First look at new U2 visitor centre; a destination experience for millions of fans

Gordon Deegan

The new U2 visitor centre ”will make the Dublin’s Docklands and Grand Canal Dock a destination experience for the millions of U2 fans around the world”.

Photos: ODAA.

That is the boast contained in planning documents lodged with Dublin City Council that give a sneak preview of what the band is planning for the Hanover Quay site.

The four-storey building - with a total floor area of 2,864 sq metres - will include a reconstruction of the band’s original studio and various themed exhibit areas that include a series of abstract scenes such as ‘the Music Room’ and ‘Larry’s Kitchen'.

The application by Golden Brook Ltd and MHEC Ltd also includes a cafe, auditorium, reception and area for selling merchandise.

According to Manahan Town Planners, the visitor centre "will contain exhibit spaces, which will house memorabilia from U2’s vast musical history including old guitars, performance outfits and paraphernalia from their past".

Dublin based architects for the project, ODAA are planning to install a removable pontoon so that fans can access and exit the building on the waterside.

Photos: ODAA.

Manahan Town Planners state that the existing building on site is now little used but has come a place of pilgrimage for U2 fans worldwide, some of whom leave messages in graffiti form on the building.

The planners state that it is proposed to demolish the buildings on site and create “a world class tourist attraction featuring a permanent, yet constantly evolving, exhibition of the U2 story on the site they recorded six albums”.

The planning document states visitors will be able to explore the U2 story "through high-tech, immersive and experiential scene setting installations as well as through multi-layered thematic displays".

The submission states that “the voice of the band will be a constant throughout” and “the goal is to create a sense of the social, cultural and political context of the band’s work and their inspiration”.

The planning documentation states: “Rather than a passive experience, visitors will be encouraged to become part of the U2 story, interacting and engaging to uncover deeper layers.”

Manahan Planners state that “the surrounding area and Dublin will gain from this additional tourist attraction”.

Photos: ODAA.

Twenty-six people are to be employed at the centre with 10 administrative staff and 16 staff at the visitor centre.

The ‘vision’ for the centre states that the exhibition will show "the way in which four Dubliners helped to change the way we think about writing, recording, performance, design, fashion, politics, identity, charity, media and art”.

The planning submission states that the creative input of the applicants “will ensure that the premises will always be an innovative, imaginative and exciting development”.

The application has already attracted support from the Irish Tourism and Industry Confederation (ITIC) and the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. The hotel’s General Manager, Nicky Logue has told the city council that the centre “would be a wonderful tourist attraction for both visitors and locals”.

However, not everyone is a fan. Local resident, Niamh O’Shea has told the city council that the proposal “is something I strongly object to. This part of Hanover Quay is narrow and residential. The creation of another tourist attraction in the area would put major pressure on the road facilities and disturb the enjoyment of people’s homes”.

A decision is due on the application next month.

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