The Many Faces of Abbey Theatre

After exploring the Abbey Theatre as it’s represented in various formats, the importance of space and how it is represented in maps became even more apparent to me.

Thom’s Map of Dublin (1904)

First, I attempted to find the Abbey Theatre on the Thom’s map. After a minute or two, I located its spot on the Liffey. The map is shaded in pleasant colors, and the buildings are tiny squares clumped together. In fact, the buildings themselves are not made as distinct as the avenues themselves are; it’s easy for the eye to pass over them and instead focus on the ways in which the streets intersect and form a web. Given the historical and cultural significance of the Abbey Theatre, it’s interesting to consider how its existence can be minimized into this two dimensional, antiquarian form. My interaction with this map definitely highlighted cartography’s inability to capture the true essence of a particular location.

Abbey Theatre
Image Source: Google Maps

As you can probably see, Abbey Theatre’s atmosphere is much more adequately represented in Google Maps. Instead of a set of lines on a map, this experience allows one to imagine the sense of community and togetherness inside of the theater. Despite the empty seats in this map, it’s easy to consider what the theater feels like when it is packed: the audience reacting to the play unfolding before them, the general excitement that taints the air.

The Thom map simply cannot portray these spatial and atmospheric conditions that this map presents. It’s interesting to draw attention to the stark differences between the two maps, which in a sense, results in two very “different” Abbey Theatres. When provided with an inside look into the theater itself, it’s difficult to conceptualize where it is situated within the broader context of the city, and how it might look from a bird’s eye view. However, the virtual map allows one to step inside of the theater in a more personalized way that a traditional map cannot account for. Perhaps what’s most important is its consideration of space and atmosphere. Within the virtual map, these two factors are more visual and not imagined, aligning with our true experience of how we experience monuments and landscapes throughout the world.


  1. I enjoy your comment about how differently The Abbey Theatre is portrayed online. I think our true connection to a space can come through a visual experience, but it can also come from an experiential experience– that is, viewing a play from the theater or personally visit it. A space is so special because of its relation to its visitors, and I hope to one day visit The Abbey Theatre and experience its impact on myself.

  2. I completely agree with your comparison between the portrayals. I also found it difficult to navigate the Thom’s map, and how you described the impact of the colors and bolded lines forming webs is so spot on about why that map is detracting from the atmosphere as a whole. It seems more about blocking off chunks of space into the various categories, and as you mentioned is a huge shortcoming for the art of cartography when it comes to depicting any sense of feeling for a location.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *