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Published in 12 Projects of Christmas on 07/12/2016

12 Projects of Christmas: The Dublin Port Diving Bell


CNI Editor reports


Re-imagining and reinvigorating a piece of ingenious design that was created by one of Ireland’s greatest engineers  is no small feat.

It is actually an incredibly brave and important project to undertake, which is why the Diving Bell project on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay is the first entrant on Construction Network Ireland’s 12 Projects of Christmas list.

The Diving Bell was designed by the fantastically named Bindon Blood Stoney, who was the Port Engineer of Dublin and who among many other important projects was responsible for building O’Connell Bridge in Dublin City. The Diving Bell was constructed in 1871 by Grendon and Co. in Drogheda.

Stoney’s Diving Bell design allowed masons to work in relatively dry conditions under water, constructing many of the quay walls that make Dublin Port what it is today, including its current home on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

The Diving Bell was a revelation in its day and was so effective in its design that it was used until 1957 when it was finally retired. The device gets its name from its shape, which is reminiscent of a table top bell that might be used to summon a servant in some of Dublin’s more salubrious properties during more genteel times.
The re-purposing of the Diving Bell involved a multi-disciplinary team led by Seán O’Laoire of MOLA architecture.
The effect is visually stunning – having sat unused and mostly unnoticed for decades, the new design means that the Diving Bell and its significance can no longer go unnoticed or unappreciated.

The Execution

In 2013, The Executive of Dublin Port Company recognised that its significance and history needed to be communicated, and commissioned Mola Architecture to advise on an appropriate design strategy.

The resultant expression of the project reflects an early decision to harness the collective talents of the architects, the engineers, Prof John Cosgrove, and G.N.C.E, the conservation architect Grainne Shaffrey, the artist / sculptor Dr. Vivienne Roche, and the unique gifts of the late lamented Dr.Mary Mulvhill, in a creative synthesis, disregarding perceived territorial / professional boundaries while equally, recognising that the challenge was not neatly definable, as “Public Art” “Sculpture” or “Industrial Heritage”.

The Challenges

The challenge involved the elevating of the 90 ton “Bell” to allow public access below, along a gently sloping route, evoking descent, to a chamber with a water feature evoking the river bed and tidal movement.

The selection and specification of materials reflect the challenges of maintenance and sustainability over time. The perforated panels are back-lit with LED lighting, while the Bell has accented LED lighting to present itself to the City night-scape, as a “marker” in the new Docklands.
The route, which is defined by metallic panels serves as a medium to present the “Bell’s” historical, social and engineering significance to the public.

On the panels, externally, the words Diving Bell, are spelled out at human scale in perforations in stainless steel, as an unambiguous “calling card” to the City. The “Story- board” contained within the “Bell” on the backlit glass panels, has links by phone “APP” to a rich repository of related history, and represents an early stop in the journey towards the Distributed Museum.

The selection and specification of materials reflect the challenges of maintenance and sustainability over time. The perforated panels are back-lit with LED lighting, while the Bell has accented LED lighting to present itself to the City nightscape, as a “marker” in the new Docklands

The Dublin Port Diving Bell project is a small, but important, essay, in how architects, engineers, artists, and scientists can contribute to celebrating and communicating an often forgotten, but significant chapter in the evolution of Ireland, Dublin City, and Dublin Port, while enhancing the public realm.

In its new incarnation, the Dublin Port Diving Bell is slowly but surely insinuating itself into to iconography of the Docklands and the City, while informing visitors of the genius and legacy of its designer – the remarkable Bindon Blood Stoney.


Scollard Doyle


Mola Architecture

M&E Consultant

Glen Nunan

Civil & Structural Engineer:


Main Contractor:

Weslin Construction Ltd


36m2 internal area and 159m2 landscaping works


20  Weeks