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Redrawing Dublin

A large five-bedroom outer-suburban house is not necessarily the first preference housing choice of all; for the real urbanist it rarely is”
-Page 255.

God, any book that interviews Liam Carroll (“Dublin Bus: Needs Competition”) and sports journalist Bertie Ahern T.D (“Liberty Hall: Should Be Gone”) is surely not worth reading you’re asking? Well no, you’re wrong. Redrawing Dublin is such a strong book that not even two pages of Bertie could ruin it.

The book is the end product of a collaborative project between an architect and an urban planner. It offers interesting, and on occasion provocative, analysis of the city and where she is (or should) be going. Broken down into nice sections, it looks at life beyond the pale, ‘invisible walls’, the question of just who is a ‘true Dubliner’, ‘apartment apartheid’ and more besides.

As a Maynooth student, the very first pages were interesting to me. Route 66. “Edge City”. The writers look at what is termed ‘Contiguious Metropolitan’, the rapid expansion of Dublin into parts of neighbouring counties, like North Kildare. “Might it have been done differently?” they ask. Why is there not more quality apartment living in the capital itself? Just who does live in the city, and more importantly: who doesn’t want to?

“If potential new urban dwellers are to be attracted to the city and not ‘lost’ to distant towns and suburbs in Kildare, Meath or North Dublin, a radical overhaul of the ambition and vision of what is possible in city-centre living needs to be communicated”
-Page 180.

One of my favourite sections of the book deals with the idea of what would make a neighbourhood great. What do you want within 10 minutes of the front door. Among the 25 things you do, we find an ATM, a local supermarket and a local public park. Among the 25 things you don’t, cycle lanes inside bus lanes, narrow pavements and locked local parks feature.

In ‘Postcards from Dublin’, some very interesting statistics regarding Dubliners are thrown up. Almost 1 in 12 Dubliners listed themselves as non-religious on the 2006 census. In Ballyfermot, we learn that 92% of residents identify as Catholic, and fewer than 1 in 40 as non-religious. One of the most interesting statistics on life in Dublin for me is the fact that women and girls outnumber men and boys in Dublin as a whole, yet in the city centre men are on top with a ratio of 52:48.

On occasion the historian may disagree with the writers. Many historians objected to the Digital Hub South project for example, on the grounds that, as the Bord themselves noted, it was not “…sufficiently sympathetic to the historic character” of the Liberties area. Yet on other occasions, like School Street and Bridgefoot Street, one would find it difficult to disagree on the need to build up. It’s a great irony that at the start of the Celtic Tiger the highest building in the city was Liberty Hall, and today it remains so.

This is a fascinating read. Statistics, graphs and research that really gets you thinking about your city. I can see it on the coffee table for a long time to come.

The challenge, Redrawing Dublin notes, is to make Dublin a “..world-class city for all its citizens”. The great debate is just how we do that.

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