Like many sites in dynamic, evolving cities like Dublin, the Teresa’s Gardens site has an interesting, multi-layered history.
In medieval times the area lay within the territories of the Abbey of St. Thomas the Martyr, and the lands of the Priory of St. John at Kilmainham. With the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, the lands were granted to William Brabazon and stayed in that family for the next few centuries.
The growth of the cloth manufacturing industry in the area in the 17th Century, coupled with the traditional industries of milling and tanning, increased industrial activity and population in the area around Dolphin’s Barn and Donore and today’s street network grew throughout the 18th Century.
Grain mills, maltsters, paper mills, metal working industries and a chemical works could all be found in the immediate vicinity, while brickmaking was carried out to the south of the canal. One unusual industry, a fireworks factory and powder magazine, was located on the site of the St. Teresa’s Gardens complex.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the district suffered from overcrowded conditions and poor facilities, although much of the area remained rural in nature, with farming continuing into the 20th Century.
A large house and grounds, known as Brook Lawn, occupied the area of the St. Teresa’s Gardens complex in the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth Centuries.
Following purchase of the site by Dublin Corporation, the St Teresa’s Gardens complex was designed ca. 1940 by Dublin Corporation Architects under the aegis of H.G. Simms, Chief Housing Architect.
The design was influenced by early 20th Century Dutch and British style municipal housing; horizontal compositional emphasis, curvilinear elements, tower forms, and ‘gallery access’ walkways. The blocks are arranged in a non-perimeter fashion and the strong axial planning and symmetry employed contrasts with Simms’ earlier and more successful schemes.
The completed St. Teresa’s Gardens was considered ‘a fine place to live’ and would have been the first time many of the new tenants had enjoyed conveniences like running water, electric lighting and sanitation. The complex was highly regarded for its location close to town and employment and many of the original residents remember a friendly atmosphere and a strong sense of community.
Initially living conditions in the development were good, however, from the late 1970s onwards St. Teresa’s Gardens the area witnessed a serious decline as a result of many social, economic and environmental factors. The absence of landscaping to communal external spaces, a lack of interaction with the street at ground level, the absence of supervision or access control to stairwells, balconies and entrances and the vulnerability of ground floor apartments contributed to the decline in this and many other areas of Dublin City with similar housing schemes. The lack of differentiation of public and private spheres, social disconnection and isolation all contributed to the decline of the scheme as a living environment.
The St. Teresa’s Regeneration Board, established in December 2005 by Dublin City Council (DCC), developed a master plan for the site. A Public Private Partnership was proposed for the demolition and replacement of the 1950s complex with 300 social and affordable units, 300 private apartments, retail and commercial units and community facilities. However soon after the project was tendered in 2008 it fell through in 2009 due to the recession.
The regeneration of St. Teresa’s Gardens encompasses physical, social economic and cultural redevelopment of the area. The physical dimension of the regeneration is well underway, and construction of the 54 new homes is completed with the move-in of tenants expected to take place in the first three months of 2021.
DCC and the LDA now have an agreement in place to progress the next phase of the regeneration of the St. Teresa’s Gardens lands to submit a planning application for the provision of both new social homes for the city and cost-rental homes for the LDA.