Text description provided by the architects. A bold new addition to the town of Dún Laoghaire, Ireland is set to open on the 8th December: dlr LexIcon. Contemporary libraries now have an extended role within the local community, with the requirements of educational and cultural events shaping the design of the building and the spaces within. This building, the result of an RIAI international competition held in 2007, exemplifies this new approach to library design and offers a mix of intimate and expansive public rooms, places to congregate, or to sit quietly with a book and enjoy the view.
Architects, Carr Cotter Naessens’ design creates a new public space that will transform the heart of Dún Laoghaire, leading visitors in a natural progression from the seafront up to the town. When viewed across the water, the building is a true landmark, it’s monumental window dramatically rising up towards the harbour, providing breathtaking views from inside.
Although a distinctly contemporary form, the library is clad in brick on the southern side to reflect the material palette of the Victorian high street and in granite across the rest of the building to respond to the historic context of Dún Laoghaire. The park also takes its cues from the past. The newly created public park is stepped to respond to changing levels, with a terraced water feature and bamboo garden on the site of an old granite quarry while a new public space on the footprint of the original bowling green is envisaged as a garden room, sheltered by a grove of trees. Here a grand staircase leads up to the library and cultural space at the higher level while the foyer cafe spills out on to the garden.
Internally, the library is presented as a ‘living room’, bathed in natural light from the window facing the sea. this communal space will house the most social elements of the building where groups can meet or individuals can read or access the internet. The library will also house separate reading rooms, a junior library, an auditorium, a cafe, an art gallery, a history department with study spaces, as well as staff facilities. The material of the building is spare, a voluminous concrete shell, into which are inserted oak linings for books and sound modulation.
Architect Louise Cotter says, “It has been an absolute privilege to work on this project and to realise the vision of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. This challenging project has offered us the opportunity to work on a number of different scales. This building and park is a truly public space with a very particular spatial sequence and material aesthetic. We look forward to seeing the spaces evolve as they become inhabited and people make it their own.”
County Librarian Mairead Owens says, “The LexIcon will embrace the modern concept of what a library should be – a key community space where all are welcome. When people walk through the door I hope they get a sense of ‘wow’, it’s a stunning public space and quite extraordinary. The LexIcon will be a key component in the delivery of the cultural programme in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. It will be a vibrant centre of learning and creativity for all those who live, work in and visit the County.”
Chief Executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Philomena Poole says, “dlr LexIcon is by far the most significant piece of public infrastructure in Dún Laoghaire for over 100 years and is the single biggest investment by the Council in a civic amenity. The decision to invest in the facility is consistent with the Council’s primary objective which is to deliver high quality services and infrastructure, which contribute to a better social, physical, economic and cultural environment for all who live in, work in and visit the County.”
Dun Laoghaire was transformed in the early 19th century by a number of ambitious infrastructure projects. Since that time, most development in the town has been commercial or residential. Dlr LexIcon represents the first significant piece of civic infrastructure in the town since 1900.