Ireland is now a centre of technology innovation and business development in Europe, with many people from all over the world coming to live and work in the country and take advantage of the country’s optimum regulatory framework and “open for business” climate. In the last eight years, the country has evolved from Celtic Tiger downturn to tech and innovation hub, but in the past, many people were left Ireland to work and live elsewhere, with the Irish diaspora influencing the growth of industry in other continents, most notably the USA.
With a big move to bring people back to the country, with initiatives like The Gathering in 2013, which was a tourism initiative aimed at bringing people back to Ireland, it’s interesting to look back on the history of global Irish influence as the country continues to grow and evolve as an international European centre of development. Fifty years ago there wouldn’t have been the same cosmopolitan feel in a city like Dublin for example, in which it is now normal to be able to eat food from anywhere in the world, and walk past international supermarkets on the street corner.
Intro to EPIC Ireland and the chq building
To celebrate the global expansiveness of Irish history, and the ripple effects of the Irish diaspora, EPIC Ireland, at the chq Building along Customs Quay, was designed to offer an interactive experience with stories from the Irish Diaspora, from accounts of international celebrities like Grace Kelly to the first Irish Olympic superstars. With 20 interactive galleries, the museum explores the history of Ireland through its people (past, present and future) with research from 10 million journeys and 70 million people.
The museum even offers a free consultation with a genealogy expert, who assists visitors in tracing their Irish history, and provides resources to do more research into online archives, for those interested in tracing their Irish heritage. With so many people all over the world with Irish roots, this appeals to international visitors as well, which makes this experience not only for locals, but for everyone interested in their link to a global migration of people who grew the global English-speaking population in many different parts of the world.
EPIC Ireland was founded by former CEO of Coca-Cola, Neville Isdell, who was born in Country Down in Northern Ireland, but grew up in Africa, so this venture is very much representative of the Irish Diaspora he was a part of himself. Isdell started work at Coca-Cola in Zambia but moved on to work in key roles in the business, which included expansion and growth of the brand in various countries. This global exposure is reflected in the ethos of the museum, which is to show visitors the breadth and scope of human migration, and the impact that even one individual can have on the course of history.
Location of the chq Building
Located in a restored warehouse building along the Liffey, in a previous derelict area of the now thriving Docklands business hub, EPIC Ireland and the chq building are along the same stretch as the Customs House building and opposite from the Famine Memorial on Customs Quay. In contrast to the important but harrowing Famine Memorial, the chq looks to a more optimistic view of Ireland’s future as a thriving economic hub, and with the EPIC Ireland museum, is a more uplifting counterpoint to elements of Ireland’s sometimes tragic past.
History of the chq Building
The building itself also has an interesting history. It was formerly a storage warehouse called Stack A, which was originally built in 1820 by the famous architect John Rennie, a famous Scottish engineer who started off his expansive civil engineering career by designing canals, and then moved on to designing bridges, harbours, breakwaters and lighthouses. Some of Rennie’s most famous work in Ireland includes the Dún Laoghaire harbour in Dublin, which served as an important link between Ireland and London.
In its former use as a warehouse along the Liffey, the building was most famous for hosting a welcoming banquet in 1856 for 3000 soldiers who returned from the Crimean War. This was a particularly significant occasion, as it was reported that the many Irishmen who fought in the Crimean War on behalf of the British were not duly recognised for their efforts.
Restoration and Future Developments
The restoration of the chq building included using the warehouse as a foundation but adding glass and steel to transform it into a modern building that compliments the original structure. The chq building has received awards for this restoration, including the Best Conversation/Restoration Project at the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) Awards 2008 and Best Conservation Project at the Irish Planning Institute’s National Planning Awards 2008.
Similarly to Miesian Plaza, the chq building has therefore also gone through some changes as an historical building, although in contrast to Miesian Plaza, the former chq building needed a complete restoration, unlike the Miesian Plaza redevelopment which is only focused on optimising the facade of the building and maximising the interior and exterior space.
Today, the building is an example of how buildings with historic value can be transformed into innovative retail and mixed-use spaces, and can be reworked to add value in a contemporary environment. With the addition of the EPIC Ireland museum and visitors centre, the building also shows the effectiveness of combining an awareness of history and heritage with contemporary architecture and business.