Transit Gateway 2 / Walls of Protection

Image 3 walls of protection


A Deep Mapping of Dublin Port by Silvia Loeffler

Mapping Phase 2: Dublin Port from 1708 to 1785 / Walls of Protection

Event was held at the following time, date and location:

Wednesday, 29 March 2017 from 18:15 to 20:15 (IST)

The LAB Gallery
1 Foley Street
Dublin 1

You can listen to and view the seminar here: LAB Podcast Walls of Protection

As part of “Port Perspectives”, Transit Gateway is a project that documents the transitional changes of the shape of Dublin Port from its medieval shoreline to its current infrastructure. The changes of the port as a gateway to the city bring to mind the void of communication of the 18th century on the ships before Marconi, the forced emigrations of the 19th century, the modern context of maritime holiday migration that shaped the 20th century, and which now extends itself to the cruise business the 21st century, and how cargo volumes changed over the centuries in terms of goods, locations and quantity.

Transit Gateway is an artistic mapping cartography that will show the changing connections of the city and the port throughout the years, and how the port as a gateway creates a vital connection of the city with the wider world. In collaboration with partners and the local community, the artist Silvia Loeffler has been commissioned by Dublin Port Company to create a social and collaborative artistic mapping project that looks at the port ‘s transitional phases over a time period of 9 months.

A large-scale installation series loosely based on the various maps used by H.A. Gilligan in his “History of the Port of Dublin” is currently being created, and the works are displayed in the Terminal 1 Building in Dublin Port. Each month, a new map layer will be added to the installation.

Each month, a specific seminar, which will be held in the LAB on Foley Street, in order ‘to bring the port back into the city’, will accompany the map layer.

“Dublin Port from 1708 to 1785 / Walls of Protection” was the second seminar in this series. We discussed the cultural meanings of Dublin’s port location and its long-running problem of silting and the mouth of the river Liffey by looking at the Ballast Office Act of 1708 to secure naval commerce. The Ballast Office Committee proposed a new direct channel for the river Liffey above Ringsend and to build retaining walls along the new river boundaries. Important features of 18th century city life and Dublin Port included the establishment of City Quay and Sir Rogerson’s Quay (1716-1720s) on the south bank of the river, and the erection Gandon’s Custom House, which commenced in 1781 on the north bank.

Dublin was considered as one of the most dangerous ports in Europe and severe tidal stress gave reason to the construction of the Great South Wall. The wall became a geographical landmark, and, in its architectural as well as in its psychological functions, a symbol of protection. This period in time also sees the building of the Poolbeg Lighthouse, the first lighthouse at the end of the great wall, which was operated by using candles in a huge lantern. On the evening of 29 September 1767, large crowds stood on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to witness the first light shine out to Dublin Bay.

We hope that you enjoyed the discussion of Dublin Port and the City of this particular era, which may be seen as evoking the early thrills and pains of a maritime metropolis.

Speaker panel:

Fiona McDonald (architect / artist)

Rob Goodbody (built heritage specialist)

Eamon McElroy (port engineer)

This seminar was the second in a series of nine, held over the next months.

The Transit Gateway seminars are part of a wider public engagement programme for Port Perspectives 2017. They are funded by Dublin Port Company and the LAB Gallery.

Dublin Port’s 2017 Port Perspectives / Engagement Programme has been developed in collaboration with Dublin City Council, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, UCD School of Architecture, National College of Art and Design, Irish Architecture Foundation, Create [the National Collaborative Arts Agency] and Business to Arts.


Fiona McDonald is an architect and artist whose spatial practice attempts to expand our awareness of socio-economic development associated with place. In particular McDonaldʼs research is concerned with sites under pressure of functional, social, political, economic and physical transformation. Her work explores the potential inherent in alternative considerations of space, materials and economic exchange. Her practice operates in the public domain by making drawings, films and architectural interventions that are site-specific and address history, experience, temporalities and functional use. Fiona has completed works both nationally and internationally.


Since 2011 the Great South Wall has been a site of investigation within Fiona McDonaldʼs interdisciplinary art and architecture practice. For Transit Gateway Mapping Phase 2, Fiona will tell the story of the Great South Wall from the geographical, socio–economic and political conditions that led to its construction through to the effect its presence has had on the form of Dublin Bay and how the great wall has inspired a number of site specific architectural interventions, drawings, maps and film works within her practice.


Rob Goodbody is a historic building consultant and building historian. He has published a number of books and articles, including The Metals – from Dalkey to Dun Laoghaire and has co-authored a number of other books, including The Martello Towers of Dublin. He has recently been working as one of the authors of a book on Dublin Bay, to be published later this year.


Human intervention has altered the Dublin coastline a great deal over the centuries, including the reclamation of large areas of land and the construction of great engineering works. The presentation will indicate the nature of these works and their timeline in the period considered in the seminar.


Eamon McElroy is the Port Engineer for Dublin Port and is responsible for the management and development of the port’s critical infrastructure including the channel, quay walls, berths and fenders as well as the Port’s historical structures including the Bull Wall, Bull Bridge, Great South Wall and Bulloch Harbour. He has been the port engineer for the past 10 years and holds a B.Eng. (Hons) in Civil Engineering.


Dublin Port has recently completed the first phase of a new series of condition surveys of its historical structures to access their condition so as to inform for any conservation works that may become necessary in the future. This brief lecture will inform of the findings for phase one investigations of the Great South Wall.


Dr. Silvia Loeffler is an artist, researcher and educator in Visual Culture. She is the organiser of the Transit Gateway seminars, funded by Dublin Port Company, and run in close collaboration with the LAB. This seminar series will continue until October 2017 and is part of Silvia’s artistic cartography ‘Transit Gateway: A Deep Mapping of Dublin Port’.