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Mangan's memories from a 38-year career

Published September 26th, 2018

“It certainly went very quickly.”

The ‘it’ in question is the illustrious career of outgoing Director of Estates & Facilities Paul Mangan who is finishing up in Trinity after 38 years.

July 1st 1980 was Paul’s first day on the job, when the quantity surveyor joined Trinity as Building Projects Officer. From then until September 2018 he guided phenomenal change throughout the campus, which is almost unrecognisable to the one he laid eyes on that summer’s day back in 1980.

One of the first projects he worked on was the building of a clinical sciences complex at St James’s Hospital. Then there was the O’Reilly, Hamilton, Watts, Panoz and Smurfit.

“We built the Sami Nasr building for science of materials, we built the Lloyd Institute, the Sports Centre and Crann, Ussher Library, Goldsmith Hall, TBSI (Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute) and the Long Room Hub.”

The latter remains one of the projects Paul is most proud of.

“It was a challenging design, challenging to get approval for but it was approved on the quality of the architecture. The architects and I described it as ‘jewel like’ because it had to be small and finely detailed to work well in that location. It does and it’s very successful.”

Other stand-outs are TBSI – “the biggest and most complicated building we’ve ever done, a fantastic statement of Trinity’s intent in the city of Dublin” – and the accessible paths in Front Square.

“Over the years I’ve watched people trying to negotiate the cobble stones in wheelchairs, I’ve pushed my own children in buggies across them, I’ve seen tourists with their suitcases rattling and clattering across them. Accessible paths were crying out to be done but it was one of the hardest things to get approval for.”

Perseverance paid off. “I think the most rewarding part for me,” says Paul, “was looking out the window one day shortly afterwards and seeing a woman in a wheelchair wheeling herself across the cobbles with a baby in her lap. To think at one time neither she nor the baby could have crossed them.”

Paul also recollects the Dining Hall fire of 1984 which caused enormous damage to the building but thankfully not so much to its contents.

“Interestingly the paintings weren’t that badly destroyed because the staff and fellows had gathered in the building and helped to carry out a lot of the valuable stuff.”

From Paul’s perspective, the fire meant he got to learn a lot about construction methods from the 19th century. “One recollection I have is from the morning after, going in to the rubble with a wheelbarrow to retrieve samples of plaster so we could recreate the cornices and the plaster details in the reconstruction.”

Paul has been Director of Buildings since 2004 and Director of Estates & Facilities, comprising about 400 staff, since 2015 following a restructuring of the directorate.

“In Estates & Facilities I’ve been fortunate to work with a very professional team and I can take great pride in our work in operating and maintaining the university and in the projects and initiatives that we delivered over my time here. I learned a great deal from former and present colleagues and I hope I have passed on some wisdom of my own.”

When he leaves Trinity one thing Paul will be looking forward to is the prospect of having control over his own diary.

Another thing will be a “bucket list” holiday in spring to a place with – surprise, surprise – some compelling architecture.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba – for the old colonial buildings, the old American cars, and the memory of Che Guevara.”