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Masterpieces of Architecture in Dublin

Grand Canal Theatre (Bord Gais Energy Theatre) - Dublin 2

Opened in 2010, Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre has been described as an architectural masterpiece. It was built by architect Daniel Libeskind of New York and RHWL Architects of London.


Located in the Grand Canal Dock area, it seats 2,111 and was created as a touring theatre for ballet, opera, musicals, and concerts by Live Nation and the Docklands Development Authority. The Bord Gais Energy Theatre is known to host some of the most exciting shows and concerts in Dublin city.

Convention Centre Dublin - Dublin 1

CCD, as the Convention Centre Dublin is called, was designed by Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC. The stunningly unique glass fronted atrium runs the full height of the building, affording visitors panoramic views of Dublin City Centre, the River Liffey, and the Wicklow mountains.


From materials to construction and maintenance, environmental sustainability was key to the design and building process. The result is a 22-room, multi-functional, flexible venue for conferences, meetings and exhibitions that also meets the highest sustainability standards. The CCD is recognised as the first carbon neutral convention centre in the world.

Dublin Gasworks - Dublin 4

The Dublin Gasworks was built in 1824 to light streets until the advent of electric lighting in the early 20th century. The advantage of these gasometers is that natural gas can be stored at a constant pressure throughout the day, then released quickly through pipes when needed. The retained Gasworks frame was built in 1885 by Samuel Cutler & Sons from the Isle of Dogs in London. Bord Gais owned the property until the mid-1990s, when it was sold and eventually converted into a multi-storied apartment building.

The Gasworks is best known for the Alliance building, managed by The Lansdowne Partmership. Completed in 2006-07, the Alliance is home to 210 apartments. The circular shape suggested by the original frame ensures that all of the apartments have spectacular, two-sided views of the city and an inner courtyard.

Grand Canal Square Hotel - Dublin 4

Located at the west end of Dublin's Grand Canal Dock, one side of Manuel Aires Mateus's 5-star hotel faces onto the water. The Sunday Times said the luxury hotel would "bring the fizz back into architecture in Dublin." Though the hotel was completed in 2010, it is still unoccupied to date.

Inspired by the Giant's Causeway, the dramatic lobby was designed as if it were excavated from rock. The design is a reference and tribute to Ireland's dramatic landscape and primordial architecture.

Dublin's Samuel Beckett Bridge

The Samuel Beckett Bridge joins Sir John Rogerson's Quay on the River Liffey's south side to Guild Street and North Wall Quay in the Docklands. It is 120 metres long and 48 metres high, and opened in 2009 after two years of construction.

Santiago Calatrava designed the Samuel Beckett Bridge to look like a giant harp lying on its side. It is strikingly beautiful by day and night, and has been called a work of art. The newly constructed cable-stayed bridge was floated up the river and snapped into place. It swings on its base to allow ships to pass under.

Dublin's O2 Arena - Dublin 1

The O2 has been described as "what Irish music lovers have been waiting for - a stunning, state-of-the-art entertainment venue, with the kind of world class acoustics that great music deserves." The old Point Theatre was renovated with retractable seats and an exceptionally wide stage, enabling the arena to host a variety of both stage and sporting events.

Populous was the architectural designer, completing the project in 2008. It has the capacity for 9,500 seated or 14,500 seated and standing visitors. The arena was named the fifth busiest in the world, and has hosted many world renowned performers.

The Gas Company - Dublin 2

The D'olier Street Gas Company is one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in Dublin. Built in 1928 by the architects Robinson & Keefe as the head office for Dublin's Gas Company, it was refurbished in 2002 by Trinity College to house its School of Nursing Midwifery Studies.
Three etched windows above the entrance depict gas related motifs. The central panel shows what could be a gas production vessel surrounded by stylised flames while the panels on either side each show a man working with a shovel in front of a factory.

Another side of this complex of several buildings is the Neo-Tudor section, which encompasses Leinster Market. The big "gas" sign was originally illuminated every night.

Georgian Doors and Fanlights

The Georgian Door is regarded as a "welcome" sign for the people visiting Dublin. Many of the best examples of the door can be seen at Merrion Square, Mountjoy Square, Baggot Street, and Lesson Street. Shining brass fittings, vibrant colours, fanlights and lanterns lend a distinctive style to each of the doors.

The Dublin Georgian style of architecture was developed between the years 1714 to 1830. Many of the public buildings built during the Georgian period are said to be the work of the notable architect of the time, James Gandon.

Essex Quay Sunlight Chambers Friezes - Dublin 2

Dublin's colourful, Italianate-styled Sunlight Chambers was built at the turn of the 20th Century as the Dublin offices for Lever Brothers. "Sunlight" was the company's brand name for their soap product, hence the name of their Irish headquarters. A series of scenes depict the story of soap, with "shiny naked children," women doing laundry, and men plowing the fields.

A famous sculptor and potter named Conrad Dressler was hired to design and craft the remarkable series of four roundels and twelve panels around the three faces of the building. At the time it was built, Sunlight Chambers was called "one of the ugliest buildings in Ireland" by The Irish Builder. Conservationist Gilroy McMahon restored and brightened the friezes in the late 1990s.

Ha'penny Bridge - Dublin 1

This arch-style pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey was originally called the Wellington Bridge after the Duke of Wellington. Opened in 1816, it is constructed of cast iron with a wood deck and measures 43 metres long, with a width of 220 metres. Its official name is the Liffey Bridge, but is commonly called the Ha'penny bridge as the ferry operator who had it built was granted the right to extract a ha'penny toll from anyone who crossed it for 100 years as compensation for the ferries it replaced.

The Customs House - Dublin 1

Located on the north bank of the River Liffey on the Custom House Quay, this neoclassical 18th century  structure currently houses the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

In 1871 James Gandon was appointed as architect, and chose Irish artists as his assistants. Eventually every available Dublin mason was engaged in building this structure. The four facades of the building are decorated with ornamental sculptures representing Ireland's rivers and coats-of-arms.

During the 1921 Irish War of Independence, the Irish Republican Army burned down the Custom House in an attempt to disrupt British rule in Ireland. Gandon's original interior was completely destroyed. After the Anglo-Irish Treaty it was restored using Irish material resources such as Ardbraccan limestone to replace the Portland stone used in the original construction.

The National Museum

Yet another architectural masterpiece is the National Museum of Ireland. Built in 1884, the National Museum and the National Library were designed as part of the same scheme. A large rotunda entrance hall and magnificent central exhibition hall grace the interior of the building. An impressive staircase leads upward to the high vaulted ceiling of the reading room above the rotunda.

For more articles and photos of Dublin architecture, visit Dublin Architecture.

—Jo Greene

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