Landmark Tower

By Ruth Kennelly

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Forma Interiors Magazine, Volume 3 Issue 4

 “I guess it’s still sinking in”.

Since its completion in 1965 Liberty Hall, designed by architect Desmond Ri O’Kelly has remained Dublin’s tallest building. This however is set to change as the Dublin Docklands Authority begins the development of the Landmark Tower/U2 Studio at Britain Quay. Considering the significance of such a development it was fitting that the DDA decided to select the design of the building by anonymous competition, the deadline of which was set for February the 28th 2003. The panel of judges selected the winning entry, submitted by Burdon Dunne Architects/ Craig Henry Architects from a list of 500 other designs.

The winning design consists of a twisted tower block, fully glazed with a double skinned surface, sheathed with anti-glare louvers to the south and on part of the east and west elevations. The purposes of this landmark at the end of Sir Rogerson’s Quay is, as stated on the competition entry, to create “a new interface between the regenerated docklands of the static city and the ever moving landscape of the river and tidal basins at the confluence of the river Liffey, the Grand Canal Basin and the Dodder”.

a result of brainstorming between the two firms with the idea of a landmark or beacon at the center of their concept

The finished structure will house an office level a semi open-air auditorium, a bar and a café. In section the tower is manipulated to provide variable sized apartments of one, two and three bedroom units, the two and three bed apartments interlock over two floors to provide a double height space maximising the daylight. The tower finally terminates with a new recording studio for U2 complete with panoramic views across the Dublin cityscape.

David Craig of Craig Henry Architects is animated when he speaks of his winning entry “It came as such a tremendous shock, I guess it’s still sinking in”. To a small practice such as his a win like this can change everything. The opportunity to attract bigger projects is the primary consequence, however the publicity surrounding the U2 tower will invariably keep the Craig Henry/ Burdon Dunne profile in the public eye for the immediate future at least.

The Burdon Dunne/ Craig Henry partnership was first developed when they worked together on a competition for the Department of Film, Drama and T.V at U.C.D. For David this was an excellent opportunity to gain experience of working with another team and learning the methods by which the other operated.

The inspiration for the design came as a result of brainstorming between the two firms with the idea of a landmark or beacon at the center of their concept. According to David they were constantly developing new ideas and trying to approach the project from a fresh angle. The fact that tall towers are not a feature of the Dublin skyline made this project all the more exciting for its entrants.

Jennifer Boyer of Metronomic Architects mentioned that as a result of September 11th and the destruction of the Twin towers “there has been a huge rethink of the concept of tower building” and this is certainly evident in this competition. David considers height to be of little consequence in the current design, “going for height has been done, a landmark must be something specific to the site”, he adds, “In a city such as Dublin which currently consists of a mishmash of 3 and 4 story buildings a tall building will have a bigger impact than if it were in Toronto for example.”

Anyone with more than a passing interest in the competition will be aware of the various rumours that have been circulated regarding Burdon Dunne Architects’ relationship with U2. According to David, it is true that Burdon Dunne designed U2’s first building in Dublin however as the competition was anonymous this could have had no bearing on the final result. There was also consternation over an alleged sighting of Bono leaving Frank Gehry’s studio in Santa Monica California. Frank Gehry, one of the world’s best-known architects, and designer of the Bilbao Guggeenheim museum, has according to a U2 spokesman “a long standing friendship (with Bono) which predates the Dublin Docklands competition”. As David Craig states with a project of this notoriety there is “so much pubic accountability that there would be a terrible outcry if something were afoot”.

After such a successful year Craig Henry and Burdon Dunne Architects are now looking at a possible merger. As a joint practice their credibility would be far greater and the opportunity to pursue blue chip companies and public bodies would be far in excess of their individual capabilities. As the development of the Landmark Tower scheme picks up pace the partnership will inevitably merge bring about another interesting development on the Dublin architectural scene.

2013 update: Unbuilt Dublin

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