Views and Vistas

The gardens were designed with deliberate prospects in mind. The paths that lead the pedestrian visitor into and around the Gardens allow them to experience these vistas as Lutyens had intended.

William Sadler II (c.1782-1839), View of Dublin (detail). To the right of the detail is the Wellington Testimonial (still incomplete at the time). The Magazine Fort can be seen with flags flying. Just behind the strip of buildings opposite is the land which would later become the Memorial Gardens. Courtesy of the Russborough Foundation.

Views From and To the Gardens

The riverside path along the Liffey allows the visitor to get close to the water, and it is possible to see the weir from along this path. Looking straight across the river, the trees which border the Phoenix Park are visible.

Both east and west entrance paths to the park lead naturally to the Temple, which sits north of the central avenue. There is no direct path connecting the Temple to the water. The slight slope which occupies the space instead means that a view across the river glimpses the Magazine Fort. The proximity of the Memorial Gardens to the Fort is no accident, and indeed the two military sites were intended to have been connected by a bridge in the original plans (see above).

The most significant view into the Gardens is from the military road’s Magazine Fort viewpoint in the Phoenix Park. This was also a popular landscape view before the establishment of the park and gardens, when the land was a meadow along the river.

William Ashford, A View of Dublin from Chapelizod, 1795-1798. The Gardens can be seen sloping down to the weir. In the background, from left to right, is the Sarah Bridge, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, and the newly-built Kilmainham Gaol.

Views Within the Gardens

Since the Gardens were built on a north-south axis, the view south from the Temple is an arresting reveal of the Great Cross behind a flight of steps. This is the only indication from this point that behind the screen of planting is a large central lawn. Similarly, once a visitor has arrived at the Cross, and looks north, the Temple appears in diminutive form, sitting below the wall and treetops of the Phoenix Park. The land on the north side of the Liffey, inside the boundary wall of the Phoenix Park, steeps sharply, and occupies the prospect from the Cross.

The designed experience of reveals and shelters continues into the central lawn itself, with the sunken rose gardens hidden from view until the visitor has crossed under the pergolas. Significantly, there is no direct path that leads from Cross to Stone of Remembrance. The visitor seems directed to sit on the stone bookroom seats and experience the memorial features as they appear from that vantage point instead. It is from this prospect that the stone, obelisks, and cross most take on a metaphorical altar with candles appearance. Once within the memorial lawn, the views are inward-looking and almost cloistered.

James Malton (d.1803) View of Dublin city from the Magazine Fort, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, detail. The Sarah (Island) Bridge can just be seen in white in the bottom left hand corner of this detail, the Royal Hospital is in the background, and the area which would become the Memorial Gardens is the grassy area with three cows grazing. Image Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.