Architect chosen to design Liberty Hall replacement


Dublin architects Gilroy McMahon have been appointed to redevelop Dublin's Liberty Hall, the headquarters of trade union SIPTU and the tallest building in the city, at 16-storeys over basement.

The current building on Eden Quay, Dublin 1, is due to be demolished and the union hopes to build a little higher to retain its landmark status. The Ulster Bank complex across the Liffey from it is nearly as tall; along the river to the west is the proposed Heuston Tower and to the east is the U2 Tower which are both aiming for 32 storeys.

More than 30 architectural practices across Europe applied to work on the redevelopment. "We didn't invite architects to enter a competition for the design but asked them to express interest," says Tony Walsh, head of property at SIPTU.

"We wanted to find an architect we could have a synergy with. We did not want a design imposed on us because of the nature of the union, and the need to consult within a wide group.

"We were happy with the competence of Gilroy McMahon and their capacity to listen." The next stage is to put together a team of professionals, then have an internal consultation on the design.

Although there is no specific design brief, SIPTU has asked for offices for about 200 people, a National Executive Council suite, seven or more meeting rooms, café and kitchen, space for a SIPTU college which is now off-site; a library, credit union, viewing deck with public access, auditorium and heritage centre, to be included on the 50m by 25m rectangular site. It is also hoped to have a larger public concourse in front of the building.

The building will be self-sustainable in energy terms.

The large service core in the current building takes up 40 per cent of the floor area, and the union is seeking a more efficient use of space.

The union has been on the site for nearly a century. In the early 1900s the ITGWU moved into a hotel here.

This was later demolished and a new building, designed by Desmond Rea O'Kelly, was erected in 1965. This tower was re-clad with tougher, less transparent glass after a bomb blast nearby in 1972.

Des McMahon, the head of the architectural practice chosen - whose design team will include partners Deirdre Lennon and David Richards - says "We are absolutely thrilled. Liberty Hall is such an icon on the city skyline and the site has historical significance.

"The original Liberty Hall was a hotbed of trade union development that ran in tandem with the development of the nation as there were close ties between the labour and national movements, so it is of political, historical and cultural significance."

Gilroy McMahon also designed the new Croke Park stands and an extension to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.