“…and instead there are gardens”

When discussing the early construction of Mountjoy Square, Siobhán Kilfeather discusses that a church was originally set to be the centerpiece of the square, “but this proved too expensive, and instead there are gardens” (54). The substitution of a church for a garden due to a lack of funds not only speaks to Ireland’s long history of financial shortages, but it also emphasizes Ireland as a country blooming with life and vegetation, just as last week’s travels revealed.  But the gardens do not stop at Mountjoy Square; St. Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square, among many other parks brighten and breathe greener life into the city of Dublin. Though Ireland is often regarded as a country with fairytale landscapes and rolling hills of green, its cultivated lands, especially those of Dublin’s garden, must not be overlooked. 

As a rapidly expanding city having to navigate ways to accommodate the high influx of people, these gardens and parks become sanctuaries from urban life.  Kilfeather notes that during Dublin’s Norse period, it was “a walled settlement, containing a tight cluster of houses, with no open space” (22). Many centuries later, Dublin speaks of little walled claustrophobia as there is much open space, largely in part from these parks. Just as Kilfeather discusses Dublin’s projects, especially in terms of travel via canals and bridges, Dublin’s parks are also projects that connect major features of the city and its dwellers. But unlike the transportation projects, these gardens are involved in a more serene, aesthetic experience. As the aerial image of St. Stephen’s Green shows, this spot is tucked directly amid rows of buildings and streets crowded with people, and it offers much respite from the clamor of the city.

When I visited St. Stephen’s Green in person last spring, it was a well-kept hub for picnickers, people feeding swans, buskers alternating between playing traditional Irish ballads and current pop music, students studying on the lime lawn, and tourists (like myself) in awe of the neat rows of flowers so different from the neat rows of houses just outside of the park. 


  1. I love this theme of gardens that you’ve chosen to focus on! I love that you included the photo from your own personal journey to St. Stephen’s Green.

    I think you make a great point that Ireland’s nature brings a breath of fresh air in its urban life. Do you think the placements of gardens are strategic, especially with the example you gave of St. Stephen’s Green?

  2. I like that you mentioned the rapid expansion of Dublin and Ireland’s attempt to handle the influx of people. This reminds me of the Wide Streets Commission given the power of city-wide planning in 1757. It’s very interesting to me that such simple changes, such as parks and wider roads, can make such a large impact on the quality of life of a city’s people. Great post!

  3. These pictures are wonderful! After observing them, it’s definitely hard to conceptualize Dublin as claustrophobic as it once was during the Norse period. These parks offer a peaceful contrast to busy urban life. It’s interesting to note their various functions: connecting parts of the city to one another, as well as offering a place to relax in the midst of it all. As they were designed, I wonder if the “aesthetic experience” you mentioned or their topographical significance was considered more than the other.

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