Sunday, 1 February 2009

€15m 'Guggenheim' project for Kenmare

Kerry hotelier John Brennan, who settled a dispute with builder Seán Dunne in the High Court last week, is to build a €15m exhibition centre in Kenmare.

Brennan, who likened his project to the Guggenheim or Tate Modern, told the Sunday Tribune his ambitious plans have the blessing of the picturesque town's business community.

The hotelier said while the region has virtually every attraction and the infrastructure necessary to support tourism, it is missing a key piece of architecture that will "wow" the world.

A small presentation on the project – which will be funded by a non-profit trust – was recently delivered to the local business community.

The committee behind the building includes Riverdance producer Moya Doherty, musician Philip King and former Abbey Theatre director Joe Dowling.

Brennan, who runs the luxurious Kenmare Park Hotel and is known for the RTÉ television series At Your Service, said: "The whole point of this project is to create a catalyst for tourism. It's a serious proposal to address a faltering industry in the south of Ireland."

The "well regarded" architect behind the project will be unveiled in a week's time and it is hoped the move will create short-term construction jobs and long-term tourism employment.

Brennan explained that an alternative annual show will be hosted at the building every year with enough significance to bolster visitor numbers.

He noted that a key motivation for people taking foreign trips is a combination of architecture and culture such as the famous Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain or the Tate St Ives in England.

"This will be very different to them; the concept is very, very unique. It's not a museum, it's not a theatre or an exhibition centre but it could be a world class version of any of them depending on what type of exhibition is there," he said.

"This facility is designed to change annually so that people will come back for an exhibition. The architecture will be extremely strong but so will the context of the building.

"There is a whole story behind the architecture which stems from the history of Kenmare. Everyone who has seen [the plans] has said 'wow'."

Sunday Tribune

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