Studio Daniel Libeskind’s Grand Canal Square Theatre in Dublin is an urban insert intended to rejuvenate a historic city through a powerful cultural presence.
The canals of Dublin have been an intricately woven feature of the historic city since one and a half century. These canals, over a period of time have become significant features of the urban landscape of Dublin. Though they do not serve their original purpose of carrying cargo anymore, they have assumed a recreational role since the last cargo passed through the Grand Canal in 1960. Since then, the historic quarters of Dublin silently watched the time go by without significant change while the surrounding suburbs saw a surge in developments. Studio Daniel Libeskind’s proposal for the new commercial development (expected to complete by the end of 2011) in the Grand Canal Square will hopefully revitalise this area and breathe new life into the old quarters. One of the recently completed and significant structures of the redevelopment is the Grand Canal Square Theatre; a 2000 seat performing arts centre which is integrated into the commercial heart of the new development as an icon for the future of the city.
In the recent past, there have been frequent and effective examples of architecture being instrumental in revitalising old quarters of historic cities that cannot keep up to the pace of development by surgical interventions and inserts. The Grand Canal Harbour Development is envisioned to be one such feature. At focal point of the grand central square stands a transparent crystalline form of the theatre acting as a backdrop and a facade to a landscaped piazza extending to the canal. The transparent facade of the building complements the transparency of the neighbouring buildings and extends to the plaza acting as a platform for activity and interesting vistas. This 1,17,000 square feet hall has the theatre in the sanctum while the peripheral public spaces blend with the external skin of the building making a bold visual statement and having an imposing presence in both, the scale and prominence. Bold and clean lines, sharp and crystalline forms, expressive and intuitive relations and an awe inspiring scale make the architecture of Grand Canal Square Theatre, like all Daniel Libeskind’s Architecture, a powerful visual statement.
A large landscaped public plaza extends from the theatre and is flanked by a five star hotel and residential developments. The plaza is thus contained from three sides and acquires a sense of scale. The plaza is brightly illuminated at night and the transparent, illuminated facade of the theatre acts as an extended backdrop and a facade to the piazza. The iconic structure was intended to have a powerful cultural presence; something like the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The juxtaposed functions, multiple layers and series of altering experiences eventually intend to present an old quarter of Dublin with fresh activity and vitality.
Fluid, transparent and dynamic architecture with a powerful iconic presence characterises the design of this urban complex. As our historic cities deteriorate against the surge of developments in neighbouring districts, urban interventions and inserts of such nature make vital contributions to the process of rejuvenation by attracting an influx of activity and interest. Grand Canal Square Theatre stands as an architectural expression of a new spirit that defines a new generation of citizens of Dublin. Grand Canal Square Theatre stands at a confluence of Studio Daniel Libeskind’s vocabulary and the aspiration of a historic city.
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