This month the eyes of the world are on Dublin’s Grand Canal Square, designed by landscape architects and urban designers Martha Schwartz Partners (MSP), as client the Dublin Docklands Authority achieves a milestone in their ambitious redevelopment of the city’s long-neglected waterfront.
The opening of Studio Daniel Libeskind’s Grand Canal Theater will fully activate the two-and-a-half-acre Grand Canal Square, allowing the former industrial site to serve as its designers at MSP intended—as the connective tissue between the theater and adjacent new construction, and as the new cultural and commercial epicenter of the city.
Says Martha Schwartz, President of MSP, “Our objective in the Grand Canal Square scheme was to create a vibrant, energetic space that would flow naturally into the dynamic and expressive volume of Liebeskind’s theater.” MSP has created a public amenity that is emblematic of Dublin’s optimism, fulfilling the mission of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to revitalize the edge of the River Liffey and give it back to the people of the city.
In addition to strolling, relaxing, and al fresco dining, the multi-functional plaza also supports large public gatherings, impromptu meetings, and spontaneous events. By providing a vibrant and flexible public space that encourages people to spend time in it, by creating a healthier public realm, and by offering a unique and viable alternative for families, MSP has created a sustainable urban environment for Dublin’s waterfront.
As befits the centerpiece of a major new arts and entertainment district, Grand Canal Square rolls out the red carpet to Dublin and the world. Paved in a newly developed red resin-glass material, the central pathway of the plaza leading from the dockside to the theater is punctuated by glowing, angled light sticks that evoke the excitement of opening night. A series of planters—triangular in plan, staggered in height and up-lit in LED lights—forms a cool green band that transverses the red carpet north-to-south, adding an element of calm to the composition while connecting the office building to the hotel.
The infrastructural logistics of the plaza required as much care as its aesthetics. Situated over a previously existing one-story parking garage, strict weight restrictions had to be observed, and substantial venting requirements needed to be accommodated. MSP’s solution was to hide the venting in planters and benches that dot the site using a specially fabricated perforated metal. Other special features include steel-clad pavilions leading to staircases to the parking level, as well as a cascading marble fountain whose large triangular forms appear to push up through the ground like the geological upheaval of rock strata.
About Martha Schwartz Partners
Martha Schwartz Partners focuses on activating and regenerating complex urban sites and city centers. Situated at the intersection of landscape, art, and urbanism, Martha Schwartz Partners has 20 years of experience designing and implementing large-scale installations, gardens, civic plazas, parks, institutional landscapes, corporate headquarters, master plans, and urban regeneration projects.