Making Victorian Dublin is an exciting and innovative collaborative project between geologists and architectural historians at Trinity College Dublin which has revealed the building industry responsible for Ireland’s Victorian architecture. Funded by the Irish Research Council, the project aims to open new interdisciplinary horizons for the research of Ireland’s past. For too long the craftsmen and quarrymen who cut, carved and constructed splendid buildings in Ireland’s towns, cities and countryside have been lost to history, overshadowed by the architects and patrons who designed and commissioned them. But without the marble masons, stone cutters, carvers and builders these richly coloured and impeccably detailed buildings simply could not have been achieved.
Focused on Ireland’s most significant and influential building of the period, the Museum Building of Trinity College Dublin, researchers have uncovered the remarkable network of quarries, craft communities and transport routes which enabled its construction. A few strides within this building displays the full range of Ireland’s remarkable stone resources. The Museum Building pioneered the patriotic use of native coloured stone and established a taste for Connemara marble and Cork Red limestone which spread across Ireland to Britain and the United States. Connemara marble with its distinctive green and white colour banding would become emblematic of Irish identity. Further nationalistic emphasis is provided by elaborate stone carvings of the building that reveal a rich and diverse flora and fauna with a significant Irish-flavour.
The project will culminate in a book to be published in the Summer of 2019.
Principal Investigator and Architectural Historian, Prof Christine Casey:
“Architecture is the stage upon which our daily lives are conducted, from the splendid buildings of city and town to the more modest houses, public buildings and boundary walls which punctuate the Irish countryside. Too often we remember those who paid for these buildings and those who designed them. Architectural history is strong on patron and architect and weak on those who translated design and ambition into reality. Ireland’s historic buildings were created by generations of craftsmen from raw materials extracted and cut by quarrymen and stone carvers. This project has sought to illuminate this largely hidden history by foregrounding the history of building materials and craftsmanship. The local built environment can tell us much more about history and science than the standard narratives of architectural history. The colour, markings and texture of building stones provides a vivid and tangible snapshot of the earth’s infancy. Regions are characterised by the nature of their geology and building stone. The familiar and endearing walls of field and farmyard are composed of rubble stone which speak not only of our forbears but of our locality’s prehistoric formation .
As an architectural historian I have been humbled by my ignorance of stone. Hitherto focused only on its aesthetic qualities, I now understand the impact of geology on building history, why some stones are chosen and others not, why particular stones are so widely used, why certain stones are so highly valued, and why superlative architecture relied upon the highest quality of materials and craftsmanship. I look at buildings with new eyes and have brought this new perspective to every aspect of my research.”
Co-Principal Investigator and Geologist, Dr Patrick Wyse Jackson:
“The Museum Building at Trinity College Dublin has been dissected by geologists and architectural historians as part of the Making Victorian Dublin project funded by the Irish Research Council. This is a unique and innovative collaboration that has drawn together two distinctive areas of the sciences and humanities, and has generated a deeper understanding of each as exemplified by the Museum Building. Built in the 1850s at a time of directed promotion of dimension and decorative stone, a significant component of Ireland’s natural resources, this building demonstrated the versatility of this material for structural building but also for decoration, particularly through utilisation in columns in the hallways. Nine different decorative marbles and polished limestones assail the senses of the visitor and provide a geological lesson that reveals the underlying lithological foundations of our country. Connemara Marble and Cork Red Limestone are dominant but ably supported by stone varieties from Armagh, Fermanagh, Offaly, Galway, and Kilkenny.
Multidisciplinary projects such as the Making Victorian Dublin initiative demonstrate the value of close examination of a building such as the Museum Building. Importantly an understanding of how the characteristics of different rock types and how they are quarried dictates how they are utilised in architectural practice but at the same time an appreciation of the aesthetics conceived of by the architects can inform the stone types used. The Museum Building admirably demonstrates this blending of disciplines that led to its design and erection.”
The Research Team
The team uniquely comprises researchers in Architectural History and Science. This collaboration depicts the vital links between geology and architecture and renews the fruitful transdisciplinary approach adopted and celebrated by pioneering Victorian polymaths.
A network of specialists and practitioners have been consulted on the carving, architecture, conservation and digital presentation of the building and links were established with international scholars of architecture and decorative stone in advance of an Autumn think-tank on 3rd October 2017 and an international symposium on 9th-10th February 2018. Both events took place on Trinity College Dublin’s main campus.
- Paul Arnold, Paul Arnold Architects
- Leila Budd, Carrig Conservation International
- Dr Susan Galavan, University of Leuven
- Dr Tony Hand, EIT RawMaterials
- John Hussey, Independent Researcher
- Dr Edward McParland, Trinity College Dublin
- Dr Fredrick O’Dwyer, Architect and Architectural Historian
- Prof Roger Stalley, Trinity College Dublin
- Prof Roland Dreesen, University of Ghent
- Dr Hazel Dodge, Trinity College Dublin
We are grateful for the contributions to the project made by the following people:
The Irish Research Council New Horizons Interdisciplinary Research Project Award
Estates and Facilities, Trinity College Dublin
Dublin City Council Heritage Office
Paul Tierney, courtesy of Dublin City Council Heritage Office
Katie Wyse Jackson
Prof Marie Redmond, Digital Humanities, Universita Ca’ Foscari Venice
Niall Ó hOisín, Breffni O’Malley and Alan Clifford, Noho
Conor Dore, Bim and Scan Limited
Cora McKenna, Trinity College Dublin
Industry, Artistic and Architectural Consultation
Ambrose Joyce, Connemara Marble Industries Limited
Prof Martin Feely, NUI Galway
Niall Kavanagh, McKeon Stone
Yvonne McKeon, McKeon Stone
John and David McEvoy, McEvoy and Sons Stone Masons
Terry O’Flaherty, Ballyknockan
Tim O’Connell, O’Connell Stone
Stephen Burke, sculptor
Jason Ellis, sculptor
Sean Lynch, artist
Charles Duggan, Dublin City Council
Dr Lynda Mulvin, UCD
Prof Peter Wyse Jackson, Missouri Botanical Garden
Prof Paul Smith, Oxford Museum of Natural History
Prof John Holmes, University of Birmingham
Trinity College Dublin Colleagues
Gordon Herries Davies