Once denounced as a total waste of money that would have been better spent on a car park over the adjoining river, Bantry Library is now hailed as a Modernist masterpiece. It was designed in 1962 by Cork County Council architect Patrick McSweeney, who is best known for Cork County Council headquarters—County Hall—and who reportedly came up with the idea for the library to pass the time while recovering from ‘flu.
The library builds on a range of inspirations, from Egyptian pylons to standing stones, with many maintaining that the key source for McSweeney’s design was the megalithic wedge tomb, whose forms he interpreted in mass concrete. Viewed from Bridge Street the library seems to have a single roof, resembling the cap stone on a wedge tomb. The entrance is overhung by a large projecting canopy and guarded by a screen of columns, which evoke standing stones. A fluted expanse of concrete on the south side recalls a Martello tower. Two floor-length windows flank a stout pier bearing a concrete gargoyle.
The project was budgeted at £45,000 (it eventually cost £60,000)—a large amount at the time—and it prompted heated debate, with one Bantry town councillor insisting that it would be ridiculous to “throw that sum of money into that dump.” The library was ultimately completed in 1974.
Whatever you think of Bantry Library, a relaxing escape to West Cork makes a perfect opportunity to catch up on your reading. See what’s available on PlacesToStay.com and book your holiday home in West Cork.