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Big Read: Tall storeys – should we be aiming higher with our buildings?

When Liberty Hall was constructed in the 1960s, it seemed that building up was the future. Then the high-rise vision faltered, with Johnny Ronan the latest developer to have his plans frustrated. John Meagher asks if we are too scared of heights

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The potential view from the top of Johnny Ronan’s proposed 167m Waterfront tower, which was refused permission last week. Photo by The Drone Guys

The potential view from the top of Johnny Ronan’s proposed 167m Waterfront tower, which was refused permission last week. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin looking out towards Croke Park. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin looking out towards Croke Park. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Aerial view of Dublin. Photo by The Drone Guys

Architectural historian Emma Gilleece. Photo by Mark Condren

Architectural historian Emma Gilleece. Photo by Mark Condren

Developer Johnny Ronan. Photo by Tony Gavin

Developer Johnny Ronan. Photo by Tony Gavin

Johnny Ronan’s proposed Waterfront Tower

Johnny Ronan’s proposed Waterfront Tower

Cork city council has given planning permission to Custom House Quay, a 140m, 34-storey tower in the city’s docks

Cork city council has given planning permission to Custom House Quay, a 140m, 34-storey tower in the city’s docks

Ireland's tallest buildings. Graphic by Shane Mc Intyre

Ireland's tallest buildings. Graphic by Shane Mc Intyre

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The potential view from the top of Johnny Ronan’s proposed 167m Waterfront tower, which was refused permission last week. Photo by The Drone Guys

It was one of the wonders of Seán Lemass’s Ireland. Between 1961 and 1965, the country’s tallest building was constructed. Liberty Hall was quite unlike anything Dublin had seen before. Rising from the ashes of the old ITGWU building of the same name, the 16-storey tower reached almost 60 metres. It was far taller than any other building around it, its only competitor being the spire of St George’s Church, less than a kilometre away.

It drew a mixed reaction from the Dubliners. Some despaired at how out of place it looked, one of the “new glass cages that spring up along the quay” as Pete St John puts it in the song The Rare Ould Times; others celebrated it as a sign that Ireland was throwing off the shackles of the past.


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