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A Secure Foundation

‘We cannot properly know today’s city and its public realm without understanding its history. From invasions to rebellions and from social conflicts to cultural revolutions, Dublin city has a dramatic history of constant change. This history continues to live and breathe in the shape of our streets and spaces.’I

The history of the City is not only evident in its streets and spaces, but also in its buildings and associations. Understanding this historic fabric – the real places, people and events that made history– provides the foundation for developing the narrative – the stories of the place that are waiting to be told.

People who participated in the Interpretive Workshop II helped us to identify a huge number of stories drawn from the key themes associated with this part of the City such as Dublin’s People, Arts & Culture, the Liberties, Evolving Dublin, Commemorative City, Dublin’s Streetscape – spires, steeples and towers – the Industrial City and its Hidden Gems & Special Moments – the sights, sounds and smells. In coming to terms with the breadth and depth of this narrative we have sought to consider the significance of the route in terms of three dimensions;

Time – three different eras – medieval, early modern and modern that capture the key stages in the evolution of the city
Space – three distinct geographical areas

  • Trinity College to Dam Gate – which was located in present day Dame Street at its junction with Palace Street – and which formed the eastern entrance to the walled Medieval City
  • Dam Gate to Newgate, the western entrance to the Walled City and located at present day Cornmarket and
  • Newgate, beyond the Walls to Kilmainham


  • conflict, conquest & contest … military might and political power … from earliest times to present day
  • trade, industry & commerce … from street traders to stock brokers, from market stalls to banking halls
  • faith, hope & charity … churches, graveyards and hospitals
  • cool, clever and creative … art, music, literature, film, theatre
  • commemoration & celebration … capital city

These themes are tied to particular locations or features along the route – the streetscape; to particular characters- the people of Dublin and to particular events – some of which are commemorated to this day. These themes are the ones which best capture the significance of this part of the City and have the most potential to engage with the public’s imagination. How these themes and their associated stories are brought to life is where interpretation comes in.

Good interpretation will convert the significance of these themes and stories into relevance for all of those participating in this journey of discovery.

‘Symbols are what unite and divide people. Symbols give us our identity, our self-image, our way of explaining ourselves to others. Symbols in turn determine the kinds of stories we tell; and the stories we tell determine the kind of history we make and remake.’III

  1. Dublin City Council Your City Your Space, Draft Dublin City Public Realm Strategy
  2. 14th December 2011 Interpretive Workshop
  3. Mary Robinson, Inauguration speech as President of Ireland, December 3, 1990


Interpretive Workshop, Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, 14th Dec 2011

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