Theme 8: Built Heritage and Archaeology

  Introduction

The built heritage of Dublin comprises both architectural and archaeological heritage. It is an important and irreplaceable resource which reflects our past and provides the context for our future. The City has many sites and buildings of significance and this heritage contributes to the City’s character, identity and sense of place. It forms a unique asset for Dublin’s social, cultural and economic development and contributes to our well-being and quality of life.

National policy identifies enhanced heritage as one of its key goals. Heritage has a high degree of protection through national legislation and the City Development Plan. The Plan safeguards this heritage for future generations through proactive policy and through the record of protected structures, architectural conservation areas, archaeological zones and monuments.

The main objectives of the Built Heritage and Archaeology Chapter of the Development Plan are to integrate the conservation of our built and archaeological heritage with the planning and development process in order to:

  • Strike a reasonable balance between conservation and development objectives in the interests of the proper planning and sustainable development.
  • Conserve, protect and enhance the built heritage and archaeology of the City in order to contribute to overall quality of life and liveability.

Background and Context

The distinctive character of Dublin City comprises features such as its medieval and 17th and 18th century street pattern, Georgian brick terraces and squares, industrial heritage, institutional landmarks and Victorian and later buildings and terraces, including buildings of the 20th Century. Dublin City’s wide variety of historic buildings, structures and streetscapes have protection through their inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures or designation as Architectural Conservation Areas. Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, Protected Structures are those structures considered to be of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest. In the current Development Plan, there are 8,720 referenced structures/ complexes. It is intended that these will be reviewed and updated as part of the preparation of the forthcoming Development Plan and that this process will also take into consideration additional properties  arising from the ongoing National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. The current Plan includes 23 ACA’s which will be also reviewed in the forthcoming Plan. Unprotected and modest buildings of local interest also contribute to the character of the City.

The City Heritage Plan provides strategic support to the City Council and other stakeholders by delivering or contributing to a wide range of initiatives aimed at improving the management, understanding and appreciation of our City’s heritage. The new City Heritage Plan will identify new ways to research, support and manage our heritage and identify opportunities to engage communities across the City and suburbs with our built environment, or archaeological monuments, and our cultural heritage and intangible cultural heritage. The Heritage Plan will be prepared in tandem with the Development Plan and the policies and objectives of the Development Plan will complement and reinforce those in the Heritage Plan.

The complex picture of human activity in Dublin expands constantly through pre-development archaeological investigations and research. The Record of Monuments and Places, which protects the area between the two canals as well as outlying villages and individual sites signifies this richness. There are over 850 known sites in the historic core, most of which have no surface expression and lie buried beneath the ground. Viking Dublin was by far one of the most important urban centres in the West and the deep, waterlogged Viking Age deposits within the historic core are of international importance.

Key Issues

There are increasing demands being placed on our natural built and environment in order to satisfy the need for housing, transport, industry, leisure uses and climate adaption. The forthcoming Development Plan will need to strike a balance between managing the changes required to adapt, reuse and protect our rich protected and un-protected architectural heritage and its setting whilst retaining its authenticity, integrity and special interest. Whilst the protection and preservation of historic buildings is very important, a balance must also be struck between preserving their character and appearance and facilitating their sensitive adaption to cater for modern living standards. Increasing an awareness of concealed early buildings and an understanding of the values and contribution of 20th Century architecture to the character of the City is also important.

Climate Change has emerged as a major challenge for the City, as more frequent and severe weather events such as flooding present an increasing threat to Dublin’s historic environment. New national policy requirements to densify and enhance the ‘liveability’ of Dublin will present new challenges for the City’s built and archaeological heritage.

Dublin has now seen over 50 years of intensive archaeological investigation, with over 2,000 development-led investigations. The archaeological resource is non-renewable and the current level of archaeological rescue excavation in the historic core is unsustainable. The deep, waterlogged archaeological deposits buried in the historic core of the City of Dublin are of international significance and vulnerable to loss through excavation or dewatering. The Development Plan is an important tool in managing this loss. Huge amounts of archaeological data has been recovered from Dublin, but its use in archaeological research and public dissemination has proved more challenging.

The archaeology of Dublin, in particular its Viking legacy, has the potential to become a key part of public engagement in Dublin, and tourists and residents alike are keen to engage with the City’s ancient past. Further consideration will be required as to how we best protect our archaeological heritage and how we can give stronger protection to key assets such as the medieval City walls, the historic core and medieval village centres. There needs to be a greater emphasis on promoting conservation, access, good design intervention, high excavation standards and the prevention of unsuitable development, including basements.

Built Heritage and Archaeology – Some Key Questions

1 How can we balance the need for new development against the protection and enhancement of our built heritage? 
2 What policies and/or incentives do you think can ensure that Protected Structures are properly maintained and do not fall into disrepair or subject to substandard remedial works?
3 Are there any individual buildings or groups of buildings, Industrial Heritage Sites and features that should be added or removed from the Record of Protected Structures or designated as Architectural Conservation Areas?
4 Are there any special views, landscaping, gardens,streetscapes that make a significant contribution to the character of the City and its suburbs and urban villages?
5 Do you think there should be any additional or specific policies in the new Development Plan to protect built heritage, to include un-protected buildings and sites, or is the balance right?
6 How can we encourage the sensitive reuse of redundant or derelict historic buildings?
7 How can Dublin’s archaeological and build heritage be promoted and protected?
8 How can we better interpret, animate and develop our archaeological assets to strengthen their contribution to the tourism economy, while protecting them for future generations?