It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of Paul Koralek, the renowned architect who originally designed the iconic modernist Berkeley Library.
The 1960s building was considered a beacon of modernism for Trinity, Dublin and Ireland. More importantly it hailed a new era for students and researchers, opening up the Library collections to a much wider readership.
The Library of Trinity College Dublin was honoured by the architect’s presence on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Library in 2017 when he gave a public interview in Trinity College.
“It is where it all started,” he said as he walked around the Berkeley Library during that historic visit.
Commenting on the architect’s passing, College Librarian and Archivist, Helen Shenton said:
“Paul had a long-standing relationship with the Library, Trinity and Ireland. Many of us who had the privilege to know him formed a deep respect and admiration for him and we have especially fond memories of his recent visit in 2017. We wish to extend our deepest condolences to his daughters Lucy and Katy on this very sad occasion.”
“The Berkeley Library when built transformed library services for our students and readers. It was a modern library not just for Trinity, but for Ireland. Paul’s architectural vision for this modernist building played a critical role in making this possible.”
Paul Koralek’s Architectural Vision for the Berkeley Library
The architect, Paul Koralek was just 28 when he won the international competition in 1961 for a new library building. The highest standards of design were commanded by an international competition and the award was publicly announced by the then Lord Mayor of the winning architect, the young New York based architect Paul Koralek. Dublin of the 1960s featured buildings such as Busáras, Liberty Hall and Hawkins House and the new Berkeley Library was to join this cityscape. Considered one of the finest modern buildings in Ireland, the Berkeley Library is a pure example of the “Brutalist” style of bare concrete architecture popularised by le Corbusier.
Koralek’s innovative use of concrete, poured into wooden moulds gives it the impression of wood grain on the surface of the concrete slabs. Contractors G and T Crampton built it, with Koralek overseeing the meticulous mixing of concrete on site. When complete, it doubled the reading space as well as storage for books for the College, which also involved the employment of 57 new members of staff. Moreover, it provided a unique reading experience where the reader was prioritised. It was officially opened in 1967 by the President Éamon De Valera.