Sunday 21 January 2018

Architect backs taller Dublin buildings

Dublin’s Convention Centre designed by architect Kevin Roche and the Samuel Beckett Bridge
Dublin’s Convention Centre designed by architect Kevin Roche and the Samuel Beckett Bridge
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

As debate about height restrictions for Dublin buildings intensifies due to the city's housing shortage, one of the world's leading architects has claimed Dubliners have nothing to fear from a shift to taller buildings.

Kevin Roche, a winner of the Pritzker Prize and the man behind Dublin's Convention Centre, said: "It is certainly possible to build taller buildings and still maintain the integrity of a city.

"If it is built with care so that it complements the lower plane you can create beautiful buildings and achieve good results," said Roche, who is about to celebrate his 95th birthday. "The only way to do it is to find locations along the river where you can build high rise so that they wouldn't infringe on the city around it."

The Dubliner recalled the difficulty he had when he wanted to build 12-storey buildings with housing in the Docklands (later built by another architect) and described how local authorities were cautious about the final result.

"When I was building the Convention Centre there was a housing component to it.

"I was trying to build 12 storeys high and I made a presentation in Dublin and at the time they were all yelling at me saying 'We're not going that high', 'we're not gonna let this fella build skyscrapers in Dublin'. As if a 12-storey building was a skyscraper.

"So I said 'the hell with that!' and I worked on the Convention Centre which turned out great." Asked if he would be open to returning to work in Ireland he said: "Absolutely, if the right challenge came along I would go for it tomorrow but realistically I am 95 so if I had five years I could get a good run at it." Roche who built a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the headquarters for Santander Central Hispano in Madrid; the Ford Foundation New York; Central Park Zoo New York; and JPMorgan headquarters in New York, said he doesn't have a favourite creation. "You can't favour one child over another," he said.

Asked how he would wish to eventually be remembered he said: "Not at all."

But he remarked he is glad to reach 95: "I never expected to be here." He puts his fine age down to "giving up whiskey at 60 and staying away from the fags". And he added that working had been key to his longevity.

"Never retire. I don't know why anyone would. It's the craziest thing you can do. For what? To sit around and play golf?

"Your mind would go to pieces. I could never stop working. If I was sitting at home I would go nuts," he said.

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