Grand Canal Square by
Martha Schwartz Partners



Landscape architects Martha Schwartz Partners have completed the Grand Canal Square project in Dublin, Ireland.


Located at the western end of the Grand Canal Dock, the 10,000 square metre public space is overlooked by The Grand Canal Theatre, designed by Daniel Libeskind and due for completion next year.


The €8 million project consists of red resin-glass paving that extends into the water, dotted with illuminated red poles. Planted sections are arranged diagonally across the square.


The following info is from Martha Schwartz Partners:


Martha Schwartz Partners completes “Ireland’s first 21st Century destination square”

Renowned landscape designer Martha Schwartz, of Martha Schwartz Partners, has completed the Grand Canal Square project in Dublin. At 10,000 sq metres, it is one of the largest paved public spaces in Dublin, a city that is increasingly renowned for regenerative design.


It is a rare project, in that the public space is itself the focus of the €8 million project, rather than individual buildings, and is widely considered to be the most innovative landscape design project ever undertaken in the country.


The square, which is located at the west end of the Grand Canal Dock, is home to shops, restaurants, The Grand Canal Theatre designed by Daniel Libeskind and Le Meridien 5-star hotel. The square has proven itself to be the centre point of a remarkable redevelopment of the city’s docklands.

Martha Schwartz, President of the firm, said: “The use of light and space lures in the public, creating an interactive space that functions as a social magnet during the day and at night.

“This is indeed a crucial function of the design, given the regenerative purpose of the development itself. In addition, the fact that it opens onto a large, non-tidal body of water makes it a unique space for Ireland, as such spaces have only traditionally occurred in Mediterranean cities, for example, Trieste and Venice.”

The design features a striking composition of a red “carpet.” It extends from the theatre both into and over the dock, and is then crossed by a lush “green carpet” of planters with lawns and vegetation. The red carpet is made of bright resin-glass paving, covered with red glowing angled light sticks. The green carpet of polygon-shaped planters offers ample seating, and connects the new hotel to the office development across the square. The planters themselves feature marsh vegetation which softens the space, and acts as a reminder of the historic wetland nature of the site.

Grand Canal Square is criss-crossed by granite-paved paths allowing movement across the space any possible direction, and also enabling the square to host major public events such as festivals and performances.

Even on its own, in the absence of performers and party-goers, the space becomes highly theatrical at dusk, when it is illuminated by coloured lighting, designed by lighting designers Speirs & Major Associates.

Research on Grand Canal Square was initiated by assessing the history of the area, with inspiration for the design stemming from the existing landscape. From this premise, the use of granite – which was used on the original square – replicates the grey architecture of Dublin, whilst combining it with the green that reproduces the lush, rural landscapes of Ireland

About Martha Schwartz Partners Ltd:

Martha Schwartz Partners (MSP) was founded in 1990 to provide a full range of landscape design services conceived and executed at the highest artistic level possible. Over the years, our practice has evolved from providing landscape services primarily for private sector urban environments to large-scale public projects, land reclamation and planning studies on complex sites.

With considerable talent and experience, MSP brings balance between environmental practice and aesthetics to national and international projects ranging in scale and scope from public plazas, parks, master plans, reclamation, mixed-use developments to art commissions and private residences.

Notable projects:
-Mesa Arts Centre, Arizona, USA
-Grand Canal Square, Dublin, Ireland
-Wood Wharf, London, UK
-Exchange Square, Manchester, UK

Posted on Friday September 5th 2008 at 12:51 am by Matylda Krzykowski. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Magna_Carta

    if it is not dated already, it will be dated in under 5 years.

    what a load of cash dropped in the sea (only be ripped up and re-done in three years time)

    • Z-dog

      Incorrect, Magna. Seven years later and it’s still looking fab.

  • 60403020

    holy sharp corners!

  • Lim

    But people are still going to use it nonetheless.. =)

  • eduardo

    poor glyders!!!

  • Lee

    Once again proving that Martha is all hype and no substance.

  • R

    Post the photographer’s name!

  • davvid

    what isn’t dated?

  • Tim

    I work in an office a few blocks from Grand Canal several times a year, and I’ve watched this project from beginning to end. It is far less impressive in person, on a scale where many are left wondering just what all those red pillars are for. It’s very difficult to see the proverbial forest from the trees. And really, who’s going to stand out in the rain?

  • Dr Skruffknuckles

    I dont think this is very practical, I think someone could get hurt walking through there if they didnt have good eyes.

  • i dont agree with Tim. this is my fave place in Dublin. it always make me feel as if i was walking inside an art isntallation. i love it, and i think it looks waaaay nicer in person.

  • chatte noire

    i think it’s nice…..except for the seating, which is too angular to be entirely safe….ppl r definitely gonna get hurt there!
    ….but the whole thing does come together well, and seems to create a very vibrant space, from what can be seen in d pics….n it would be all the better n create a perfect backdrop for performances n during festivals….

  • One

    awful BS. it does not look a like a sensual work to me, not what I would call a landscaping, more like terrible art work. I donno way there is a men who wants things from her.

  • Avinash

    just seems to ba waste of every thing

  • This will defintely look terrible after a few Irish winters! Everything weathers so badly. Blame 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Martin

    Im an swedish architecture student, currently studying in Spain, I think this project looks interesting, finally we are modernising the old boring city, the people in Paris didnt like the Eiffel tower in the beginning either. But for me is not quite as extreme as i would like it, i think its still kind of modest, i want to see some architect really doing something extreme, and see how angry people would get.

  • Richie

    I live in Dublin and I’ve been down to this space quite a few times. It’ll make a lot more sense once the Libeskind-designed theatre and other buildings forming the edges of the Plaza are complete. The landscaping with the red poles is interesting but slightly let down by some cheap material solutions- metal grille seating and LED lights that look slightly tacky.. though I’d blame the financial backers of the project rather than the designer for this.