#42 Holding Back The Waves

One of the great parts of Koralek’s design for the Berkeley is the podium before the building and vast area that lies beneath. The Library has been described as “like a photocopier with the bottom drawer pulled out” – you can see what that means if you look at the plans below, which include the subterranean part:

Plans held by the Manuscripts & Archives Library.

That space under what the original plans call the forecourt – what we refer to generally as the podium, now – is what allows the Old and New Library to be joined with a tunnel, and gave space for first the Exhibition Hall and then book storage. Until recently this showed up in the Library’s online catalogue as “Berkeley Stacks”.

Koralek and builders G. & T. Crampton approached the problem of keeping water out of the below-ground areas by using 400mm-thick waterproof concrete and grouting, rather than using a membrane which would then be impossible to get to without huge effort if something went wrong. And this has been successful in tackling the area’s high water table. Anecdotally, the only issue I’m aware of with water coming from below is when the tunnel to join the New Library and the in-construction Lecky was being built, which naturally compromised the seal of the concrete and led to a mini flood that hadn’t been anticipated.

Of course, keeping buildings in good repair and safe from the elements is a never-ending task, and by 2011 it was noticed that in heavy rainfall water could start leaking into the area underneath the podium. What matters is how you deal with problems like this, and Trinity’s response was to take up the flagstones on the podium, apply a membrane, and then relay the paving slabs. This was a substantial effort that had to be done in stages and the project was started to August 2011, with an estimated length at the time of 18 weeks.

Before the slabs went back down the integrity of the membrane had to be tested, and this was done by flooding the area and keeping it flooded over a period of three days. This gave us the fairly epic series of photos below, all taken by Trevor Peare.

We said earlier that until recently the space under the podium was part of “stacks”, but in the summer of 2015 a huge effort by a hardworking team of Library staff saw the podium cleared of kilometres of legal deposit material. This former storage area is now likely to have a more glittering future as part of plans for the “Trinity Visitor Experience” (TVE), with Heneghan Peng Architects chosen to design a new vision for the podium. The TVE project has already seen a revamp of the Front Arch area of College including Regent House. Recently, the Nassau Street entrance into TCD was updated and work there is now finishing. As architect for the Arts Building, Koralek and ABK were responsible for the original entrance there, and this year he told us he considers knocking this hole through the walls of Trinity to allow town and gown to interact more easily was one of his proudest achievements with regard to his work in Trinity.