By Loren Leonard
Temple Bar: The Irish Icon
Temple Bar; a place so iconic that its name alone has come to represent the cultural heart of Dublin’s fair city. A compact cultural hub nestled right along the south banks of the Liffey, Temple Bar almost exists as a separate unit with a distinctive energy not replicated in any other part of the city. With its world renowned crowded pubs and multicultural restaurants fronting the narrow, cobbled lanes, we owe a lot this 28-acre plot. As stated by Dermot McLaughlin of The Irish Times, Temple Bar “is many things to many people: a place and a brand, a cultural quarter, a workplace, a tourism destination and, importantly, somewhere called home”. It is difficult to imagine Temple Bar as anything else than what it is today; a thriving tourist district where every building and landmark inherently represents Irish culture. But it is true that Temple Bar did not always take this form. In fact, prior to Dublin claiming the title of the European Capital of Culture in 1991, there was little to distinguish Temple Bar as a cultural urban hub.
Source; ICIS, (2016).
Dublin: 1991 European Capital of Culture
It was only upon Dublin becoming the seventh European Capital of Culture that Temple Bar was finally deemed an area worthy or urban regeneration. Over the past three decades there have been numerous attempts across European cities to regenerate urban areas by means of culture, with several cities using the ECOC award as a platform to generate a new cultural identity. What first started out as an idea to promote European cities, thirty years and fifty-six cities later, has become “Europe’s most ambitious collaborative cultural project both in scope and scale”, (European Communities, 2009). As explained by McCarthy, 1998, culture-led urban regeneration essentially involves the encouragement of economic diversification and employment creation, while also promoting “place marketing” in which areas “suffering from structural decline” are enhanced visually in order to boost their economic standing. Glasgow claimed the ECOC title in 1990 and was the first city to acquire extensive public and private support and funding in order to put the city’s aspiring three-year development plan into action, (Garcia, 2005). Upon the completion of the plan, the cultural-led regeneration of the city was largely deemed a success. However, the question on everyone’s lips back in 1991 was ‘would Dublin follow suit?
Was Dublin Ready?
For the most part, Dublin was criticised for not being prepared enough to cope with the expectations surrounding the status of being a named City of Culture. With Dublin already being compared to Glasgow by critics, there really was little hope that Dublin had the potential to follow in Glasgow’s footsteps. There was no question that Dublin have very big boots to fill after Glasgow’s success, but the city had already shot itself in the foot before it even had the chance to begin. With an extremely limited budget of £5 million, it was feared that many of the planned events could turn into “an underfinanced flop”, (New York Times, 1991). In comparison to the allocation of €45.75 million to Galway’s bid to become the European City of Culture 2020, this really puts Dublin’s financial budget for the events into perspective, (McGarry and Tipton, 2016). However, one success story did manage to emerge from such a limited budget; Temple Bar.
Source; RTE Archives, (1991).
The Original Temple Bar
The 28-acre plot of Temple Bar was originally owned by the Irish Transport company, Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE). It was only when CIE wished to develop a bus station in the area, which was met with great opposition, that Dublin City council constructed an Area Action plan to “revitalise the area for cultural, residential and retail use”, (International Intervision Institute, 2001). From this, Dublin City Council and the Temple Bar Development Council pursued the Temple Bar Area Renewal and Development Act, 1991, under which Temple Bar Properties Ltd. and Temple Bar Renewal were set up to oversee the urban regeneration of the area. The main objectives set out by these two companies included; the development of an enhanced pedestrian route, creation of new public spaces, provision of residential accommodation, the maintenance of streetscape and promotion of cultural heritage, (Reflecting City, 2008). The establishment of Temple Bar Properties Ltd. enabled a dedicated agency to drive the urban regeneration of an area that was viewed as being derelict and run down. TBP Ltd. set out a timescale under which the development would take place, while also acting as a gatekeeper between the public and private sectors, dealing with any upheaval between the different inhabitants of the area, (International Intervision Institute, 2001). Much of the success of the urban renewal can be attributed to the planning and dedication of TBP Ltd and TBR.
Goals for Temple Bar
The key goal of the cultural-led urban regeneration of Temple Bar was to create a well-known cultural identity and a recognised brand for the area. This branding process was achieved primarily though the urban design of the newly developed area. By both enhancing the spatial quality of Temple Bar, in that the infrastructure was improved with the introduction of new street lighting and pathways, and re-establishing a connective relationship with surrounding areas in Dublin, Temple Bar was provided with the amenities to integrate back into Dublin city and re-brand itself as an attractive tourist area, (International Intervision Institute, 2001). The creation of new public spaces in Temple Bar, including the two public squares Meeting House Square and Temple Bar Square, allowed for the promotion of a new cultural identity. With both of these public squares being used for cultural activities while also housing a cultural centre, multiple photographic galleries and hosting a book market at weekends, the optimisation of available space allowed for the creation of a functional cultural space.
Meeting House Square. Source; Dublin Visitor Centre, (2017).
Temple Bar Square continues to host a weekly book market. Source; Visit Dublin, (2017).
Success or Failure?
It has been debated as to whether the urban regeneration of Temple Bar can be deemed successful or not. There had of course been great expectations for the redevelopment, especially after seeing the success in other ECOC’s like Glasgow. Certainly, the redevelopment brought about change for the better within the general Temple Bar area. With the construction of 133 apartments, 63 retail units and seven hotels by July 1996, it is difficult to dispute the fact that the renewal of Temple Bar was successful, (McCarthy, 1998). As outlined By John McCarthy, by the mid-1990s the pedestrian movement in Temple Bar had doubled, while the area had also become “the fourth most popular tourist destination in Dublin”. This transformation from a derelict, run down part of the city that was visually unattractive had become a thriving tourist hub which was deemed a must visit for anyone wishing to experience Irish culture at its finest.
As with any urban regeneration project, there have also been criticisms of the renewed Temple Bar. One of the main critiques of the development has been the gentrification in Temple Bar since the regeneration. With the rising of rents due the improvements made to the apartments, many artists who had previously been living in the vicinity were forced to leave, (Reidy, 1997). This unfortunate consequence was essentially the antithesis of the entire regeneration project which was supposed to encourage creativity and culture, not displace the original artists who called Temple Bar home. Although it is argued by Montgomery, 1995, that some degree of gentrification was unavoidable and in fact it was a requirement for the regeneration of Temple Bar, the level of gentrification witnessed in Temple Bar during the mid-1990s was far more significant than previously anticipated. It is proposed that Temple Bar has lost its authentic culture and the “original bohemian ambiance” associated with the area has been displaced and lost, (McCarthy). There have undoubtedly been mixed reviews of the Temple Bar regeneration, but despite the criticisms it still achieved many of its goals. It goes without saying that the Temple Bar we have all come to know and love would not exist without having undergone this major culture-fuelled transformation.
Dublin Visitor Centre, (2017). Meeting House Square Photograph. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.dublinvisitorcentre.ie/things-to-do-in-dublin/meeting-house-square-food-market/ [Accessed 11th November 2017].
European Communities, (2009). European Capitals of Culture: The Road to Success From 1985 to 2010. [ONLINE] Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/creative-europe/sites/creative-europe/files/library/capitals-culture-25-years_en.pdf [Accessed 5th November 2017].
Garcia, B., (2005). Deconstructing the City of Culture: The Long-term Cultural legacies of Glasgow 1990. Urban Studies. 42(5/6), 841-868. [ONLINE] Available at: www.caledonianblogs.net/making_the_case/files/2010/02/Garcia-Reading.pdf [Accessed 8th November 2017].
ICIS, (2016). Temple Bar Photograph. [ONLINE] Available at: http://icis2016.aisnet.org/temple-bar/ [Accessed 11th November 2017].
International Intervision Institute, (2001). Temple Bar Urban Regeneration. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.iiinstitute.nl/sites/default/files/TEMPLEBAR_389.pdf [Accessed 5th November 2017].
McCarthy, J., (1998). Dublin’s Temple Bar – A Case Study of Culture-led Regeneration. European Planning Studies. 6(3). [ONLINE] Available at: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.elib.tcd.ie/eds/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=853d4b39-62f4-4107-9480-db7a154785a8%40sessionmgr4007&bdata=JnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#AN=744701&db=bth [Accessed 6th November 2017].
McGarry, P. and Tipton, G., (2016). And Ireland’s European Capital of Culture 2020 is … Galway. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/and-ireland-s-european-capital-of-culture-2020-is-galway-1.2723155 [Accessed 10th November 2017].
McLaughlin, D., (2011). Temple Bar as Place and Concept is Real Success Story. The Irish Times. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/temple-bar-as-place-and-concept-is-real-success-story-1.603499 [Accessed 5th November 2017].
Montgomery, J., (1995). The story of Temple Bar: Creating Dublin’s Cultural Quarter, Planning Practice and Research. 10, 101-110.
Reflecting City, (2008). The Reconstruction of Dublin – Temple Bar. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.reflectingcity.com/south-central/planning/temple-bar/ [Accessed 5th November 2017].
Reidy, S. E., (1997). Cultural Policy in Urban Regeneration: The Examination of Temple Bar, Dublin, unpublished research project for the Degree in Town and Regional Planning, University of Dundee.
RTE Archives, (1991). Dublin is European City of Culture 1991. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.rte.ie/archives/2016/0315/774995-european-city-of-culture/ [Accessed 11th November 2017].
The New York Times, (1991). Europe’s 1991 Capital of Culture. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/03/arts/europe-s-1991-capital-of-culture.html [Accessed 7th November 2017].