A Day Of Design In Dublin

River Liffey Dublin - Day of Design

A few days ago I had a rare treat – and a very special day trip. I went on my first ever visit to Dublin (together with my parents), to see the city where my mother spent much of her childhood.

It was still dark when we left London and as we flew towards the coast of Ireland morning was just breaking.

Design Island Irish Design 2015 in Dublin Airport

Walking through the terminal building of Dublin Airport I was greeted with a photographic exhibition called Design Island. A series of photographs by award winning photographer Peter Rowen, capturing 24 designers at work in their studios all over Ireland. The exhibition, I discovered, was to celebrate Irish creativity as part of the Irish Design 2015 program.

I already knew I was going to love this city.

My Dad had a great idea that we should begin with a short bus tour which would give me a general overview of the city. We were really lucky that it was turning out to be a dry and clear day in Dublin. Though, being November, the wind was still quite raw and biting. So, although I attempted to sit in the open part up at the top – to be able to take some better pictures – I eventually retreated back down to the heated section downstairs.

But this didn’t detract from being able to admire and enjoy the sights and architecture along the way. Although I knew several famous writers were born in Dublin, until that tour, I didn’t realise quite what a legacy of culture Dublin has. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift, to name just a few,  were all born in the city.

James Joyce Bridge by Santiago Calatrava in Dublin

One of the highlights for me was to discover this stunning bridge designed by one of my favourite architects and designers: Santiago Calatrava. The bridge was named for the writer Samuel Beckett and it spans the river Liffey which runs through the heart of the city.

Phoenix Park Dublin

Then there is Phoenix Park, the largest park in Europe. It looked so scenic as we drove through a part of it, with lush greens and golden foliage highlighted in the autumn sunshine. You could easily spend hours just walking through the park enjoying the nature and scenery. It’s definitely on my wishlist of places to go back to.

Meeting room in former Dublin school with Eames chairs

The next stage of the day was to visit some of the places that had been part of my mum’s childhood, such as her old home and school. Even here there was design inspiration to be found. We discovered that the building that once housed her school has now been transformed into a trendy office; complete with pink and grey Eames chairs in the meeting room, a slide next to the stairs – and even a fireman’s pole!

Office with slide on the stairs and a fireman's pole in Dublin office - Irish Design

Grafton Street Dublin

We returned to the centre of town for a very late lunch and a wander down Grafton Street – a stylish, mainly pedestrianised thoroughfare. The sparkling seasonal lights, lent it a rather magical atmosphere.

Irish Design Shop in Dublin

I’d heard that the streets nearby were known as the creative quarter. So armed with a map, I took myself off alone for a couple of hours to explore the area. And I wasn’t disappointed. In Drury Street I discovered Irish Design Shop, a retail space which focuses on Irish craft and jewellery. While right next door was Industry, another furniture and homeware store that even had it’s own gorgeous little cafe with rustic style interior.

Industry homeware shop - Irish Design in Dublin

Industry Cafe - Irish Design in Dublin

On the other side of the road I came across Georges Street Arcade which was Dublin’s first purpose built Victorian Shopping Centre. It was mainly destroyed by fire in 1892, rebuilt in 1894 and has traded continuously since then.

Georges Street Arcade Dublin - Irish Design

Another delightful discovery was Powerscourt Centre. Built between 1771 and 1774, it was once a mansion belonging to the Irish nobility. But now it is filled with stylish boutiques, shops and restaurants.

Powerscourt Centre Dublin - Irish Design

I felt like I was only just getting started in discovering this cool city with its friendly people and great design scene. But all too soon, it was time to return to the airport for the flight back.

I don’t know why it took me this long to finally visit. But one thing’s for sure – I’d definitely like to return for another (longer) visit soon.

[Images: Sarah Ansbacher]


  1. Lovely article.
    Glad you enjoyed Dublin 🙂
    One correction: the Calatrava Bridge is actually named after writer Samuel Beckett. There is a James Joyce bridge but that spans the Liffey further upstream and westwards, towards the Guinness Brewery.

    • Can’t wait to come back on another visit! Thanks for letting me know about the Calatrava Bridge – I’ll correct in the article.