project has provided an innovative solution in bringing a forgotten former country estate back into national prominence. For our part, TOBIN was intrinsically pragmatic in our approach to this project; we operated within a tight budget in completing the conservation works to the protected walls through a self-made prioritised items list. The introduction of a horse arena specifically pays genuine homage to the former traditions of this estate’s grounds. The walls, now restored, have been brought back to life and have been given a real function within a contemporary commercial setting. Crucially, this reality ultimately secures their future.