PUNCH has recently completed the restoration of the Liffey Diving Bell, which has been sited on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin for almost 150 years.
As part of the restoration, the Diving Bell has been lifted off the ground to allow access underneath it. The architects for the project, MÓLA, have designed a visitor centre under the Diving Bell, which provides information on how it was used in the development of the city’s quay walls.
A “ground-breaking piece of engineering innovation” of its time, the Diving Bell was designed by port engineer, Bindon Blood Stoney (1828-1907), was built by Grendon and Co., Drogheda. It entered service in 1871 and served in the building of the city’s quay walls for 92 years, finally retiring in 1958.
Its function was to allow workers to get access to the river bed, and level the river bed to receive the massive concrete blocks from which the quay walls are made. It was lowered into position on the river bed, the water was pumped out and air pumped in. Workers accessed the bell through the top funnel, and entered the main chamber via an airlock. The Diving Bell is 13m tall and weighs 90 tonnes.
The Diving Bell was lifted onto a new steel frame which is supported by a new concrete raft foundation. The raft mimics the foundation loading distribution of the Diving Bell, as up to now it has simply been resting on the quayside in the same location. PUNCH used 3D BIM to model the structure and this was very effective in visualising the completed structure and the interaction between the new frame and the original structure of the bell.
The restoration of the Liffey Diving Bell is the first of many projects in Dublin Port’s plan to create a ‘distributed museum’ of attractions across the Dublin docklands to “preserve the port’s industrial heritage and history”.
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