Re: Re: DDDA / Docklands Miscellany

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A few bits of interest:

The Analog Concert series has just been announced- http://www.analogconcerts.ie

From that site, I discovered that the DDDA has a Flickr account- some nice shots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10258928@N04/

In particular, some good ones of CHQ / Stack A: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10258928@N04/sets/72157602958327839/

Also, this article was in last Saturday’s Irish Times. I meant to post it earlier.

Docks loaded with history Saturday, April 5, 2008

YOU MIGHT find it in a Caneletto oil of London, or a 15th century woodcut of Germany’s Hanseatic Lübeck. The late 18th-century artist James Malton evoked it in one of his many images of Gandon’s Dublin, writes Lorna Siggins.

A resolutely romantic relationship between port city and its waterfront is captured in Malton’s The Marine School, which hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland.

It’s an image we cling to and we reproduce in thousands of prints and posters and postcards, in spite of rapidly changing commercial realities. Nothing unusual in this, according to Dr Cindy McCreery, who noted, in a study of paintings with the British National Maritime Museum, that our interpretations of ports have long reflected the “ideal”.

In fact, engravings or prints of original works could be perceived as a form of public relations by the very nature of the wider audience they reached, she suggested. This representation varied – from busy commercial hub to military target, from centre of civilisation to lonely outpost in a troubled colony. In providing both access to, but also protection from, the marine environment, ports symbolised “man’s desire for exploration, trade, war and contemplation” and provided fruits for “investigating the complex history of man’s relationship with the sea”.

Niamh Moore hasn’t dared to undertake such a bold challenge, but she does touch on several aspects of this complex relationship in an Irish context as part of her research on recent changes in Dublin’s docklands. The emphasis is on “recent”, for she makes clear at the outset that this is not a comprehensive history. Significantly, it is the fourth in a series of geographic perspectives on the making of Dublin city, edited by Dr Joseph Brady and Prof Anngret Simms of University College Dublin.

IT’S AN opportune time, given the lobbying by the Progressive Democrats before the last general election for relocation of Dublin port to Bremore, north of Balbriggan. It seems like heresy, for those who believe the capital owes its very existence to the harbour but, as its advocates point out, it reflects international trends.

Commercial interests are already eyeing up the potential of 263 hectares or 650 acres of “real estate” – a term used by DTZ Sherry FitzGerald’s Mairead Furey in a recent article for this newspaper. Dublin port may reach operational capacity this year, she noted. This left the Government with two options – reclamation of some 21 hectares (52 acres) of Dublin Bay, which is already a controversial issue on the north side, or relocation.

In her study, Moore notes that the port has moved several times before. The refuge which the Vikings sailed into – a voyage recreated by the replica longship, Sea Stallion, last summer – was not a natural harbour. Tidal, rocky, and with a tendency to frequent siltation, it became graveyard for many ships over centuries, as documented by maritime historians such as the late Dr John de Courcy Ireland.

“Managing and taming the Liffey” has been an enterprise as old as the city itself, and an examination of early maps indicates extensive land reclamation on both sides of the river channel. Quays were built along the northern edge of what was then a town wall to improve navigation and berthage.

The port’s migration allowed for the city’s expansion, and the Grand Canal docks to facilitate bigger ships. The early 19th century survey of Dublin Bay by Capt John Bligh – he of Bounty mutiny fame – influenced construction some 20 years later of the North Bull Wall, to complement the South Wall and to improve the natural scouring effect of the channel.

However, changing shipping demands influenced a move farther east to deeper water. As industrialisation took hold in the late 19th century, large tracts of land became available for gas and coke works, chemical works and slaughterhouses – reinforcing a separation of the city. Parts of land abandoned in the easterly transit were recolonised by the State, Moore notes – such as construction of Busáras by Coras Iompar Éireann from 1941, and the development, by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, of a new postal sorting office at Sherriff Street in 1950.

Such stakeholder involvement represented a significant challenge in a far more difficult economic environment. Not surprisingly, the docklands have been synonymous with a very different kind of energy over the past two decades, reflecting an international trend in ports like Boston, Tokyo, Cape Town and St Petersburg. Movement away from manufacturing and heavy industry to service sectors, and the growing popularity of cheap airline flights over passenger ferries, has resulted in abandonment of industrial areas which had been developed close to port zones.

Perhaps the greatest impact on dockland activity has been the widespread adoption of containerised shipping, Moore notes. In the 1960s, loading and offloading in Dublin port, mainly by manual labour, could take four to 10 days. This has been reduced to six to eight hours, with minimal manual input – and consequent disengagement from communities which had been associated with and dependent on employment generated there.

Projects undertaken by organisations such as the St Andrew’s Heritage Group recorded the dramatic nature of these changes: “It was a fantastic sight to see so many men in the darkness of the morning going down to a little wooden boat to go across the river to get work on the Dublin docks,” a 1992 study by the group recalled. However, the little wooden boats began to return with ever larger numbers who hadn’t been called that day. “It went into hundreds, getting turned away for work . . . very depressing it was.” And so Dublin’s docklands, synonymous with poverty in the 19th century, became destitute again in the 20th century among residents in local authority housing and flats constructed between the 1930s and 1950s in the Ringsend, Pearse Street and Sheriff Street areas. Curiously, it was during one of the most economically and politically unstable periods of the latters years of the last century that a deal brokered by former taoiseach Charles J Haughey with a newly elected inner-city independent TD, Tony Gregory, marked a new and significant stage in Dublin docklands’ future.

Moore records the fascinating detail of the so-called “Gregory deal” of 1982, in which Haughey pledged £91 million for housing and related developments in the inner city in return for Tony Gregory’s support for a minority government. It wasn’t to last, as the government fell nine months later, but Gregory has since argued that it provided the impetus for urban renewal.

The subsequent Urban Renewal Act 1986 singled out the nationalised Customs House Docks for rejuvenation, through the Customs House Docks Development Authority (CHDDA). Haughey, through his association with financier Dermot Desmond, committed the government to the development of an international financial services centre.

OVER THE past 10 years of economic boom, vacant piers and empty warehouses have become the focus of capital reinvestment and property speculation – and controversy. The financial services centre has proved to be an international success, but at a social cost. Promised public space has come with a blandness, an anonymous identity and a level of surveillance and control – a criticism levelled at many cities reconstructing themselves in the face of global competition, says Moore.

The CHDDA’s replacement by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has resulted in a “high-level, interventionist approach to social need”, Moore believes, including the contribution of the local community to solving its own issues. However, she acknowledges that there is no consensus among a number of community groups on the DDDA’s democratic credentials.

The DDDA is due to expire in 2012, and Moore believes the real test will come when management of this part of the city returns to the local authority – or perhaps to a new body established to manage both land and sea environments.

The docklands are still evolving. There are plans for major projects such as the new performing arts centre at Grand Canal Docks, a national conference centre at Spencer Dock and the relocation of the Abbey Theatre to George’s Dock. These may provide a new cultural regeneration, but will do little for informal interaction, Moore believes. In any case, the “reinvention” is very far from over.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/weekend/2008/0405/1207320880666.html

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