Library or missile silo? What to do with the Central Bank
SO WHAT are we going to do with the Central Bank after it moves from Dublin’s Dame Street to the Anglo Irish “hulk” on North Wall Quay? According to Res Publica, a group of six young architects, it could become a new central library for the city.
This was the most popular idea to emerge from an exhibition and brainstorming session they held last week in the former UCD building on Earlsfort Terrace, not least because the library would give the building a real public use – for the first time.
Other ideas, some of them tongue-in-cheek, included a missile silo, a bird sanctuary, a prison for errant bankers, an enterprise centre with incubator space for start-up companies, a contemporary art museum and a 24-hour Tesco with a nightclub on its upper levels.
With plans to relocate the central library from its hidden enclave in the Ilac Centre to the former Ambassador cinema at the top of O’Connell Street having fallen through and the Bank of Ireland on College Green no longer available, the Central Bank could be the ticket.
Michael Stack, of Res Publica, conceded that adapting the towering bank building for a library would pose some problems. “Librarians would hate it because there are seven open-plan floors and they like to have one point of control [to supervise a reading room]”.
There would also be issues about compliance with part M of the Building Regulations, which guarantees universal access to public buildings. But Ronan McCann, of Res Publica, said it would be possible to incorporate a ramp into the flight of steps in front.
The first thing to do, Mr Stack said, would be to get rid of the neo-baroque railings erected a decade ago. “This is one of the few south-facing plazas in the city, and people should be able to sit on the steps.”
Dublin city architect Ali Grehan popped in to the exhibition and engaged in the debate about a variety of proposals, which included turning the bank into a “Tower of Wisdom” where retired people could share their experiences and give advice to younger folk.
Sebastian and Zachary Stephenson, younger sons of Central Bank architect Sam Stephenson, also called in to marvel at the 1:25 scale model of their dad’s magnum opus built by the Res Publica group as a centrepiece for the exhibition and focus for the workshop.
“With the Central Bank due to move out, we are attempting a proactive way of ‘Occupying Dame Street’ to get the public talking and claiming the territory with ideas, rather than slogans or tents,” they said. You can follow the project on Twitter @ResPublica_ie or Facebook.