With its majestic cathedrals, Palladian palaces and an abundance of Georgian architecture, Dublin’s historic buildings are undeniably impressive. But newer structures such as the Busáras building and the ultra-modern Convention Centre Dublin shouldn’t be neglected on an architectural tour of the city.
Christ Church Cathedral (c.1200)
The first of Dublin’s two medieval cathedrals, Christ Church is thought to date back to around 1028 when the Hiberno-Norse King Sitric Silkenbeard ruled over Dublin, but the stone structure as it stands today was built later, around 1200. Underneath is the biggest cathedral crypt in either Ireland or Britain, over 60 metres (197 feet) in length. Having undergone a major restoration during the Victorian period, much of the building now owes more to that era than to the time of the Vikings, but it’s still one of Dublin’s oldest. And watching hectic urban traffic pass under the stone bridge that connects the cathedral to the old synod hall across the street is a slightly surreal experience.
The Custom House (1791)
Dublin’s masterful neo-classical Custom House government building, built between 1781 and 1791, was designed by the English architect James Gandon, who would go on to have a long-lasting impression on the city during the building boom of the Georgian period. It’s difficult to choose just one Gandon building for this list – he also designed the Four Courts and the extension of College Green’s grand Parliament House – but the Custom House, his earliest contribution to Dublin, is also widely regarded as the most significant. Its four monumental façades are probably its most lauded feature, along with the towering statue-topped dome, which had to be reconstructed after the building was set alight in 1921, during the Irish War of Independence.
The Museum Building (1857)
Tucked away inside the grounds of Trinity College, visitors could easily miss the Palazzo-style Museum Building on an architectural tour of Dublin, but it definitely shouldn’t be. Designed by the Irish architectural duo of Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward – also responsible for the Oxford University Museum of Natural History – it was inspired by the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. Elaborately constructed from many different kinds of stone, including Connemara marble and Ballyknockan granite, the building is covered in carvings by Irish sculpting family O’Shea and Whelan.
Situated directly opposite James Gandon’s imposing Custom House, Dublin’s central bus station was designed by the Drogheda-born architect Michael Scott and erected in the 1950s. Drawing from international modern influences – in particular, Le Corbusier – the building was highly controversial at the time, though it won a gold medal from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in 1955. Having long been applauded by lovers of modernism, it was recognised as ‘a masterpiece’ by the Royal Irish Academy in their 2016 book Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks.
The Convention Centre Dublin (2010)
The Dublin Docklands have become synonymous with the city’s young, creative energy – particularly in regards to tech – in recent years, and one new building to come out of this exponential growth was the award-winning Convention Centre Dublin, completed in 2010. Its innovative curved glass front overlooks the River Liffey and the Samuel Beckett Bridge, and more impressively, its sustainable design meant it was the world’s first carbon-neutral international convention centre. The eye-catching building got an expected publicity bump earlier this year when an SNL sketch used it as a backdrop.