Architect of Berkeley Library, Richard Burton, dies aged 83

Burton won the prize to design the library with two fellow students in 1960


Richard Burton, who co-founded ABK Architects after winning a prize to design the Berkeley Library as a student, has died aged 83.

Burton was born in London in 1933, qualifying as an architect at the Architectural Association. With two of his fellow students, Peter Ahrends and Paul Koralek, he entered a competition in 1960 to design a new library on Trinity’s campus. Although previously unknown, the trio’s entry was successful, and their practice, Ahrends Burton Koralek (ABK), was established soon after.

Trinity’s Berkeley Library is widely considered to be one of the finest modernist buildings in Ireland, and Burton influenced many who followed him in the profession, including Irish architect Níall McLaughlin. McLaughlin said: “This building inspired me to take up architecture when I was leaving school.” Angela Brady, former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, lists it as her favourite building in Ireland, saying: “It inspired me to take up architecture and still inspires architects today.”

Many projects soon followed ABK’s early success, including the Arts Building adjacent to the Berkeley. However, in 1982, a design for an extension to the National Gallery in London attracted criticism from Prince Charles, who called it a “monstrous carbuncle”.

Richard Rogers, one of the world’s most prolific contemporary architects, believes the comment denied ABK the success it had promised in its early years. “It was completely unjustified and did a lot of damage. After that they did very little in England and that was very unfair. I felt that in a democratic society that shouldn’t happen. He was among the best architects of that generation – he was extremely good, very sensitive, very intelligent.”

ABK relocated from London to Dublin in 1996, and are still based in the city.

Burton led a number of significant commissions during his 35 years with ABK, including the British Embassy in Moscow and St Mary’s General Hospital on the Isle of Wight.

Original plans of the Berkeley Library by Burton can be viewed below.