Dún Laoghaire council architect ‘surprised’ at criticism of new library

Building’s architect says it ‘is in scale in context to its neighbours’


Bob Hannan said it was “surprising” that residents called for the demolition of the €36.6 million seafront library before it was finished.

The Library and Cultural Centre, officially dlr Lexicon, due to open partially in September, came under strong criticism from the public for its size and design in recent months.

At one public meeting in April, the crowd cheered and clapped to a suggestion it would be “worth spending” €2 million to demolish the building, which the council said is 29 metres tall at the highest part of the roof level on the harbour front.

Mr Hannan said he hoped those who had “reservations” about the design would still enjoy using it when it opened. “The idea of demolishing something that wasn’t even fully built was quite surprising. When a design is new, it can be challenging and people react to that,” he said.

“I think people will get to understand the building more when they get inside.”

He said plans for the library and cultural centre were included in the County Development Plan 2004-2010.

He said Moran Park was chosen as the site for its potential to link the town centre to the waterfront, one of the main goals for developing the site.

Mr Hannan said the guidelines given to architects competing in the open international competition in 2006-2007, which attracted more than 100 entries, were for a design to the highest architectural standards. “The brief was to provide a really excellent, library cultural and civic centre, carefully located to link the town and the seafront,” he said.

Mr Hannan said the jury included members of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council, an overseas expert and members of the the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

The decision, in November 2007, was unanimous and the jury said the building would enhance the park and integrate well with the environment.

During public consultation, 33 submissions were received including 20 saying the location was inappropriate for the design, scale and materials of the building, while 18 welcomed the enhancement to the library network and 12 said it should be kept as a park.

Then county manager Owen Keegan responded by quoting from the ac ting conservation officer’s report in June 2009.

“The new library building is unashamedly modern and will create a positive tension with the older 19th century buildings of the Royal Marine, Mariner’s Church and Moran Park House.”

Mr Keegan added: “The height, scale and massing are appropriate to this civic structure and are within the scale of adjoining developments.”

All except three councillors voted for the building to go ahead at a meeting in 2009 and construction began in April 2012.

Louise Cotter, director of the Cork-based firm Carr Cotter and Naessens. who won the competition, said one of the main goals of the design was to connect the higher lever of the town to the lower level of the harbour. “The building had to respond to the spaces inside. It couldn’t be a completely glass-glazed box. We had to maximise the view and ensure the building related to the space outside. There are tall windows to the sea front and long windows on the side to the park.”

Ms Cotter said the building height and size was in proportion with existing buildings such County Hall and the Royal Marine Hotel.

Ms Cotter said red brick and granite were chosen to clad the building as they were already used in the town in buildings such as Carnegie library. “We looked at what was there already and used it in a new contemporary way,” she said.

Ms Cotter said the building on the park side has large, open spaces and the other side has smaller rooms and more intimate spaces. “It’s a building people can use and enjoy. People will find their own space within the building,” she said.