Dublin conservation project wins major European heritage award

Restored Georgian building shows potential for ‘living over the shop’ on Liffey quays

A three-year conservation project, which shows the potential for “living over the shop” on Dublin’s Liffey quays has won a major European heritage award.

Dublin Civic Trust has won the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2021 for its restoration of 18 Ormond Quay Upper, a 19th-century merchant building, with three storeys of residential above a shop.

The award, which celebrates and promotes significant heritage achievements across Europe, was last won by Ireland in the conservation category in 2005, when the Office of Public Works took the award for its restoration of the Victorian Great Palm House complex in the National Botanic Gardens.

The Europa Nostra jury praised the “meticulous research” carried out by the civic trust to ensure a conservation-restoration that was consistent with the original values of the building.“The project was undertaken to specifically be a model for others, showing that the heritage of buildings common to Dublin has value and contributes to a more sustainable development of the city,” it said.


The property at 18 Ormond Quay was constructed in 1843 as a grocer's shop with solicitors' chambers and residence above. It features a rare arcaded granite shopfront, thought to predate the 1840s reconstruction, possibly from the 1780s when such shopfronts were popularised by the Wide Streets Commission, Georgian Dublin's planning body.

Its restoration, overseen by Kelly and Cogan conservation architects and Nolans Group historic building contractors, involved significant structural stabilisation to the side gable wall which had a dangerous lean into the side street. Some 130 sqm of cement-based 1970s pebbledash was removed from the brickwork and traditional Irish "wigging", a form of lime pointing traditionally used in Dublin to disguise rough brickwork, was reinstated based on a sole surviving sample discovered behind a street sign. The chimneys, truncated in the 1980s, were also rebuilt to their original height.

"We undertook exhaustive research to reconstruct the missing shop windows and doors using documentary sources including Henry Shaw's Dublin Pictorial Directory, 1850," trust conservation director Graham Hickey said. "We even reinstated the window glazing pattern based on the type of glass that was affordable in the early 1840s."

The award was a "ringing endorsement" of the value of Dublin's old buildings trust chief executive Geraldine Walsh said. "The residential upper floors show how these buildings were originally designed for living. The room layouts, the elegant proportions and the views over the river show how these spaces can be used today with minimum interference with the original fabric. The historic wallpapers give a flavour of how these rooms were once presented but they can of course take a fresh modern look too. They're inherently flexible spaces."

The work, which cost €650,000 was majority funded by the trust with additional support from Dublin City Council, the Heritage Council and donations.

While the project shows the potential for residential city living, the building may be retained for display or museum purposes Mr Hickey said. “Ultimately, we feel the building has such a prominent position in the city that permanent public use or display would be the most desirable outcome, especially since the closure of the ESB Georgian house museum.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times