1883 – Selected design for National Museum & Library, Dublin

Architect: T.N. Deane & Son



The selected design after an aborted architectural competition to design a complex of museum and library around Leinster House (then part of the Royal Dublin Society). The original competition results were set aside after complaints about the placed entries being by English architects. After a second competition, this design was selected. This design differs in facade treatment from what was completed.

“During the meeting of the Library Association in Dublin Mr. Thomas N. Deane, R.H.A., exhibited and described the plans for the new building for the National Library. These were only preliminary plans, and therefore were subject to a variety of modifications. The scheme embodied a National Museum as well as a National Library. Its general scope was this :—The square in front of the Dublin Society’s house would always be open. On the right-hand side, looking from Molesworth Street, would be the main art gallery, and at the left side, at the side where the Kildare Street Club was, and next to the College of Physicians, would be the National Library. The School of Art would be transposed to the other side, and placed in the Shel bourne Yard; and the Lecture Theatre, which now occupied a site in part of the Shelbourne Yard, would be also transposed, occu pying part of the ground on which the Schools of Art were now built. The library was intended to hold 800,000 books. These were to be arranged in such a way that they could be easily accessible. The large reading-room was of semicircular shape, or something beyond that, and would accommodate 124 readers. At either side there were supplemental rooms for special readers, each 32 feet by 24, and elsewhere a room for lady readers. The arrangements of the books was an extremely important point. He had been much indebted to Mr. Archer, the Librarian of the Dublin Society, for information as to the storage and shelving of books. There were to be smaller rooms for special readers and store rooms for books, which would each contain thirty-four cases. The book cases he proposed to be of iron, and it was a subject for discussion as to what the shelves should be constructed of. He had been informed by a member of the committee of the Washington Library that it was proposed there to have glass shelves framed in iron; but the question was still unsettled. Mr. William Archer said it was not decided yet whether the artificial lighting would be by gas or electricity. Their reading rooms would be even better lighted than those at the British Museum. The entire accommodation for readers would be 2 Io. If no other class of readers than those who came at present to Kildare Street was to be provided for that would be sufficient; but if, on the other hand, their lordships in London and the trustees in Dublin should think of making the library more popular, so as to cater for the artisan as well as for the cultured classes, portion of the store-rooms and other space on the ground floor to each side of the main entrance could be utilised for readers, and the books so displaced stored elsewhere. – Professor Valentine Ball believed that glass would be highly suitable for the purpose of shelves, as it could be easily cleaned and kept dry and would not harbour insects.” The Architect, October 11, 1884.

Published December 8, 2011 | Last Updated June 9, 2024