Since 2012 the Dublin Port Company (DPC) has been involved in very ambitious programme of redevelopment. Central to that redevelopment is the idea of Port City Integration and using its 300 year old archive to tell the story of the Port. Since 2015 there are have been a number of architectural projects that have highlighted the importance of the Port in Irish and Dublin Cities history. At the same time the Port has created a Soft Values Policy which engages with the communities around the port through art, music and theatre.  In 2018 the Port Heritage and Communication’s Department  was created to assist in the implementation of  the keys aims of the Masterplan 2012-2040 [1] and this new team are involved in a variety of Corporate Social Responsibility, Tangible and Intangible Soft Values and Heritage Projects.

The 90 ton Diving Bell dates from 1871 and was designed by the then Dublin Port Engineer Bindon Blood Stoney to expand the Port eastwards.  The Bell was in use until 1958 and was placed on display in 2003 as part of community project on Sir Rogersons Quay. In 2014 DPC working with MOLA architects decided to create a more permanent display raising the Diving Bell off the ground and building a small museum underneath which opened in 2015. As Frank McNally of the Irish Times described it at the time:  “And now suddenly, it’s Dublin newest museum – a miniature one, to be sure, but packing more fascination per square metre than most others”[2]. This popular museum receives 105,000 visitors each year.

In October 2016 DPC announced details of a new project to soften its boundaries to the City and provide public realm at Port Centre for the first time in 35 years.   This so far has been the largest physical intervention by Dublin Port to reintegrate the Port with the City, as committed to in the company’s 2040 Masterplan. The original Port Centre had been built by Scott Tallon Walker and opened in 1981. The aim of the project, led by Darmody Architects,  was to significantly soften and enliven the Port’s boundaries with the City creating new public spaces, a maritime-inspired garden, architectural design and the reinstallation of a 1957 heritage crane.   It was opened in October 2017 by the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

At the same time planning permission was given for a 4.2km greenway along the northern edge of the Port ending in a new linear park overlooking, the North and South Bull walls and UNESCO designated Dublin Bay biosphere.  This Greenway will tie in with a heritage trail from O’Connell Street Bridge down to the Port.

In December 2018 the Port Heritage and Communication’s team tendered for an architect led multi-disciplinary design team to create and develop a Masterplan for the Flour Mill.  This is an area within the Port consisting of a historical flour mill and silo buildings over 1.37 hectares which will become central to the future heritage plans for the Port, including a link to a 4.2 greenway along the northern edge of the Port.  In May 2019 the internationally famous Grafton Architects were awarded the contract for the Masterplan and this plan will create an area for the Port to house its nationally important archive, a Port museum, theatre, studios for artists and community rooms but also a must see destination in the heart of this Port City [3].

Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Until 2010 the Port followed a traditional approach of expanding through reclamation however this was stopped after a 30 year legal battle over planning permission.  Since then  DPC has set out in the Masterplan (2012 – 2040) how its aims to improve capacity of the port and focus on reintegrating with Dublin City through Soft Value projects and focusing on the Port Archive and Heritage infrastructure. Later this year The Flour Mill Masterplan will be launched with Grafton Architects and a heritage zone will be developed around the old graving dock pump house where Anu Productions’ Books of Names show will based in 2021. So if you can this weekend, take a walk to the Port Centre or the Diving Bell and see the city in a different way.

Lar Joye
Port Heritage Director, Dublin Port Company

[2] Mc NcNally, F, (4th September 2015)  “An Irishman’s Diary about the new life of the Dublin Port Diving Bell”, Irish Times.
[3] “A New Vision for an Old Space”, in Dublin Port Company  2020 Yearbook.