It was announced last week that the winner of the Architectural Competition to design a €35m Central Library & Cultural Centre for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, is the Cork based firm Carr Cotter & Naessens. The winning entry was the unanimous decision of the jury, who in April of this year selected a short list of 7 out of a total of 139 entries, to go forward to Stage 2 of the Competition. To be built on a site adjacent to Moran Park and Haigh Terrace, Dún Laoghaire, the winning design was considered by the judges to enhance the park and to ‘integrate very successfully with the local environment. ‘ In addition, the building ‘is memorable, distinctive and provides a good civic presence’, commented Charles MacNamara, Director of Culture Community Development and Amenity, who is one of one of the judging panel.
The competition was organised and run on behalf of the County Council by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). Director of the Institute John Graby has commended Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council on their decision to use the architectural competition process to achieve a building of the highest possible quality. A number of City & County Councils have in the past used this process and have achieved buildings of national importance which have contributed significantly to the community.
The proposed building is part of a programme of regeneration in Dún Laoghaire that includes a major investment in public facilities, and which represents the single biggest investment by the Council in a civic amenity. ‘Not only will this project offer the public a state of the art facility that competes with the best in Europe, but it will offer unrivalled access to arts, culture and research facilities for all sections of the community under the one roof ,’said Mr. MacNamara. ‘This will include a fantastic children’s library with access to over 46,000 books for the young people of the county’, he added.
The project will result in the establishment of the largest local authority library in the country, which together with the cultural centre and ancillary rooms represents a total floor area of over 7,000 SqM. This increase in size will be reflected in book stock and all other library services, including seating for 300 people in the reference area, fully fitted with state of the art information technology. In addition there will be a specialised Music Library with designated practice rooms, public meeting rooms and a Cultural Centre that will provide a focal point for all residents in the county as well as the 1000’s of people who visit the county every year. The building will also serve as Library Headquarters for the county, offering a range of services to the housebound and local schools.
The winning design will be subject to Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2007, which requires a 6 week period of public consultation, after which a full report on submissions from the public will be presented to Council. Subject to approval by Council, it is hoped that following the tendering process, work should commence on the project during 2009, to be completed by 2011.
“We are delighted to work on this exciting project,” commented David Naessens of Carr Cotter Naessens. “It is a significant opportunity to work with the natural and urban attributes of Dún Laoghaire to make a great amenity and public space for the local community. Competitions are a good way to generate a creative design solution, particularly where sites are challenging, as was this one. We look forward to working with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to realise their vision for this centre.” he added.
Carr Cotter Naessens includes David Naessens and Louise Cotter who have been practicing in Cork since 2001. Seamus Carr manages the Limerick office. All graduates of UCD they previously worked in London on a range of prestigious cultural projects before establishing a varied portfolio of work in Ireland, ranging from a tiny coffee dock in Cork Courthouse to a 12 million euro urban development in Midleton. They received 2 AAI awards and have been published and exhibited widely. Their building in 15 Henry St, Limerick was the recipient of an RIAI Award for best commercial building 2007. Other projects include the Solas Building for Nursing and Healthcare studies, Institute of Technology Tralee, the conservation and development master plan for the historic South Presentation convent in Cork city, Howleys Quay and Bishopsgate in Limerick.
The building form is to be kept low by using the entire length of the available site. The reading room of the library is expressed as a pavilion that relates directly to the bowling green; the building is lower at the end of the park, so as not to compete with the Royal Marine Hotel; The seaward end of the building tapers up and in to form a grand window overlooking the harbour and beyond to the Irish sea; The town clock will be suspended in this window.
The Cultural Centre is located at park level and at the level of Haigh Terrace. The main space of the centre will consist of a multi purpose area that may be used for conferences and seminars for up to 200 people; other facilities include an art gallery; public meeting rooms, workshop space, a public bookshop and cafeteria
The Central Library is to be located on the three upper floors of the building to optimise light and security; On the first floor will be lending, browsing and desk areas; the second floor contains the reference and study reading room, local history and other depts. on the third floor a reading gallery will be provided over the reading room with the youth dept looking out over the sea. It is proposed to make provision for the shelving of 234,000 books across the key areas of adult lending, children/young people, and reference; Specialist sections include Heritage, Music, Local History, Europe of the regions and Science; 40,000 DVD/AV items will be stocked; dedicated areas for Long Life Learning and board games will be established; there will be a central music library and a one stop shop public counter for information. Materials and finishes
The external finishes represent an interesting interplay between granite, redbrick and glass, with the use of Wicklow granite rain screen and storey height walls in red brick. The combination of such materials is familiar in Dún Laoghaire, in particular recalling the Carnegie Libraries.