Just as the old dockside at Bristol has been rejuvenated through projects such as the M-Shed and the SS Great Britain, so too in Dublin. The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum is located at Custom House Quay. Through the Docklands Development Authority (DDA), a number of regeneration projects were initiated during the boom time of the Celtic Tiger economy. The Convention Centre was built at Spencer Dock. On the southern side of the River Liffey, the area around Grand Canal Dock has been transformed, with the building of an iconic theatre, seating over 2,000.
It was designed by the internationally renowned architect from New York, Daniel Liebeskind and was his first such project. Last year he was awarded the contract for designing a conflict resolution centre on part of the site of the former high security Maze prison outside Lisburn. His other projects have included the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre site in Manhattan.
The consultants for the Grand Canal Theatre were Arup, for whom my daughter works in London. Arup were appointed to provide acoustic design and technical theatre systems, as well as civil, structural, building services and traffic engineering. Ove Arup, a Danish engineer, began his connection with Dublin in the late 1940s when he was invited by the architect Michael Scott to join him in the construction of Donnybrook bus garage for CIÉ. It was the first building in the world to have a concrete shell roof, lit by natural light from one end to the other. Arup’s Dublin office, its first overseas one, was set up in 1946 to work on the project.
The Grand Canal Theatre opened in March 2010 with a performance of Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet. It has been designed to take large shows including operas, concerts and musicals. Now following a commercial deal for the naming rights, it is referred to as the Bord Gáis Energy (BGE) Theatre. My first visit there was last night to watch a performance of Bizet’s opera Carmen by the Moscow State Opera, with a guest performance in the role of Micaëla by leading Irish soprano Celine Byrne from Naas.
I look forward to returning to the theatre at some stage in the future. For a list of forthcoming shows and information about ticket prices, check the BGE Theatre website.