Docklands skyscraper to soar to 180m


A skyscraper soaring 60m (197ft) higher than the Spire on O'Connell Street has been chosen by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) as the winner of the latest competition for the U2 Tower at Britain Quay. Frank McDonald, Environment Editor, reports.

The sensational new scheme has the rock band's eggshaped recording studio suspended beneath a battery of vertical wind turbines and a huge solar panel at the top. This "energy centre" will raise the overall height from 130m (427ft) to 180m (591ft).

The tilted triangular tower, designed by Foster + Partners, will include a public viewing platform offering panoramic views over the city and Dublin Bay. This will be located just below U2's "pod" studio, which will be separated from the structure for acoustic reasons.

The scheme by Norman Foster's practice, best known for the Swiss Re or "Gherkin" tower in the City of London, was commissioned by Geranger Ltd, a consortium consisting of Ballymore Properties, developer Paddy McKillen and the members of U2.

Geranger was selected as "provisional preferred bidder" for the €200 million project. It was chosen ahead of rival tenders from: Treasury Holdings/Sisk; Mountbrook Homes, controlled by developer Seán Dunne; the Dutch-based Royal BAM Group; and the Riverside II Partnership.

The Treasury Holdings/Sisk scheme, designed by Zaha Hadid, came second in the competition, which was assessed by Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre Architects; Shih-Fu Peng of Heneghan Peng Architects; and Michael O'Doherty, former principal architect at the Office of Public Works.

DDDA director of architecture John McLaughlin said the Foster scheme "had the edge because its public spaces were really well handled" and it provided a gateway to a new bridge over the river Dodder where it joins the Liffey alongside Britain Quay.

In addition to the tower, which will largely comprise luxury apartments, the scheme includes a five-star hotel in a flanking building to the south, oversailing a block of 34 social and affordable apartments, which comprise 20 per cent of the overall residential content.

As part of its renewable energy agenda, the south facade of the tower will be clad in solar panels, while the east and west facades will have a three-dimensional quality, "like fishscales", and the north facade will be "quite sleek", Mr McLaughlin said. The crinkly east and west facades will conceal generous balconies. Their treatment, as well as the overall profile of the scheme, was inspired by the saw-toothed roof of a warehouse that once stood on the site.

DDDA chief executive Paul Maloney said the authority was "conscious that this is the most sought-after development in Dublin" and he paid tribute to all the bidders for the "immense amount" of work they had put into their entries and the "very exciting" designs they produced.

"What we have is the combination of a very strong financial offer with a striking architectural result," he added. Architectural quality took pre-eminence in the criteria used for judging the competition, accounting for 45 points compared to 40 for the financial aspects of each bid.

Mr Maloney said the Geranger bid had been selected because it "exceeded the expectations of the brief with the emergence of a breathtaking design uniquely suited to this prominent Docklands site", and it would provide an "inspirational landmark" for Dublin.

The original U2 Tower, a twisting structure designed by Blackrock-based architects Burdon Craig Dunne Henry, was judged not feasible to build at a height of just 60m (197ft). So the bar was raised to 130m (427ft) and an adjoining site was added to "make the sums stack up".

It is expected that construction will start next year, with a view to completion by 2011. No planning permission is required, as it is already covered by the Grand Canal Docks planning scheme.