The contemporary architecture of Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices. Built on Wood Quay, the scheme caused disquiet amongst conservationists, when it became apparent that the entire plot was a major archaeological site, the very core of the Viking settlement over which Brian Boru had lost his life in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
Large-scale archaeological excavations over an area of 4 acres conducted by the National Museum of Ireland uncovered 100 dwellings, thousands of objects, and a large amount of environmental evidence from the five centuries of the site’s medieval occupation. Finds made during the excavations of the site led to a significant public campaign led by Prof. F. X. Martin, chairman of the Friends of Medieval Dublin to halt development, resulting in a large protest march on 23 September 1978, attended by 20,000 people called “Save Wood Quay”.
It was to no avail and after prolonged court cases and frequent demonstrations the construction of the offices, reduced in size in response to the emerging archaeological landscape, took place. Designed by Dublin Architect Sam Stephenson, the Civic Offices, possibly the most controversial buildings erected in Dublin during the twentieth century are still referred to by many as the “Bunker”.
While ultimately the preservation of Wood Quay was not successful, it served to highlight the lack of legal protection for sites of this nature in Ireland, issues that have since been addressed.