The Helix is a building on the Dublin City University campus between Glasnevin and Whitehall on Dublin's Northside, originally planned to be called the Aula Maxima. Recently completed, in 2002, it is described as a "performance space" and holds concerts, university conferring ceremonies and national arts shows. In fact the Helix has three areas for live performances:
It was designed by Polish-born architects A & D Wejchert (Andrzej Wejchert & Danuta Kornaus-Wejchert) and is a stunning building containing elevations of contrasting glass and granite. Inside, the foyer – featuring inclined columns – is the main organising focal point in the building and is arranged over three levels with an interconnecting open void through which light spills from the roof. The void has a series of sweeping stairways, which twist, helix-like, to entice patrons towards the upper levels.
Aside from the breathtaking vista of The Helix building inside and out, the venue prides itself on the range of performing arts that it can stage. The seating layouts in each of the three venues and the ratio of audience to performance can be changed to allow alternative uses ranging from theatre, cinema, concerts, musicals, drama, dance, operatic performances and pop concerts to exhibitions, banquets, seminars, examinations, graduations, conferences and corporate hospitality.
For major events the foyer space can be linked with the atrium street in the adjoining Henry Grattan Building by means of a direct passage. The facility could potentially be used for separate entertainment use prior to major events.
The Helix has been host to world-class performances ranging from the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, The St. Petersburg Ballet, International Theatre and World Singers to hit west End Shows. The artistic programme at The Helix is bringing the very best in the world of performing arts, from the Irish Chamber Orchestra to the Russian State Opera and from Ireland’s national theatre companies to world touring companies.
The Helix has generated an impressive reputation for staging cutting edge and diverse theatre and music. It has welcomed some of the greatest orchestras from around the world, Opera singers such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Lesley Garrett and Bryn Terfel, theatre from the US, UK, South Africa, Vietnam and of course Ireland, (most notably the world premier of Roddy Doyle's 'The Woman Who Walked Into Doors'). Rock music has not been neglected and two legends tread the Helix boards in the forms of Van Morrison and Lou Reed. Jazz musicians such as the Wayne Shorter Group (with pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade) and Jan Garbarek Group (with Manu Katché), the Charles Lloyd quartet (with pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Cecil McBee) and Thimar (Anouar Brahem, John Surman and Dave Holland) also play in the venue. The Helix has also hosted concerts by bands, singers and musicians such as The Corrs, Aslan, Sinéad O'Connor, Chumbawamba, Suzanne Vega, Vonda Shepard, Deacon Blue, The Drifters, Declan O'Rourke, Brian Kennedy, James Galway, Ludovico Einaudi, Nigel Kennedy, Willard White, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Commitments, Smokie, Juliet Turner, Crystal Gayle, Dana, Lorna Luft, Ani DiFranco, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Errol Brown, Dean Friedman, Cara Dillon, Phil Coulter, Hal Ketchum, Eleanor McEvoy, Sharon Shannon, Sonny Knowles, Daniel O'Donnell, Foster & Allen, Don Baker, Jane McDonald, Lulu, Luka Bloom, Nick Lowe, Roger Whittaker, Tom Paxton, Tommy Emmanuel, Tommy Makem, Christie Hennessy, Dickie Rock and Jack L.
Amongst other things, in the past it was home to “The Dunphy Show” (TV3), the comedy TV show “The Panel” (RTÉ), “Rip Off Republic” (RTÉ) and the infamous “You're A Star” (RTÉ). The show Celtic Woman (PBS) was shot there in September 2004. Daniel O'Donnell's "Songs of Faith" was shot there in 2003. "The Des Bishop Work Experience" (2004) was also shot there. It is currently home to the National Chamber Choir of Ireland. The Helix has also hosted RTÉ Radio 1's leading arts programme, “Rattlebag”. Public audiences with controversial political figures such as George Galloway, film critics such as Barry Norman, broadcasting and Journalism figures such as Robert Fisk, John Sergeant, Clive James and Vincent Browne, satirists such as Mikhail Zhvanetsky and spiritual masters such as Sogyal Rinpoche have also been held in the venue. The Gallery has been used for art exhibitions and photojournalism exhibitions such as ‘The Devil Within Us’ by Jan Šibík Other large national and international events have been held in the helix, such as the NABBA world bodybuilding championships, RIBBF Championships, the FÍS National Film Awards and the Labour Party Conferences in 2006 and 2007
The Helix is marketed as suitable for national and international conferences as has ready road access to Dublin Airport and to the M50 motorway and the city centre.
"As the newest and most outstanding platform for the Arts in Ireland it is an international example of how Architecture can best serve the artistic aesthetic and cultural needs of a city and country." - Marie-Louise O'Donnell, Artistic Director and manager of The Space at The Helix.
The Helix was awarded the Opus Building of the Year Award in 2003.
The main auditorium, The Mahony Hall, can seat 1,260 over two floors. The Hall is named after Dr Mahony who is a long time supporter of the arts in Ireland.
It was designed for acoustic excellence and to accommodate a variety of functions such as orchestral performances, ballet, contemporary music, business conferences, exhibitions, gala banquets and awards ceremonies. The ground floor seating is retractable or can be removed to give a large flat floor. The hall was designed to be television camera friendly and sound reflective baffles over the stage incorporate all the required light and sound adjustable technology. The most important characteristics of The Mahony Hall are its TV, video, audio and projection facilities, infra-red hearing reinforcement systems, dedicated TV camera positions, sound reinforcement system, comfort and wonderful sight lines. In the past the programme in Mahony Hall has included musicals, ballet, orchestral music and even a spectacular ice show.
The Theatre seats 450 (Raked Stalls 277, Orchestra pit 46, balcony 119, disabled positions 4) and is fully equipped with orchestra pit and fly tower. To the observer the fly tower is unobtrusively concealed behind glass, which reflects the surrounding skyline. It also has one of the largest stages in the country.
It is a perfect space for opera, dance and drama as well as conferences, seminars product launches. It has TV, video, audio and projection facilities, a sound and light control room, cinematic projection room, infra-red hearing reinforcement system, theatre grid, fly tower, apron stage conversions, scene dock, sound reinforcement system, lighting bridges and follow spots.
The Space studio theatre is designed as a totally flexible venue suitable for experimental theatre and contemporary music. The space can seat 150.
It is an intimate playbox, octagonal in shape with retractable seating on three sides, leaving the rest open to performers or conference speakers to use as they will. It is a perfect space for entertaining clients, holding workshops, seminars or training sessions. As a free space it is a perfect design for dialogue, discussion or even live radio interviews. It has TV, video, audio and projection facilities, a sound reinforcement system, a microphone management system, equipment balconies and a main control booth.
There are many rooms in the basement, ground floor and first floor on the left side of the building from the point of view of Collins Avenue, most are used for storage of stage props, other theatre-specific equipment and refreshments.
It also has an 850 car parking facility. There is a tunnel between the multi-storey car park and The Helix main entrance (for pedestrian use).