Koralek was born in Austria, although at an early age and just after the Austro-German unification under the Nazi regime in 1938, his family, of Jewish origin, emigrated to London.
He studied architecture at the Architectural Association, graduating in 1956. Later he worked with several renowned architects including the English architect Philip Powel and the Hungarian Marcel Breuer, also of Jewish origin, who had settled in New York fleeing persecution in Europe. Installed in New York, he was only 28 years old when, together with two former Architectural Association colleagues, Peter Ahrends and Richard Burton, Koralek participated in the competition for the expansion of Trinity College’s library. Their project was selected among the 350 submitted proposals. This would mark a turning point in his career and his definitive return to Europe, where he developed the rest of his professional activity between London and Dublin, associated with Burton and Ahrends, under the name of ABK.
The Berkeley Library building was the first contemporary addition to the Trinity College complex, an institution founded in 1592, that moved to the current campus in 1712. The complex, marked by the large palaphytic buildings in a neoclassical style, had grown organically by positioning the units around empty spaces. These filled in its perimeter and were configured as internal squares of the campus. When Koralek arrived in Dublin to implement the project, he changed his perception of the built environment and altered the initial project substantially, making it a much more compact and powerful proposal. The definitive implementation of the new volume shows great intelligence: thanks to the separation of its volumes from the alignment of the two neighboring buildings, it generated a small access square. This gave rise to the creation of a new square, known as the Fellow’s square, which has been consolidated over the years with the implementation of new buildings, expanding the campus to the south.
Despite its respect for the existing architecture in positioning, the brutalist aesthetic of the new building meant a clean break from the predominant classical language. This caused certain bewilderment, and an initial rejection of the project. However, over the years, the building was –and still is– considered to be one of the key pieces regarding the introduction and acceptance of brutalist architecture in Ireland and the United Kingdom.