Abercrombie’s new town plan for Dublin

Dublin bay reclamation proposed 100 years ago

Around the turn of the last century an interest in town planning began to emerge, prompting the Civics Institute of Ireland in 1914 to hold an international competition to develop a plan for Dublin "especially to outline proposals for meeting the housing needs of the population".

The competition attracted a large number of entrants from "leading experts in Ireland, England and America" the institute said at the time, and in 1916 it chose a plan by Patrick Abercrombie, an English architect, who just one year previously had become professor of civic design at the University of Liverpool.

The plan he designed, along with his colleagues Sydney Kelly, and Arthur Kelly, Dublin of the Future, The New Town Plan, was published in book form in 1922.

The civics institute had emphasised the city plan was “not a grandiose scheme for immediate and costly civic improvements. On the contrary, as opposed to the present planless and haphazard growth, squalor and extravagance, a city plan would mean a well-reasoned scheme, outlining an economic system of scientific, artistic and hygienic municipal reconstruction and development, providing specially for the conservation of citizen life and natural resources, and the total abolition of slum conditions.”



Some of Abercrombie’s plans did, however, appear to lean towards the grandiose, particularly his new Roman Catholic Cathedral at the top of Capel Street, which would have necessitated the destruction of Henrietta Street as well as plans to demolish much of the north inner city and rebuild it in the Parisian Haussmann style.

His most effective contribution was in his plans for suburban development, particularly around Cabra, Crumlin and Marino, but he had also proposed reclamation of the "flats from Dublin bay" the area of mud or sand around the Tolka estuary and the Irishtown and Sandymount area for development.

While his plans for the Tolka estuary and Sandymount strand never took off, he was not the last to suggest major residential development for the city's east end. While the current docklands development is expected to provide homes for 2,000 people, with 8,000 more on the glass bottle site, the Progressive Democrats had in 2006 produced a plan, superimposing images of skyscrapers from Manhattan to the Middle East, to provide homes for 80,000 on lands owned by Dublin Port.

This plan involved relocating the Port to Drogheda and never went ahead.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times