Council urged to refuse permission for demolition of iconic Liberty Hall


DUBLIN CITY Council has been strongly urged to refuse planning permission for the demolition of Liberty Hall by a group committed to preserving monuments of the Modern Movement and by the Irish Georgian Society.

Docomomo Ireland says Siptu’s plan to build a much taller tower on the site “would result in the irreplaceable loss of a heritage structure of national importance [which] has embedded itself in the collective consciousness of the city, even the nation”.

As the city’s first high-rise building, finished in 1964, it had “featured on innumerable picture postcards, has been used as graphic design’s singular logo for the city of Dublin in various contexts and was the subject of a recent documentary film”, it says.

“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’s submission takes issue with Siptu’s need for a much larger building, “roughly 1.5 times as wide and 1.5 times as tall as Liberty Hall”, noting that all of its staff would be accommodated in a three-storey podium alongside the tower. Thus, the height was “justified only by its speculative development value to Siptu and the recently conceived add-on “heritage element [of] this gargantuan tower” – a reference to the proposed four-storey museum and “sky deck” on top.

To back this up, it quotes from Siptu’s pamphlet on the project, “Building for the Future”, which says “the new building would contain additional office space, which would be available for sale or leasing, to generate revenue and offset costs”. Docomomo is severely critical of the architectural heritage assessment by conservation consultant David Slattery, saying it “fails to mention that Liberty Hall was commended, in a very strong field, for the RIAI [Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland] Gold Medal”.

Although Liberty Hall had suffered from neglect, as well as the covering of its windows with reflective silver film and the consolidation of mosaic on its edge beams with mastic, Docomomo argues that the building is structurally sound and can be refurbished.

The Irish Georgian Society, in its submission, endorses Docomomo’s contention that Liberty Hall is “an exceptional example of international modernism” and warns that its proposed replacement would have a “significant deleterious effect” on the environment.

“The proposed 93-metre height and considerable width of the new tower is, in the opinion of the society, inconsistent with the provisions of the [Dublin City] Development Plan and would have a dramatic negative impact on the skyline, historic vistas, structures and streetscapes.”

A submission by planning consultants Tom Phillips and Associates on behalf of Irish Life, which owns the adjoining Beresford Court building, supports the principle of redeveloping Liberty Hall, but says the proposed tower would have “significant long-term adverse impacts”. It seeks clarification on what alternative designs were considered as well as a detailed management plan, more information on the loss of light to Beresford Court and confirmation services would not be disrupted.

In a personal objection, An Taisce’s Ian Lumley says the latest planning application by Siptu “constitutes a waste of time and resources for all parties concerned” as it “does not address or resolve the justification for demolition rather than upgrade” of Liberty Hall.