Grangegorman Development Agency – Fragments 1 - Open House Dublin 2024
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Grangegorman Development Agency – Fragments 1


In July 2023 the Grangegorman Development Agency lodged an application for Planning Permission to progress housing. 

This follows several years of careful preparation by our Project Team and intense design work by our Design Team led by McCullough Mulvin Architects and TODD Architects. 

The Grangegorman Residential Care Neighbourhood – on behalf of the Health Service Executive – will provide new homes for older persons, replacement homes for the residents of St Elizabeth’s Court, a day care facility and pharmacy; all arranged next to, and about the existing Primary Care Centre. 

To mark this milestone Valerie Mulvin of McCullough Mulvin Architects and Dr Austin O’Carroll of the Grangegorman Primary Care Centre sat with us to talk of aging, home, community, and the city – along with other fragments of life. 

As part of the Irish Architecture Foundation’s Open House Dublin 2023 Festival of Architecture, the Grangegorman Development Agency presents Fragments – a conversation in three parts companioned with three situating texts. 

Part One: Seam

Fortunes have swung wildly at Grangegorman.

From medieval manorial patchwork to industrial intervention, from innovative healthcare to clamouring incarceration, from experimental psychiatry to urban isolation. This all preceded a wave of site clearance in the mid-1980s which left buildings only here-and-there, and a faint shadow of their former selves. 

But before this destruction, the two worlds of Grangegorman and Broadstone lived cheek-by-jowl separated only by a three-metre-high seam of muddy limestone wall. Confinement and commerce; butted back-to-back after two centuries busied with building.  

The Workhouse was the first of the dense Grangegorman blocks to edge up against Broadstone Harbour. The Broadstone side was sparser, and lightly raked with infrastructure. Rail track from the northwest veered in strands off into a smattering of warehouses. An imposing granite building presented a formal face this armature of the Midland Great Western Railway Company, in front of which the Royal Canal branch quietly swooped to fill the Harbour basin. 

Back on the other side of the seam, and forty-odd years after the Workhouse, the Richmond Lunatic Asylum opened. It has since become known as the Lower House. Initially, it dealt patients with progressive care. However, a change in health legislation within the first quarter of the 19th century gave rise to overcrowding, and so by the late 20th century, it became associated with the worst aspects of institutionalisation. Its closure in 1989 was heralded as a symbolic revolution in healthcare. 

The Lower House was quickly followed by the Richmond Penitentiary, which is now referred to as the Clocktower. It was subsequently adapted for use as a hospital, and so the complex expanded northward. Not long after this lands to the west – on the other side of a public thoroughfare – were bought for recreational use. Grangegorman Lower now bridged a squat tunnel joining one side with the other: east and west. 

By the mid-19th century, the thirty-hectare site was full of buildings. Both dominant faiths were represented with chapels, along with segregated infirmaries, a second lunatic asylum, a laundry, and a mortuary building. Grangegorman was now home to almost 2,000 patients, but this would halve within the next century, or so. 

From there forward the condition of the site – by now known as St Brendan’s – declined after further changes to health policies. 

Residents were sent off-site, and the demolition of buildings began in earnest. So much so that by 2005 the number living on-site had reduced to just over 100. 

Throughout it all, the seam endured leaving Grangegorman jilted by the city.


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