Not so long ago, Dublin was the poster child of Europe, a fringe city that underwent a spectacular transformation from the capital of a country The Economist once dubbed "the poorest of the rich," to the center of Ireland’s booming Celtic Tiger economy.
The city's success was often attributed to a swelling property bubble, a low corporate tax rate, inward tech investment, and a highly educated population. But if this was Dublin at the top of its game, it didn’t last long. In 2008, not without warning, a global and national financial crisis hit hard. It was back to square one.
This week marks two years since Ireland received an €85 billion IMF and EU bailout. And right now, its capital is at a crisis point: Young people are leaving, with emigration hitting its highest level since the great famine. On the streets, there are frequent protests as locals let the government know how they feel about austerity measures and the 14.8 percent national unemployment rate. Meanwhile, stores are closing and so-called ghost estates – unfinished boom-era residential developments – exist as reminders of a still stagnant property market.
Despite this uncertainty, Dublin has become the center of a new kind of rebirth, with determined residents transforming it into a model of creativity and livability. Art collectives – which sprung up during and after the crash – have blossomed, joined by independent galleries, stores and movie theaters. Likewise, local designers are coming up with bold ideas. Earlier this year, Mahoney Architects proposed a plan for a vertical park in the half-built headquarters of the bust-contributing Anglo Irish Bank. There have been calls for measures like more downtown playgrounds and the banning of cars. So popular is this urban navel-gazing that The Irish Times recently ran a series called re-inventing Dublin, where experts, journalists and the public all weighed in.