Hanly, Dáithi (1917–2003), architect and preservationist, was born David Patrick Hanly on 11 March 1917 at Glenview, Cavan town, one of at least five children (three sons and two daughters) of (Francis) Joseph Hanly (c.1880–1960), an instructor in the Department of Agriculture, and his wife Margaret (née Healy). His father, a native of Barnaderg, Co. Galway, and a graduate (1908) and fellow of the Royal College of Science for Ireland, later transferred to the Department of Education, where he became chief inspector, retiring in 1947. An expert in rural science and agricultural education, he served on the Gaeltacht commission (1925–6) chaired by Richard Mulcahy (qv), and wrote several books on farming subjects, and polemics on national 'political, cultural and economic recovery' (in the words of one of his subtitles), from a Christian corporatist perspective; he was elected MRIA (1925).
Dáithi Hanly received secondary education at Synge Street CBS, Dublin, then studied in the school of architecture, UCD, where he won the Batsford prize in 1937, and qualified B.Arch. (1940); a fluent Irish speaker, he was member of the student society An Cumann Gaelach. He subsequently attended courses in several British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. After brief spells in several Dublin architectural practices, he was architect in the special employment schemes office of the OPW, where he designed accommodation for turf workers in counties Dublin, Kildare and Offaly (1941–3). After a year with a private architectural practice (1943–4), he joined the planning department of Dublin Corporation (1944–7), first as a landscape architect, and later becoming deputy planning officer. Appointed housing and town planning architect of Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation (1947–56), he was responsible for the major public housing development at Sallynoggin, involving 1,000 houses on a 400-acre site in a mixture of semi-detached and terraced units. Projects of his design for the borough included the viewing platform on East Pier in Dún Laoghaire harbour, and the grassed amphitheatre in Blackrock Park; he also redesigned the borough coat of arms.
As Dublin city housing architect (1956–9), he implemented a thorough reorganisation of the office, and introduced the use of standardised components, thereby reducing building and maintenance costs. On amalgamation of the office with that of city architect, he became Dublin city architect (1959–65), exercising responsibility for all public housing and civic architecture within the corporation area. During his tenures in both offices, he designed many four- and five-storey blocks of flats (styled corporation 'maisonettes') throughout the city; characteristically recurring features included a stairwell situated within a free-standing cylindrical tower from which footbridges extended to the upper storeys; and exterior access to the individual units (on upper storeys via roofed galleries); the design maximised the amount of interior space allocated to living quarters.
Hanly expressed strong opinions about several of the controversies of the 1960s–70s between developers and preservationists, especially when issues of sympathetic architectural design were involved. A founding member in 1958 of the Irish Georgian Society – though resigning on his appointment as city architect to avoid a conflict of interest – he opposed construction of the new headquarters office of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), designed by architects Sam Stephenson (1933–2006) and Arthur Gibney (qv); Hanly argued that the modernist design would be an incongruous intrusion amid the existing Georgian townhouses of Fitzwilliam Street. In a report for the corporation's planning department, he identified the streetscape as an unbroken, harmonious Georgian façade built by native Irish craftsmen, the historic importance of which must be adjudged not by the significance of each individual building but as a unitary architectural entity.
As city architect, Hanly prepared a site plan survey and sketch plan designs for new civic offices (the final design to be accomplished by consultant architects). He was dismayed by the offices eventually built, to Stephenson's design, at Wood Quay, for reasons of style and location; he preferred a site further to the east, thus allowing Christchurch cathedral to dominate the skyline without impediment. He criticised both Liberty Hall and Stephenson's Central Bank as being inharmonious with their built surroundings, and attacked both the design and ghettoised location of the Ballymun flats complex, contending that such high-rise public housing bred social problems; in later years he urged their demolition.
When the original Abbey theatre was demolished in 1961 (ten years after suffering severe fire damage), Hanly on his own initiative salvaged the granite blocks of the façade, along with various fittings of the façade and vestibule, and preserved them on his property in Dalkey. Over the last twenty years of his life he sought to stimulate interest in a proposal to use the materials in a restoration of the old Abbey façade as the entrance to a national theatre museum.
Ancillary to his positions with Dublin and Dún Laoghaire corporations, Hanly fulfilled commissions as architect on two thematically related and similarly conceived Dublin public monuments. He collaborated with the Breton émigré sculptor Yann Renard-Goulet (qv) on the Custom House memorial (1956), commemorating the five Volunteers who died in the attack on the building (25 May 1921), and all other members of the IRA's Dublin Brigade killed during the war of independence. Located in a crescent-shaped park before the north façade of the Custom House (facing Beresford Place), the memorial has as its focal point an 18-ft (5.5-m) bronze statue depicting Éire and a wounded Volunteer, set on a limestone pedestal at the head of a raised rectangular pool and fountain, surrounded by a larger rectangular pool, within a paved, shallowly depressed area. The Garden of Remembrance (1966), Parnell Square, elaborates similar themes and design elements on a considerably larger scale and in a more conspicuous location. The memorial garden, 'dedicated to those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom', comprises a sunken cruciform space – 7 feet (2.1 metres) deep and walled in granite, and set in a lawn – within which is a similarly cruciform raised reflecting pool; on the floor of the pool, a mosaic pattern of alternating blue and green waves and six groups of weapons (based on Irish Iron Age specimens preserved in the NMI) alludes to a presumed ancient Celtic custom of breaking weapons and casting them into a body of water to signify a cessation of hostilities. At the head of the sunken space, granite steps 40 feet (12.2 metres) wide lead to an expansive platform upon which, set in an oval pool, is an imposing, 25-ft (7.6-m) bronze statue of the children of Lir being transformed into swans (executed by Oisín Kelly (qv), and placed in the garden in 1971), symbolising the rebirth of an independent Irish nation.
On his resignation as city architect in 1965 (the position has never been resumed, rendering him its last ever occupant), Hanly went into private practice as a consultant in architecture, town planning and landscape design. In 1966 he worked in Geneva on an appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Europe as chief editor of a report on building equipment, materials and components. In 1967 he began an appointment with An Foras Forbartha as planning advisor on the future development of both Arklow, Co. Wicklow, and Carraroe, in the Galway gaeltacht; he also chaired the body's committee on modular coordination.
Hanly's most ambitious commission was the basilica of Our Lady Queen of Ireland (1976) at Knock, Co. Mayo, executed in association with Louis Brennan and Brian Brennan. Seeking on a minimal construction and maintenance budget to accommodate the large numbers attracted to a major pilgrimage site, Hanly adapted the time-honoured model of a central-plan church conceived on a monumental scale. Determining that a clear-span roof over such a large space would be too costly (the structure's internal diameter is 226 feet (68.9 metres)), he contrived a circular plan divided into six segments. Five of these segments comprise the congregational space of the church, and are defined by four thick interior walls, which radiate from a central hexagonal area, and support the roof and a central raised hexagonal drum, directly beneath which is the high altar and sanctuary. The five internal segments accommodate 1,000 persons each and function as chapels radiating from the sanctuary. Surrounding the church is an exterior covered ambulatory that can be used for processions, or to accommodate a standing overflow congregation of 2,500, who observe services through open doors and glass windows. The sixth segment of the circle is occupied by an exterior plaza, two entrance porches, and a tower crowned by a spire. The design allows for a large congregation (of up to 7,500) to be distributed among intimate internal divisions, with unobstructed sight lines and proximity to the central altar; smaller congregations can be accommodated snugly in one of the chapels without being surrounded by vast empty space. Features of the design, materials, furnishings, and sound technology facilitate equally good acoustics for speech, music, and choral and congregational singing. Hanly was architect on the design team for the outdoor altar erected for the visit to Knock of Pope John Paul II (30 September 1979), in the centenary year of the putative Marian apparition, at which time the church was elevated to basilica status.
For the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), Hanly designed the Simmonscourt Pavilion (1975), a multi-purpose building containing exhibition and lecture halls, restaurant, and bars; initially the building included a sales ring for bloodstock auctions (subsequently converted into an exhibition hall), designed by Hanly with level sight lines on the advice of experts who deemed such lines the most conducive to judging the quality of a horse. With five halls and a total ground area of 12,000 square metres (over three acres), the pavilion is the largest exhibition building in Ireland. In 1969 Hanly and Louis Brennan were appointed by the minister for education to design a new National College of Art on a site on Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin. Throughout the 1970s the project was delayed amid a protracted struggle for control of the newly reconstituted National College of Art and Design (NCAD) between the college board and the Department of Education, with the board asserting its prerogative to determine the site of the new campus and to appoint the architects. When a new NCAD was eventually built (1980–81) on a Thomas Street site previously occupied by Power's whiskey distillery, different architects were engaged.
Hanly exhibited architectural drawings and stone sculptures at the RHA, the Oireachtas na Gaeilge, and An Tóstál. An external examiner for the UCD school of architecture, he read papers before housing and town planning conferences in Lisbon (1948) and Zurich (1952); he lectured widely throughout Ireland on planning issues, and contributed occasional articles to newspapers and magazines. A fellow of the RIAI, RIBA, and Royal Town Planning Institute, he was a founding member of the Society of Designers in Ireland. A council member of the RDS, serving from 1957 on the general purposes committee, he resigned when commissioned to design the Simmonscourt Pavilion. A member of An Taisce, he was director of Tailor's Hall (1706), restored as the body's headquarters. Chairman of the Dublin Housing Aid Society, he was a director of Dublin Tourism, vice-president of the Keep Ireland Beautiful Organisation, and a member of the board of visitors of both the NMI and the National Botanic Gardens. Other memberships included the Royal St George Yacht Club (Dún Laoghaire), the Zoological Society of Ireland, the Ireland America Society, and Friends of the National Collections of Ireland. He was a knight commander of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem.
Hanly married (11 February 1960) Joan Kennedy, of Clonaghera House, Durrow, Co. Laois; they had one son and one daughter. From the time of his marriage till his death he resided at 'San Elmo', Vico Road, Dalkey, Co. Dublin. He died 27 June 2003 at his home, and was buried in Shanganagh cemetery.