Grand Canal Square presents a dramatic entrance
The opening of Daniel Libeskind’s Grand Canal Theatre this month in Dublin marks Grand Canal Square as the center of the city’s new arts and entertainment district. In its mission to give the long-neglected waterfront back to the city’s people, Dublin Docklands Development Authority commissioned Massachusetts and London-based landscape architects and urban design firm, Martha Schwartz Partners (MSP), to revitalize the 2 ½ acre former industrial site into a public urban space. “Our objective in the Grand Canal Square scheme was to create a vibrant, energetic space that would flow naturally into the dynamic and expressive volume of Libeskind’s theater,” said Martha Schwartz, President of MSP.
With the intention of imitating the exhilaration of the red carpet, the designers used oversized red-glowing light sticks, manufactured from a newly developed red glass resin material, that angle upward from the ground and illuminate the main pathway from the dock to the theater. The striking walkway is counteracted by a series of varied geometric planters that provide seating and connect from the office building to the hotel with tranquil green LED lights. Further movement across the multifunctional space is encouraged by crisscrossing narrow paths, while allowing for large gatherings and public functions to be accommodated.
MSP was challenged with substantial weight regulations and venting requirements in the infrastructure, since the plaza is situated over a previously existing one-story parking garage. The restrictions led the design team to conceal the venting in planters and benches that dot the site using a specially fabricated perforated metal. Additional special features include steel-clad pavilions leading to staircases to the parking level, as well as the green marble water feature where large angular forms climactically and descend out from the plaza.