Dublin 2005


PROGRAM : Architectural and Landscape design for the Royal Canal Linear Park

LOCATION : Dublin Docklands

SURFACE AREA : 1Km Linear Park

COMPETITION PROMOTERS : Dublin Docklands Development Authority

COMPETITION ORGANIZATION : The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland

COST : €15M / Phase 1

PERSPECTIVES : Philippe Steels

In the heart of the North Lotts Area of Dublin Docklands, the project «Sensuous Geographies» is located at the confluence of the Royal Canal and the Liffey river. This Master Plan extends the reflection perimeter so as to better regenerate the history of the places through a scenography of narrative interpenetrated landscapes which will progressively reconnect the urban flows of pedestrians, bikers, cars, trains ans boasts... Following the « Master Plan 2003 » and the « Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2005-2011 », the project inspired by the Land Art proposes a hybridization of the city and the landscape on the theme regarding flows and geographies.


This Master Plan proposes a spatial design based on a phasing strategy in temporal sequences. These sequences called « Sensuous Geographies » make topological changes which correspond to six thematic landcapes : the Royal Canal, the Ecohouse, the Playscape, the Orchard, the Lagoons and the Housings. These six landscapes will reconnect the links between the neighbouring quarters by integrating new interconnexion networks.

There are two different types of topological changes : first the « Softscape » or « Soft landscaping » is a transformation of the floor landscaping (ground, water, planting and outdoor activities) and comes mainly from the horticulture, the biological agriculture and the aquaculture. Then, the « Hardscape » or « Hard Landscaping » is a morphologic modification of the floor by the integration of new architectural structures (indoor activities) which enables to develop the residential and trade construction as well as urban entertainment. The geometry and the visual aspect of these new « Sensuous Geographies » vary thus from the Soft to the Hard, from the horizontal to the oblique, from the planting to mineral. The whole set tends towards a new artificial landscape establishing a new natural ecosystem in the heart of the city.


The size of the site and the programmatic complexity lead to propose a distribution of the Master Plan into 5 successive phases corresponding to the « Sensuous Geographies » on a period of twenty years 2005-2025 :

1.2007 / PHASE 1 : The Royal Canal and the Ecohouse

The Royal Canal is a 146km Stillwater canal that extends from Spencer Dock in Dublin City to Richmond Harbour, Cloondara, Co. Longford on the river Shannon. Replaced by the railways in the mid nineteenth century, it is currently navigable from Spencer Dock in Dublin to Millingar in the midlands.

Spencer Dock is the sea dock of the Royal Canal, and it served for some time as a wharf for loading from seagoing ships to trains during the heyday of rail transport in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The site of the intervention stretches from the River Liffey to North Strand Road covering approximately 1km.

The Royal Canal is nowadays the main line of the Master Plan on which many connexions will be added. They will enable to reattach the new geographies to the surrounding urban network. The curvature and the width of the historical path of the Canal are redrawn so as to make the navigation functional again. The wood walkings ways for pedestrians and bikers are clearly redrawn parallely to this new dynamic curvature. The planting frames the canal by long linear stretchings which purify the urban reinterpretation and clarify the high level of accessibility according to lining quarters. Moreover the plant curtains enable to secure the privacy of residents of the Western side in the North of Sheriff Street. Ponctually vertical lights on the East bank and fitted in the floor on the West bank create a secure environment and an attractive night-time appearance.

Like the East Wall Area Action Plan, the project proposes to improve existing connections and to create new pedestrian links to implement accessibility to the East Wall Area. These include a pedestrian bridge across the railway line at the southern end of Church Road. Two additional accesses are created over Spencer Dock, first in the axis of Mayor Street Lower towards the Playscape, and then in the axis of the Oriel street lower towards the five Lagoons. The Royal Canal will be a place dedicated to all active recreations including walking, jogging, fishing, boating, roller-blading, cycling as well as defined children’s play spaces catering across the full age spectrum.

Last but not least, on the triangular parcel included between the North Strand Road and the bridge of the main Dublin-Belfast railway crossing the canal, the Ecohouse is implanted. Under the organic form of a tree growing in a glass cylinder, the Ecohouse is a futuristic centre of researches, exhibitions and exchanges on the ecosystems of Dublin city. Vertically standing as a belvedere on a height of 32 meters, it is the highest point of the Royal Canal offering the public interactive exhibitions on the fauna, flora and history of the site. Moreover, the public has magnificient panoramic views on Dublin city from the restaurant and the pub located at the last level.

2.2010 / PHASE 2 : The 5 Lagoons

The industrial parcels between the Spencer Dock, the railway of Conolly Station and the residential quarter of the East Wall Area, are realocated into five lagoons. These lagoons form a new « Sensuous Geography » in direct interconnexion with the Royal Canal. It is a landscape of fauna and aquatic flora in which each basin works as a biological purification station filtering the waste waters of neighbouring quarters. The network of the roads are redrawn so as to link this new geography to existing streets.

3.2015 / PHASE 3 : The Farm in the Orchard

So as to reintroduce an urban agriculture necessary to the mixity and the complementarity of the quarters, a farm is implanted on the parcel between the 5 lagoons and the Sheriff Street. This parcel is currently occupied by the CIE rail freight terminal. It is geography of linear plants according to the railway establishment. Actually, the fruit trees are planted in and outline the terminal lines whose fallow fields will become pasture fields.

4.2020 / PHASE 4 : The Playscape

From the Sheriff Street until the Pearse Street and the Grand Canal Dock on the South bank of the Liffey river, the Playscape extends as a new urban permeable landscape. It is a new « Sensuous Geography » providing a lot of social and cultural activities through very different walking ways. The Playscape is a morphologically redundant surface of intersecting folds establishing from “Hardscape” to “Sofscape” varied degrees of enclosure, climate, ambients, plantations, light and sound conditions.

The Spencer Dock Company Development site is one of the three sites selected by the Irish Government to built the National Conference Centre. On the both sides of the Liffey river, the topological structure of the Playscape welcome an entire new urban programmation based on a mixed development. At the Eastern side of the Royal Canal in the south of Sheriff Street, the “hard” program integrates this new national convention centre and also a public library, a cinema multiplex and a shopping mall. This set is located under the Softscape forming the entire cover (of wood and grass) of the structure punctuated by wide canopies. On the other bank of the Liffey reiver, the Playscape welcome the universe of sport and welfare. Both banks are linked by a stretching of this built geography forming a inhabited bridge covered by a urban garden. The goal is to strenghten the link between the docks and the city !

5.2025 / PHASE 5 : The Housings and the Offices

On the both sides of the Liffey river, the Master Plan proposes a strong density and restructuration of the existing urban network du tissu urbain existant completely dislocated. Formed as a huge bar code parallel to the Canal, office buildings, shops and housing clearly frame the Playscape and its access from Sheriff Street until the Hanover Quay. A new strategic road is created perpendicular to the Mayor Street between this programmatic bar code and the Playscape. In the North, it Plus au Nord, it follows the Orchard and the 5 Lagoons to reach the Royal Canal.

« Sensuous Geographies » is an ambitious project of urban renewal which connects again the Royal Canal and the neighbouring quarters. It is a great challenge to set up in Dublin a true morphing between architecture, urbanism and landscape so as to propose a high level of urban and social mixity ! It is a project of positive regenerationof the image of the Royal Canal, of the Liffey river and of the Docks !



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