Dublin Docklands Reinvented

This fourth volume by Niamh Moore, Dublin Docklands Reinvented, takes us into the late-twentieth century and the redevelopment of Dublin’s docklands. Dublin is a port city, founded because the geography of the bay and river proved useful to Viking raiders who later became traders. However, the relationship between the port and its geography has always been difficult, a characteristic explored in Dublin through space and time. While Dublin Bay with its crescent shape and broad expanse of water seems inviting, it is anything but. The bay is shallow and its sandbanks, exposed at low water, offer only a narrow channel into the river. This is further complicated by the Dublin Bar, a notorious sandbank across the opening of the river channel which while fine for sleek shallow-draught Viking longboats caused major difficulties for trading ships sitting lower in the water. As a result, for most of its history, Dublin Port has been accessible only at high water and with the wind in the right quarter. The legacy of shipwrecks in the Bay is testament to its dangers. Likewise the river itself was broad and narrow and needed significant taming between its quay walls to make it suitable for the increasingly larger and heavier shipping. Thus the story of the port of Dublin has been a constant interaction between the changing needs of shipping and the geography of the bay. This led, inter alia, to the construction of the two sea walls in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth century that finally tamed the Dublin Bar and continue to keep it in check today. It also set the port on its drift eastwards in search of deeper water and more space to accommodate changes in maritime technology.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Dublin Port was beyond Butt Bridge and the city had moved eastwards in tandem with the port. However, during the twentieth century while the port continued to move eastwards, as it still does, the city did not follow. Perhaps the simplest reason for this is that the railways, and especially the Loop Line, provided both a physical and a psychological barrier towards such movement. This occurred in other cities too, especially port cities, where a sense of the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ developed for locations beyond the sidings and goods yards and the paraphernalia of railways. Yet the port continued to change and its technology continued to evolve. It gradually abandoned land to the east of the Custom House as this became surplus to its needs. This land struggled to find alternative uses and gradually decayed into a landscape of warehouses, poor housing, half-abandoned freight yards. This was already evident in the 1930s as the port authorities advertised the ready availability of sites within the docklands for factories and warehousing. By the 1960s, there was a substantial landscape of extensive land uses to the east of the city of Dublin that was probably unknown to most Dubliners as there was little reason to bring them there. This is the point at which Niamh Moore begins her discussion of the revitalization of Dublin’s Docklands. A number of forces underpin this current transformation. The growth of a global economy has provided the opportunity for cities such as Dublin to become players in industries that would not otherwise located in such a peripheral location. The re-imaging of docklands in many other parts of the world has provided the impetus to planners and developers to see the potential of waterfront sites for culture, commerce and leisure. The existence of a large bank of underutilised land has made it all possible. As a result, a new city is developing on land that, less than twenty years ago, seems destined to decay into genteel dereliction. It is a city that reflects a new international identity for Dublin that is mirrored in the international style of its landscape. However, it is not simply a copy of what is being done elsewhere; it has its own character – that which makes it Dublin’s interpretation of global phenomena. Niamh Moore explores the processes that resulted in the landscape of today. She looks at the movers and shakers and traces why the result has taken on this particular shape and not another. It is an unfinished story. The process of change and development is still continuing but the shape of the modern city is now clear for us all to see.

It is still in print and may be obtained directly from Four Courts Press.

www.fourcourtspress.ie

xcover-4 Dublin docklands reinvented
The post-industrial regeneration of a European city quarter
Niamh Moore
Catalogue Price: €24.95
ISBN: 978-1-85182-835-7
August 2008. 320pp; ills.

Chapter headings

  • THE CITY AND THE SEA
  • DUBLIN’S WATERFRONT IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
  • RECREATING THE WATERFRONT: THE CUSTOM HOUSE DOCKS AND ENVIRONS, 1987-1997
  • THE POLITICS OF PLANNING DOCKLANDS, 1980-1997
  • CREATING A LIVING CITY: CHANGING DIRECTIONS FOR DUBLIN DOCKLANDS
  • THE CONTESTED CITY: DOCKLANDS IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
  • CONTINUING EVOLUTION

 

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