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November 5, 2009

Drama in the docklands: a new theatre takes shape

Dubliners and everyone else in Ireland, are in for a real surprise when the Grand Canal Theatre at Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2, finally opens its doors on St Patrick’s Day next March with the Russian State Ballet’s production of Swan Lake . At a glance, they’ll see an auditorium that’s twice the size of the Gaiety Theatre and almost three times the size of Wexford’s new Opera House.

With 2,000 seats – and nearly 90 more if the orchestra pit is covered – Dublin’s latest venue is really impressive. And because the building was designed by international starchitect Daniel Libeskind, it is inevitably a wacky angular structure festooned with his now familiar brand of deconstructivist trademarks. Jagged lines first employed at the Jewish Museum in Berlin are everywhere, from the folded glass-and-steel screen that sits under a tilted canopy on the front to the shape of the bars and balconies as well as their signature motifs and even the “ear” that juts out to the north, beneath the theatre’s flytower.

There’s nothing standard about the flytower (over the stage) either; it’s incorporated, along with all of the mechanical plant, into the vast sloping roof that falls towards Grand Canal Square. This square, already re-made by New York landscape architect Martha Schwartz, extends its red carpet treatment into the adjoining dock basin.

It is flanked by an office block with the most beautiful façade in Dublin (by Duffy Mitchell O’Donoghue) and an unfinished hotel developed by Terry Devey. Its cheap-looking chequerboard pattern is a travesty of Portuguese architect Manuel Aires Mateus’ original idea that it would look as if hewn from a single block of stone.

The Irish Times

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