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This is how Dublin's cityscape has changed - and what's in store for the future

A new video maps more than five decades of development in the capital.

FROM THE FIRST office towers of the 1960s to the gleaming glass of the Silicon Docks, Dublin’s cityscape has undergone a transformation over the past five decades.

And while commercial developments have reflected the architectural styles of their periods, the shape of the city has also mirrored a sequence of booms and busts.

In a new video, property agents Savills Ireland plotted the city’s office developments over the past 50 years – before looking ahead to the buildings in the pipeline over the next five years.

The 1960s


This was the decade when major office projects kicked off in the city centre with the first large-scale redevelopments dotting the landscape.

According to Savills research director Dr John McCartney, the initial wave was focussed on the central area because the sheer number of available sites meant it made sense for developers to keep offices around one commercial hub.

vtls000047406 Liberty Hall from the O'Connell Bridge Source: NLI/Wiltshire Collection

These developments included Dublin’s first high-rise, Liberty Hall, finished in 1965, which still stands as the city’s third-tallest storied building.

The 1970s


The same process of city development continued into the 1970s, although the offices also began to sprawl along the coast towards Blackrock and Dún Laoghaire.

Pic2 Grand Canal St, Dublin, in the 1970s Source: NLI/Michael S. Walker Collection

It was also the era of controversial developments like the ESB headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street Lower, which involved the tearing down of a row of Georgian houses – then the longest standing in the world – to make way for the construction.

The 1980s


This was the decade when a “moribund economy” and low office values meant very little development took place, McCartney said.

Bank1 Source: James Horan/RollingNews.ie

While the period started with the completion of the Central Bank’s brutalist headquarters in Dame St, by the mid-80s there was about 300 acres of city space that was vacant or lying derelict.

The 1990s


The 1990s brought a “revolution” with the introduction of better transport and the splintering of Dublin into four local authorities, McCartney said.

Pic3 The IFSC under construction in the early 90s Source: NLI/Lawrence Photographic Project

Readily available greenfield sites in the suburbs meant there was a surge in suburban office construction.



The process of city and suburban development continued through the Celtic Tiger period, when US tech giants like Google started setting up in the city and the Silicon Docks took shape.

Non-residential construction activity peaked in early 2006, but by 2012 it had more than halved after the property bubble burst.

Dublin Cranes dot Dublin's skyline in 2007 Source: Aapo Haapanen

However latent demand for office space in the capital has meant a surge of project proposals over the past year as the economy has recovered.

The Docklands of Dublin Dublin's Docklands in 2013 Source: Tobias Abel

McCartney said for the first time there would be wholesale replacement of old office buildings with new ones and a focus on the traditional CBD region.

Looking ahead


The next stage of development will include the replacement of unloved relics from previous eras, like Hawkins House, on Poolbeg St, and the former Bord Fáilte headquarters, on Lower Baggot St, both from the 1960s and slated for demolition.

Much of the new building will also come in the docklands, where there is still unused space and fast-track planning laws are in place.

Among the proposals already put forward are plans for Dublin’s tallest office complex, the 73m Exo building.


By 2021, Savills predicts about 1.26 million sq m of new office space will be built, which will mean a 27% increase on current supply allowing for the demolition of existing buildings.

Watch the full video below

Source: Savills Ireland/YouTube

READ: The economy may be on the way up, but one in six people born here still live abroad >

READ: Think Irish property prices are going nuts? Here’s how they stack up globally >

About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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