Architectural group claims Liberty Hall is Dublin 'icon'


LIBERTY HALL in Dublin should be preserved as a “heritage structure of national importance”, according to the Irish branch of an organisation that seeks to protect icons of the modern movement in architecture.

Calling on Dublin City Council to refuse planning permission for Siptu’s scheme to replace it with a much taller tower, DoCoMoMo Ireland says Liberty Hall was the first high-rise building in Dublin, built between 1961 and 1965.

“It is not included on Dublin City Council’s record of protected structures but is, in the view of DoCoMoMo, a building that has made a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Ireland and, accordingly, a heritage structure of national importance.”

In a submission to the council’s planners, who will decide on Siptu’s application, it says: “More than any other building of the modern era, Liberty Hall has embedded itself in the collective consciousness of the city, even the nation, and our sense of identity as a people.”

While still under construction, it was the subject of a poem by Austin Clarke ( New Liberty Hall) and since the 1960s it had featured on postcards or been used as a graphic design logo for Dublin.

“Along with these examples of the building’s popular appeal and fascination as a monicker and visual icon of Dublin, the building has become the source and/or site of myriad cultural and academic projects, especially during the past decade,” DoCoMoMo says.

It is severely critical of a “shallow and superficial” architectural heritage assessment of Liberty Hall by consultant architect David Slattery in the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted by Siptu with its planning application last month.

It points out that Mr Slattery was incorrect in stating that “mosaic was removed following bomb damage in 1972 and the floor slabs are now painted.” On the contrary, it “remains clearly visible beneath a flexible water-resistant coating that was applied over the mosaic”.

“Mr Slattery’s assessment that Liberty Hall is not a building of cultural interest is extraordinary in light of his having mentioned the [Council of Europe’s] Granada Convention, which admits that buildings may ‘acquire a cultural significance with the passing of time . . .’

“If Liberty Hall, Ireland’s first ‘skyscraper’ and its theatre, the physical manifestation of labour’s enduring commitment to ‘bread and roses’, does not constitute a building of cultural interest, then none does,” says DoCoMoMo .

While conceding that some of the original qualities were compromised – ie, the addition of reflective silver film to its windows – after suffering damage from a car bomb in 1972, it says the building is still structurally sound and capable of being restored.

DoCoMoMo says the replacement tower, designed by Gilroy McMahon Architects, “is roughly 1.5 times as wide and 1.5 times as tall as Liberty Hall, and contains almost twice as much floor space.”

The scheme is also being opposed by Irish Life and VHI, both of whom have offices on Lower Abbey Street to the rear of Liberty Hall.

They object to the bulk, height and scale of the proposed development, as well as the impacts of demolition and construction.