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DLR Lexicon

DLR Lexicon is the County Dublin town’s new wedge-shaped library and cultural centre (the DLR branding deriving from Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown council). It is an imposing, 29m-tall building, clad in pale granite, with its narrowest elevation situated right on the seafront. Unapologetically modern, its huge double-height window looks boldly out to sea, and its clean, straight lines stand out starkly from the busy complexity of the port town around it.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-01-Dennis-Gilbert-759x576 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

And from a concrete point of view too, the building is remarkable, comprising an unusual structure, imaginative environmental features and a beautiful, painstakingly finished interior. The DLR Lexicon is, in fact, an object lesson in how concrete can simultaneously deliver structural, aesthetic and environmental goals.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-04-Dennis-Gilbert-759x729 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

“Concrete was really the only material we could use to achieve the types of volume and space we had in mind,” says architect Louise Cotter of Cork-based practice Carr Cotter & Naessens. “The walls and structure are one, there are ambitious cantilevers, large volumes, and we wanted the building to be its own finish and structure. Concrete was the only thing.”

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-05-Dennis-Gilbert-759x675 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

The façade consists of 5,500m² of granite cladding traditionally fixed on a stainless steel substructure. The glazing systems comprise bespoke bronze metal cladding and aluminium system cladding. Vertically spanning 20m² glass panes are supported with stainless steel and bronze sections.

The building consists of a concrete structure overclad with fixed glass curtain walls complete with bronze flashings, proprietary and bespoke glazing, glazed fins, zinc roof and traditionally fixed granite stone and brickwork.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-06-Dennis-Gilbert-759x739 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

At its tallest, the building has four floors and it provides a total of 6,520m 2 of accommodation, including reading rooms, study rooms, public spaces and a lecture theatre. But while most buildings of this scale would be built around a frame, the DLR Lexicon’s structure operates more like that of a house. “The support for the building comes from the walls, which are solid, in-situ reinforced concrete, rather than a frame with something to fill in the gaps,” says Cotter. “Concrete floor slabs are supported on upstand beams of reinforced concrete, and the roof is supported by 13 large precast concrete V beams, which tie the building together at the top.”

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-07-Dennis-Gilbert-759x995 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

The dlr LexIcon – located in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland – is a physical manifestation of how libraries must change to meet the needs of the public in the 21st century. The building, set to formally launch on 17 April 2015, plays an extended role within the local community; the requirements of educational and cultural events have shaped the design of the spaces inside and out. This library, the result of an RIAI international competi- tion held in 2007, offers a mix of intimate and expansive public rooms, places to congregate, or to sit quietly with a book and enjoy the view.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-09-Dennis-Gilbert-759x742 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

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.

The newly created public park contains a terraced water feature and bamboo garden with a cafe that allows users and passersby to enjoy the landscaped spaces and the view out to the sea. A grand staircase leads up to the library and cultural space at the higher level, hosting a range of different functions.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-11-Dennis-Gilbert-800x1200 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

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.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-16-flickr-William-Murphy-759x506 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© flickr-William Murphy

“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.” – Architect Louise Cotter said

“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.” – County Librarian Mairead Owens said

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-20-flickr-William-Murphy-759x506 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© flickr-William Murphy

Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects:

Moran Park occupies a strategic location in Dun Laoghaire; it visibly demonstrates the natural fault line between the harbour and the town. The old park was dysfunctional, the abrupt changes in level and the walled-in reservoir reinforced the disconnection between the commercial precinct of the town and the harbour. The project was an opportunity to rebalance, and make the park a new centre of gravity that would reconnect these domains.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-29-flickr-Michelle-750x1000 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© flickr-Michelle

The building is wedged in to a granite escarpment and directly relates to the two levels of the park. The upper level at Haigh Terrace reconnects to the grounds of the Royal Marine Hotel and includes a pond, reconfigured as a series of weirs, and a raised belvedere extending towards the sea view. The pedestrian path around the pond continues to a stone paved forecourt at the library entrance; this is enclosed in turn by the Mariners Church, which overlooks the entrance forecourt. A new public space on the footprint of the original bowling-green is envisaged as a garden room, sheltered by a grove of trees.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-27-flickr-Michelle-759x569 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© flickr-Michelle

The extended role of the library as a facilitator for community, educational and cultural events has informed the spatial organization, which offers a mix of intimate and expansive public rooms, places to congregate, or to sit quietly with a book and enjoy the view. The modern library is truly the last bastion of public space.

The building is organised into two distinct forms. Along Haigh Terrace is a regular sequence of intimate scaled rooms, workshops, meeting space and reading rooms, with windows that address the street. The park-side of the building by contrast provides voluminous space, the lounge and “piano nobile” above, each with long windows framing views to the park. The tapering roof above, cut with large precast beams and skylights rises gradually up to make the tall slender portico looking out to sea.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-31-Dennis-Gilbert-856x1200 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© Dennis Gilbert

The Lexicon is entered on two levels. On the lower level the park edge of the building is lined with public rooms: A 100 seat theatre, café and a grand stairs that ascends to the library above. Behind the public spaces there is the working section of the library including workrooms, archives and kitchens. On the higher “town” level there is a busy living room overlooking the park, with space for internet use, newspapers and magazines as well as rooms for book-clubs, meetings and seminars and a room for crafts, games and modelmaking. The municipal art gallery and associated workshop is also on this floor.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-53-flickr-picturesbyJOE-759x759 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© flickr-picturesbyJOE

The material of the building is spare, a voluminous concrete shell, into within which are inserted oak linings for books and sound modulation. The building is clad in a granite, with the large window assemblies and entrance portal clad in bronze. The Haigh Terrace block is made of red brick set in stone bands; here the windows are more conventional openings, partly shaded with bronze aluminium louvres.

DLR-Lexicon-By-Carr-Cotter-Naessens-Architects-56-flickr-turgidson-759x569 DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

© flickr-turgidson

Project Data:

Project name: DLR Lexicon
Location: Haigh Terrace, Moran Park, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Coordinates: 53.293002, -6.131808
Type: Library, Cultural Center, Community Centre
Project Area: 6,327 sqm
Project Year: 2007-2015
Status: Built
Cost: 29.5m €
Completion Year: 2015


  • 2015 – WAN Awards – Category: Civic Buildings – Winner
  • 2015 – RIBA Journal Magazine Award – Schueco Excellence Awards – Category: Overall Schueco Excellence Award & Sustainability Award – Winner
  • 2015 – RIAI Irish Architecture Awards – Category: Winner of Public Choice Award – Best Conservation/Restoration and Best Universal Design – 3rd place
  • 2015 – RIAI Irish Architecture Awards – Category: Best Culture and Best Public Building – Winner
  • 2015 – RIAI Irish Architecture Awards – Category: Best Public Building – Winner
  • 2015 – World Architecture Festival Award – Category: Civic and Community – Shortlist

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
Architects: Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects – 32 South Terrace, Cork, Ireland
Design architect: Louise Cotter and David Naessens
Main contractor: John Sisk and Sons
Facade consultant: Billings Design Associates
Text Description: © Courtesy of Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects, John Sisk and Sons
Images: © Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects, Dennis Gilbert, flickr-turgidson, flickr-picturesbyJOE, flickr-William Murphy, flickr-turgidson, flickr-Michelle, flickr-John Hickey

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DLR Lexicon / Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects
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