The Architect, the Planner and the Bishop: the Shapers of ‘Ordinary’ Dublin, 1940–60


  • Ellen Rowley Trinity College Dublin



From the 1930s through the 1960s, Dublin’s development occurred at its periphery: wheels of narrow roadways punctuated by green spaces provided the low-density frameworks for terraced residential boxes surmounted by pitched roofs and fronted by pocket gardens. Vast structures of ecclesiastic authority, Catholic (determinedly revivalist) church building and the suite of Catholic (tentatively modernist) schools were presented as support structures for mass housing, thereby completing the image and experience of Dublin’s new mid-twentieth-century suburbs.

Taking the 1950s genesis of one vast north Dublin neighbourhood, Raheny/Coolock, as a case study, this paper sets previously unexamined archive material from the local Catholic bishopric and Dublin Corporation alongside critical thinking about Irish Catholicism and postwar suburbia generally. Startling hand-drawn maps by local priests reveal how John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin from 1940–71, influenced Dublin’s planning processes and controlled the architectural flavour of swathes of developing parishes. This paper seeks to unpick the variously silent and active roles of the architect, the planning office, the patron and the user, in the making of the more recent, everyday built environment that is Irish suburbia.

Author Biography

Ellen Rowley, Trinity College Dublin

Ellen Rowley is an architectural and cultural historian, and recipient of a Provost's Teaching Award for excellence in third level teaching. Ellen's research focuses on Irish architecture from 1940 to 1980 and she is one of the editors of Architecture 1600 - 2000 Vol. IV, Art and Architecture of Ireland (Yale University Press, 2014); principal author of twentieth-century material therein. As White Post-Doctoral Fellow at TRIARC, she has been writing an architectural account of public housing in Dublin, and her approach places suburban houses and flat blocks as routes into Irish culture and society of the mid-twentieth century.


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