A Glass Floor in a Dublin Grocery Store Lets Shoppers Look Down & Explore Medieval Ruins

In South Korea, where I live, many recent build­ings — the new Seoul City Hall, Zaha Hadid’s Dong­dae­mun Design Plaza — have incor­po­rat­ed the cen­tu­ry-upon-cen­tu­ry old ruins dis­cov­ered on their sites. This makes lit­er­al­ly vis­i­ble, often through clear glass floors, the “5,000 years of unbro­ken his­to­ry” about which one often hears boasts in Korea. But nor is Europe his­tor­i­cal­ly impov­er­ished, and there the win­dow-onto-the-past archi­tec­tur­al tech­nique has been applied in even less like­ly places: a new Dublin loca­tion, for instance, of Ger­man chain dis­count super­mar­ket Lidl.

“Archi­tects dis­cov­ered the remains of an 11th-cen­tu­ry house dur­ing the devel­op­ment of the site on Aungi­er Street,” says the video from Irish broad­cast­er RTÉ above. “The sunken-floored struc­ture has been pre­served and is dis­played beneath the glass.” Archae­o­log­i­cal site direc­tor Paul Duffy described the dis­cov­ery as poten­tial­ly hav­ing “func­tioned as many things, as a house or an extra space for the fam­i­ly. It’s a domes­tic struc­ture, so you have to imag­ine that there would have been a sub­urb here of Hiber­no-Norse Dublin­ers, who were effec­tive­ly the ances­tors of the Vikings.”

We’re a long way indeed from James Joyce’s Dublin­ers of 900 years lat­er. But the new Lidl has put more than one for­mer­ly buried era of the city’s past on dis­play: “A sec­ond glass pan­el near the check­out tills allows shop­pers to glimpse an 18th-cen­tu­ry ‘pit trap’ from the stage of the old Aungi­er Street The­atre,” writes Irish Cen­tral’s Shane O’Brien, pit traps being devices “used to bring an actor on stage as if by mag­ic. Anoth­er work­ing area under the build­ing pre­serves “the foun­da­tions of the medieval parish church of St. Peter, which served parish­ioners for more than 600 years between 1050 AD and 1650 AD.”

In the RTÉ video, Dublin City Archae­ol­o­gist Ruth John­son frames this as a chal­lenge to the speed-ori­ent­ed con­struc­tion mod­el — “put up a hoard­ing, exca­vate a site, and then put up a devel­op­ment” — preva­lent dur­ing Ire­land’s recent “Celtic Tiger” peri­od of eco­nom­ic growth. That and oth­er fac­tors have made the built envi­ron­ment of Dublin, a city of many charms, less inter­est­ing than it could be. In his recent book Trans-Europe Express’ chap­ter on Dublin, crit­ic Owen Hather­ley writes that “con­tem­po­rary Irish archi­tec­ture is marked by a strik­ing par­si­mo­ny, a cheap­ness and care­less­ness in con­struc­tion.” Look­ing to the past isn’t always the answer, of course, but in this case Lidl has done well to take it lit­er­al­ly.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mag­nif­i­cent Ancient Roman Mosa­ic Floor Unearthed in Verona, Italy

Explore Metic­u­lous 3D Mod­els of Endan­gered His­tor­i­cal Sites in Google’s “Open Her­itage” Project

See the Expan­sive Ruins of Pom­peii Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Them Before: Through the Eyes of a Drone

Watch Ancient Ruins Get Restored to their Glo­ri­ous Orig­i­nal State with Ani­mat­ed GIFs: The Tem­ple of Jupiter, Lux­or Tem­ple & More

James Joyce’s Dublin Cap­tured in Vin­tage Pho­tos from 1897 to 1904

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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