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Nice buildings put up in Dublin in the past 25 years? Why, yes, there are

Giant undertaking charts over 150 buildings that showcase excellent architecture in the capital since 1990.

Photo 1 - Croke Park - Donal Murphy (c) The redevelopment of the Lansdowne (the Aviva, above) and Croke Park stadiums are featured. Source: Donal Murphy Photography via Dublin Architecture

ARCHITECTURE – WHAT IS it good for?

The building boom concentrated in the capital post the 1980s has attracted some derision – and rightly so in some cases, particularly in developer-led projects built with much haste and repented with the enforced leisure suffered by those who are now stuck with living in them.

But is it fair to throw all the new builds out with the bathwater? Of course not – and a comprehensive guide book to over 150 buildings in Dublin since 1990 is as much about the discovery of the practical application of architecture to improve people’s everyday lives as it is about the landmark projects (although those are in there too).

Young Cork architect Seán Antóin Ó Muirí began this massive project is 2009, and it was finally published this autumn. He said that he used 1990 as his starting point because he saw the redevelopment of Temple Bar by Group 91, a architectural collaborative group, as stimulating architecture post that era and encouraging practices to come together.

There are some projects that can’t be ignored. The building of four major bridges across the Liffey in the timeframe for example. These include, of course, the showy spans of the Santiago Calatrava’s Samuel Beckett and James Joyce Bridges. But Ó Muirí tells TheJournal.ie that he has a soft spot for the rather more subtle Millennium footbridge, by Howley Harrington, as well as the Boardwalk.

Photo 2 - Liffey Boardwalk - Richard Hatch Photography (c) The Liffey Boardwalk Source: Richard Hatch Photography via Dublin Architecture

He says:

I like the Millennium Bridge – it’s got a lovely delicate texture. The boardwalk was an incredible piece of work – it opens up the Liffey, despite the social problems that have emerged there.

But he doesn’t see his book – which contains plans, cross-sections and technical details as well as beautiful photographs of the projects featured – as merely a coffee table-tour of the ‘starchitect’ hotspots in the city.

Rather,  Ó Muirí hopes that people will use it as a guidebook, and explore the city using it as a reference point:

To feel what it is, you have to go out and see the buildings, the atmosphere of the project, how it uses space and creates functionality for the people using it.

There are so many more buildings featured that the general public will not have heard of, or perhaps pass by every day and don’t notice – and these ones, which fit so well into their built environment, are the ones that really interest him.

And so he references the support Dublin City Council gave to multifunctional buildings such as a refuge for single mothers in Marrowbone, a centre in Ballybough with sports facilities and social meeting rooms, Timberyard social housing in Cork Street and many more with social purposes.

Photo 5 - Elm Park - Michael Moran (c) A new type of urban environment with a landscaped public garden linking apartments, offices, senior housing, clinic, hotel, leisure centre, pool, creche and more at Elm Park Green Urban Quarter. By Bucholz McEvoy. Source: Michael Moran Photography via Dublin Architecture

Two other essays in the book give context to the featured buildings – Dermot Boyd says that the “most interesting contemporary architecture in Dublin today is at times not obvious; it is often downplayed, often hidden away, but it is identifiably Irish”. Shane O’Toole’s essay to the rear of the book fills us in on where we came from – what architecture meant in that time from the establishment of the Free State to the late 1980s.

But the heart of it all is in his preface to the book, in which Ó Muirí notes that “good architecture and considered design affects us all, very often in subtle ways”.

It isn’t just about the architect’s vision but about how architecture splices beautiful design with functionality for those who live, work and play in its shadow.

Dublin Architecture: 150+ buildings since 1990 by Seán Antóin Ó Muirí, RRP €29 (hardback, full colour), is published by Gandon Editions (gandon@eircom.net). It is available in bookshops such as Hodges Figgis, Alan Hanna’s Rathmines, Temple Bar Bookshop, Gutter Bookshop, Dubray Books, RIAI bookshop.

Photo 6 - Richmond Place - Paul Tierney (c) Richmond Place by Boyd Cody. Source: Paul Tierney via Dublin Architecture

view 50 Leeson Street houses by de Blacam and Meagher. Source: Peter Cook via Dublin Architecture

Photo 8 -  The Gas Holder - Gerry O' Leary (c) The Gasholder by O'Mahony Pike Architects. Source: Gerry O'Leary via Dublin Architecture

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