The oft quoted ‘Tale of Two Cities’ springs to mind when strolling the tree lined campshires framing the Seán O’Casey Bridge. Once this was a riverside wasteland, replete with tumbledown warehousing, rusting gantries and the hollow cry of scavenging seabirds. A decayed, urban landscape, crowned with the ugly, iron clad gasometer on the south side, blighted with sub standard housing in a maze of railway sidings and container depots on the north side. Unemployment was rife and the population was in decline, with some residents suffering Dickensian conditions in the 1980s - a family of seven sleeping in one bedroom, a plastic, baby bathtub in the kitchen providing their washing facilities.
The Liffey was a watery no man’s land crossed by functional road bridges upstream and downstream. Everyone was going somewhere else. Then, as if inspired by the words of Seán O’Casey, “Take heart from your city’s hidden splendour”, a transformation took place.
This cosmopolitan quarter is now a reflective river of light by night and by day seethes with the energy of a more youthful population. Occasional markets and festivals bring even more colourful vibrancy.
Vital to this transformation was the provision of the bridge. The Dublin Docklands Authority, with statutory responsibility for the regeneration of the area, commissioned a pedestrian bridge. With admirable efficiency the process of appointing the design team, constructing and completing the bridge along with the necessary legal consents, environmental impact studies and licences was completed within a 30 month period. The bridge, connecting City Quay to the North Wall Quay and the I.F.S.C., was opened in July, 2005. The elegant, cable stayed, swing bridge is the embodiment of European co-operation and development: the opening section was produced in England, the balustrade panels originated in France, the deck in Denmark and the stone in Ireland.
The design by architect Cyril O’Neill and O’Connor Sutton Cronin Consulting Engineers was selected from 80 international entries and in 2006 received an RIAI award and the iStructE Award for Pedestrian Bridges and in 2007 an International Architecture Award.
Dubliners have taken the bridge to their heart - the measure of which is to dub it with witty nicknames. For some it is the ‘Bingo Bridge’, allowing northsiders and southsiders to frequent each other’s bingo halls. Others, amused by the apparent bounce they experience as they saunter across, have christened it the ‘Quiver in the River’.