All posts by docomomo_Ireland

2nd EAHN International Meeting in Brussels!

The European Architectural History Network (EAHN), will host its second International Meeting in Brussels from May 31 to June 3, 2012. Full details are available at
300-word abstracts are invited for more than two dozen sessions and round tables. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is September 30, 2011.

Celebrating ANDY DEVANE at UCD!

DoCoMoMo Ireland is collaborating with the 2nd Year students of SAUL to mark the 60th anniversary of the completion of Andy Devane’s first major work of architecture and to clelebrate the Centenary of his alma mater, the UCD School of Architecture

Portrait 01 is the first of a centennial series of exhibitions at UCD that will put the spotlight on some of the School’s leading graduates. Andy Devane was born in Limerick in 1917 and died in Calcutta in 2000. He graduated in 1941 and joined the established practice of Robinson & Keefe during the war years. Famously, he was an apprentice under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin between 1946 and 1948. After his return to Ireland and the formation of the new partnership, Robinson Keefe Devane, he went on to design numerous distinguished buildings, including the Vocational School at Inchicore, the church at Dublin Airport, Gonzaga College, Mount Carmel Hospital, the Irish Pavilion at the 1967 New World Fair, St Patrick’s Teacher Training College in Drumcondra, St Fintain’s Church in Sutton, the Irish Life Centre in Abbey Street, the AIB Headquarters in Ballsbridge and Journey’s End Lodge, his home at Bailey, among many other hospitals, schools, churches and office buildings.

This exhibition opening and talk, A Conversation with the City: Andy Devane and St Mary’s Girls’ Primary School, King’s Island, Limerick, which takes place at UCD Richview on Thursday 22nd September at 6:30pm, will focus on his earliest major work, built in his native city. The speakers include Peter Carroll and Shane O’Toole.

The exhibition will remain on view in The Front Room at UCD Richview for 4 weeks.


Desmond Rea O’Kelly Obituary – Irish Times

Architect and engineer designed Dublin’s Liberty Hall

Desmond Rea O’Kelly: IT WAS Desmond Rea O’Kelly’s wish that Dublin’s Liberty Hall – the building he will be forever associated with – would not be demolished before he died. Not only is it still standing, but a planning application by Siptu to replace it with a much taller tower was withdrawn a day after he passed away, ironically.

Deirdre Doddy, a niece of his late wife, Breda, arranged for a laminated copy of The Irish Times report on Siptu’s latest move to be placed in his coffin “to let him know”.

Rea O’Kelly was an engineer, rather than an architect. He graduated from UCD with a BE in civil engineering in 1945. Much later, in 1977, he was admitted to membership of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and was elected a fellow in 2002. He was also elected to fellowship at the Institution of Engineers of Ireland in 1985.

“Sad to say, Des was never fully part of the architectural scene – I suspect he always felt he was an outsider,” architect and critic Shane O’Toole recalled.

“I remember a vague grumbling from my parents’ generation in the 1960s that he wasn’t really an architect. Jealousy over Liberty Hall was the cause.

“Rather than qualifying as an architect, he became an architect. This was not unusual in the history of 20th century architecture: Le Corbusier was a qualified engineer, not an architect, while Frank Lloyd Wright (Des’s hero and inspiration for Liberty Hall via Johnson Wax in Racine, Wisconsin) was apprenticed and not academically qualified.

“Michael Scott had no formal academic qualification, nor did Sam Stephenson, although they both received honorary degrees/ diplomas subsequently, one from NUI, the other from DIT. It appears that Des was admitted to RIAI membership in 1977 as part of a ‘special entry system’ operated in the context of a proposed registration scheme.”

This was on the strength of Liberty Hall, which won a commendation in the RIAI Triennial Gold Medal award for the period 1962- 1964. The winner that time was Ronnie Tallon for the GEC factory (later Ecco) in Dundalk. Another commendation went to the Carroll’s Building (now Irish Nationwide) on Grand Parade by PJ Robinson of RKD.

In later years, he was commissioned by Dublin Tourism to carry out work on Malahide Castle, ingeniously strengthening its Georgian staircase in a way that could not be seen.

He also worked on the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square, where he managed to save plasterwork that had become saturated from the activities of thieves and vandals.

Liberty Hall though was his magnum opus, and Dubliners loved it – even though most of them could not name its architect.

Uniquely, it gave people an unparalleled opportunity to view their city from a great height. High-speed lifts took visitors to an observation deck on the top floor and this quickly became one of the city’s main attractions.

With the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the observation deck had to be closed for security reasons. Then, in December 1972, a bomb went off outside the building, shattering most of the windows. In the subsequent repairs, the original clear glass gave way to dull reflective glass and Liberty Hall lost its transparent quality.

Mosaic cladding on the edge beams of each floor began peeling off and was consolidated with grey mastic and the building is now in a dilapidated state

Although it stands 60 metres tall, much of the space inside is occupied by the service core; that was one of the principal reasons why Siptu decided to replace it with a new tower.

Des Rea O’Kelly was delighted by Dublin’s first Open House weekend in 2006, when queues formed for the first opportunity in years to visit the building, including its observation deck. “His main concern was that they didn’t knock it before he died,” said Antoinette O’Neill, who once worked for him.

“Otherwise, he was quite complacent about its fate.”

He took part in a 2009 television documentary on Liberty Hall, directed by Paddy Cahill, who is passionate about its preservation. So too is the Irish branch of DoCoMoMo, the international organisation dedicated to document and conserve modern movement buildings. They may well succeed.

Des Rea O’Kelly was more passionate about golf and served as secretary and president of the Golfing Union of Ireland, which was strongly represented at his funeral. His wife pre-deceased him. They had no children.

Desmond Rea O’Kelly: born November 7th, 1923; died February 18th, 2011.

Samposium – docomomo and Open House 2010

As part of Open House 2010 we organised a symposium (or Samposium) on the work of Sam Stephenson.

What shall we do with the Modern Movement?

A day-long conference, What shall we do with the Modern Movement? was held at the National Museum, Collins Barracks on Wednesday, November 10 2010.

Organised by DOCOMOMO Ireland with support from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the conference is intended to feed into the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage survey of Dublin, beginning in 2011.

You can download a PDF programme of the event here.

Docomomo ICOMOS conference


Launch at Busáras July 8th 2010

Photos by Dariusz Cyparski

Liberty Hall DoCoMoMo observation – Irish Times

We made an observation on the planning application on the proposed Liberty Hall replacment, below is an Irish Times article covering it:

Architectural group claims Liberty Hall is Dublin ‘icon’

FRANK McDONALD Environment Editor

LIBERTY HALL in Dublin should be preserved as a “heritage structure of national importance”, according to the Irish branch of an organisation that seeks to protect icons of the modern movement in architecture.

Calling on Dublin City Council to refuse planning permission for Siptu’s scheme to replace it with a much taller tower, DoCoMoMo Ireland says Liberty Hall was the first high-rise building in Dublin, built between 1961 and 1965.

“It is not included on Dublin City Council’s record of protected structures but is, in the view of DoCoMoMo, a building that has made a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Ireland and, accordingly, a heritage structure of national importance.”

In a submission to the council’s planners, who will decide on Siptu’s application, it says: “More than any other building of the modern era, Liberty Hall has embedded itself in the collective consciousness of the city, even the nation, and our sense of identity as a people.”

While still under construction, it was the subject of a poem by Austin Clarke ( New Liberty Hall ) and since the 1960s it had featured on postcards or been used as a graphic design logo for Dublin.

“Along with these examples of the building’s popular appeal and fascination as a monicker and visual icon of Dublin, the building has become the source and/or site of myriad cultural and academic projects, especially during the past decade,” DoCoMoMo says.

It is severely critical of a “shallow and superficial” architectural heritage assessment of Liberty Hall by consultant architect David Slattery in the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted by Siptu with its planning application last month.

It points out that Mr Slattery was incorrect in stating that “mosaic was removed following bomb damage in 1972 and the floor slabs are now painted.” On the contrary, it “remains clearly visible beneath a flexible water-resistant coating that was applied over the mosaic”.

“Mr Slattery’s assessment that Liberty Hall is not a building of cultural interest is extraordinary in light of his having mentioned the [Council of Europe’s] Granada Convention, which admits that buildings may ‘acquire a cultural significance with the passing of time . . .’

“If Liberty Hall, Ireland’s first ‘skyscraper’ and its theatre, the physical manifestation of labour’s enduring commitment to ‘bread and roses’, does not constitute a building of cultural interest, then none does,” says DoCoMoMo .

While conceding that some of the original qualities were compromised – ie, the addition of reflective silver film to its windows – after suffering damage from a car bomb in 1972, it says the building is still structurally sound and capable of being restored.

DoCoMoMo says the replacement tower, designed by Gilroy McMahon Architects, “is roughly 1.5 times as wide and 1.5 times as tall as Liberty Hall, and contains almost twice as much floor space.”

The scheme is also being opposed by Irish Life and VHI, both of whom have offices on Lower Abbey Street to the rear of Liberty Hall.

They object to the bulk, height and scale of the proposed development, as well as the impacts of demolition and construction.