Daithi P. Hanly Former Dublin city architect was champion of conservation

Daithí P. Hanly, who has died aged 86, was a former Dublin city architect, a champion of conservation and the designer of both…

Daithí P. Hanly, who has died aged 86, was a former Dublin city architect, a champion of conservation and the designer of both the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin, and the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, at Knock, Co Mayo.

He won the public competition for the design of the Garden of Remembrance in 1946 although the project was not completed until 1966. The focal point of the design was a massive sculpture by Oisín Kelly which drew criticism on the grounds that it was not fitting that a subject from pagan legend, in this case the Children of Lir, should be the basis of a public monument in a Christian country.

With the sculptor, John F. Kavanagh, he also won the competition for the Custom House memorial in the early 1950s. The Simmonscourt Pavilion at the RDS, Dublin, which housed the largest exhibition hall in Ireland, was another of his major commissions.

He was born on March 11th, 1917, in Cavan, the son of Joseph F. Hanly and his wife, Margaret. On completing his secondary education at Synge Street CBS, Dublin, he enrolled in the School of Architecture, University College, Dublin, where in 1937 he won the Batsford Prize.


Qualifying in 1940, he then worked in several architects' practices in Dublin. From November 1941 to March 1943, he was architect at the special employment schemes office of the Board of Works, designing accommodation for turf workers in Kildare, Offaly and Dublin. He then spent a year working in the practice of Prof J.V. Downes. In June 1944 he joined the planning department of Dublin Corporation as a landscape architect. He later became deputy planning officer.

In January 1947 he was appointed housing and planning architect of Dún-Laoghaire Borough Corporation. As such he was responsible for a major housing scheme consisting of 1,000 houses on a 400-acre estate at Sallynoggin. His other work in the Dún-Laoghaire borough included the amphitheatre at Blackrock Park, the viewing platform of the East Pier and the redesign of the borough coat of arms.

In 1956 he was appointed Dublin housing architect, carrying out a complete reorganisation of the office. He undertook the design of four- and five-storey blocks of flats throughout the city and was responsible for the introduction of standardised components that resulted in a reduction in the cost of buildings and easier and cheaper maintenance.

In 1959 the positions of housing architect and city architect were amalgamated and he became Dublin city architect, responsible for all housing and civic architecture. He prepared the site plan, survey and sketch plan designs for the civic offices that were to be designed by consultant architects. But he was unhappy with the offices that were eventually built at Wood Quay, preferring them to have been built further east, thereby allowing Christ Church cathedral to dominate the skyline.

His criticism of the proposal to build the Ballymun flat complex did not endear him to politicians. "I always thought that high-rise buildings like those created serious social problems," he said later, "and now I feel that the best thing to do is to pull them down."

He firmly believed that much of architectural value was lost in the 1960s redevelopment of Dublin. The rot, he maintained, began in 1963 with the construction of the ESB offices in Fitzwilliam Street. The building, in his view, was not sympathetic to its immediate surroundings. Liberty Hall and the Central Bank were other buildings he saw as out of place. He wrote a 10-page critique of the ESB's plans for Fitzwilliam Street to be circulated among colleagues and city councillors but, to the best of his knowledge, it never reached council members. He resigned as city architect in 1965 and went into private practice as a consultant in architecture and planning. He was in 1966 appointed by the United Nations Economic Commission to advise on the preparation of a comprehensive report on the production of building materials and components.

The following year he was appointed by An Foras Forbartha to advise on the future development of Arklow, Co Wicklow; he was further to advise on the creation of an economic and social growth centre based in the Gaeltacht area of Carraroe, Co Galway.

He was an active member of several professional bodies and was a fellow of both the RIAI and RIBA. He was an extern examiner at the School of Architecture, UCD, and lectured extensively throughout Ireland on town planning. A fluent Irish speaker, he was a member of An Cumann Gaelach while a student at UCD. He showed architectural drawings and stone sculpture at Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts exhibitions and also at Oireachtas and Tóstal shows.

An occasional contributor to newspapers and magazines, he addressed international town planning conferences in Zurich and Lisbon. Prominent in the cultural life of Dublin, he was a Chevalier of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem.

In 1961 he single-handedly salvaged the granite blocks of the façade of the old Abbey Theatre that, he hoped, would be rebuilt as the entrance to a national theatre museum.

His wife Joan, son Kenneth and daughter Helen survive him.

Daithí P. Hanly: born March 11th, 1917; died June 27th, 2003