Trinity College Dublin not only has an enviable reputation for maintaining Dublin’s most important collection of historic buildings, but also for commissioning contemporary architecture of the highest quality. Indeed, its brave decision in 1962 to proceed with a bold, brutalist design for the Berkeley Library was the forerunner of things to come. The library, opened by Éamon de Valera in 1967, is arguably the finest modern building in Dublin. It has not been compromised by the more recent addition of the even larger Ussher Library, designed by McCullough Mulvin in association with KMD Architecture, and now it has an intriguing new companion, standing opposite it on Fellows Square.
McCullough Mulvin’s Long Room Hub, almost literally an ivory tower, has been hailed by the now venerable Paul Koralek – architect of the groundbreaking Berkeley Library – as “a building of quality both in design and execution and . . . a worthy representative of what has become a recognisably Irish strand of contemporary architecture”.
Historian Roy Foster has written that the challenge here was to design a building that would simultaneously address the early 18th century library, the “massive granite rear” of the Provost’s House and the octagonal 1937 Reading Room – as well as the Berkeley Library, which he regards as “the most distinguished Irish building of the 1960s”. As Foster observed, “The triumphantly successful outcome . . . presents a marvellous combination of function and form” as a post-doctoral research centre for the humanities “constructed for the purposes of bringing together international scholars in an environment combining intellectual resources, cultural stimulation and precious time”.