Essential Architecture-  Ireland

Spire of Dublin




Ireland > County Cork > Dublin








  The Spire on O'Connell St.
  The view from Henry Street at dusk
The Spire of Dublin, also known as the Monument of Light (Irish: An Túr Solais[1]), is a large, pin-like monument 120 metres (393 ft) in height. It is located on the site of the former Nelson Pillar on O'Connell Street in the Irish capital, Dublin.

The Spire, a design by Ian Ritchie Architects, is an elongated cone, having a diameter of 3m (10 ft) at the base, narrowing to 15cm (6 in) at the top. The world's tallest sculpture[verification needed], it was originally intended that the Spire be completed by 2000 in honour of the new millennium, but construction was delayed because of difficulty obtaining planning permission and environmental regulations. It is constructed from eight hollow tubes of stainless steel and features a tuned mass damper to counteract sway.

 Reason for the construction of the Spire
The monument itself was commissioned as part of a redesigned street layout in 1999. O'Connell Street (formerly Sackville Street) was perceived to have gone into decline from the 1970s. Some people blamed the appearance of fast food restaurants and the opening of bargain basement shops, all using cheap plastic, visually unattractive and obtrusive shop fronts, the existence of a number of derelict sites, and the unilateral decision in 1966 of the IRA to blow up the Nelson Pillar, as reasons for the decline in a once famous and attractive street.

In the 1990s, plans were launched to improve the streetscape. The excessive number of trees in the central reservation, which had overgrown and obscured the street's views and monuments, was reduced dramatically. Statues were cleaned and in some cases relocated. Shop-owners were required to replace plastic signage and frontage with more visually-attractive designs. Private car traffic was re-directed where possible away from the street, with its number of traffic lanes reduced, to allow more 'public ownership' of the street for pedestrians. The centrepiece of this regeneration was to be a replacement monument for Nelson Pillar, the Spire of Dublin, chosen by a committee under the then chairmanship of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Joe Doyle from a large number of submissions.

The choice of the monument proved controversial. Its cost at €4,000,000 (or well over IR£3,000,000 in contemporary currency before the appearance of the euro), was criticized, as was its design. Various nicknames were attached to it even prior to its erection (most famously, the "Stiletto in the Ghetto," "the Rod to God", the "Erection at the Intersection," and the "Stiffy by the Liffey"). One critic sought judicial review of the choice. However on its erection in January 2003, much of the criticism subsided. Two remained: its cost and the fact that it could not be used as a viewing platform, unlike its predecessor, Nelson Pillar, which provided spectacular views of Dublin city centre.

Nelson Pillar was the previous occupant of the site of the Spire until it was destroyed by a bomb in 1966.Further changes in the street, including the creation of a new plaza in front of the General Post Office (GPO) new tree plantings, and the erection of buildings on the street's two derelict sites, were planned for 2005. The middle of the street in the past year has been extensively renovated, with new trees and ground. The object is to make the street more pedestrian-friendly and less congested. In 2004 the Luas Red Line opened connecting Tallaght to Connolly Station. The Luas crosses Lower O'Connell Street.

Public opinion
Although the spire met with initial opposition, many Dubliners seemed to come around to the idea of 'The Spire Of Dublin' during the monument's completion. The completion of the spire on 21 January 2003 was cheered on by a small crowd of Dubliners who braved the cold to watch its erection and the RTÉ radio presenter Lillian Smith celebrated by broadcasting Neil Young's song, The Needle and the Damage Done. Some people around the world also watched the completion of the spire on the internet.

Opinions still remain divided as to the nature of the monument itself. Most seem to have come around to accepting the monument, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. While some have praised it as potentially Ireland's Eiffel Tower, others continue to dismiss it as out of scale and character with the city, or slated it as being like a giant sewing needle in the centre of O'Connell St. Whether they like it or not, all sides agree that it is likely to dominate Dublin's skies for decades if not centuries to come, in the same manner as Nelson's Pillar. History will see whether it will remain as controversial.

The logo of Engineers Ireland (The Institution of Engineers of Ireland), introduced in 2005, may be inspired by the monument. Press releases say that the logo is a modified phi letter, but the central feature does bear a resemblance to the monument.

Other nicknames

A view from an inner city apartment building showing the height of the Spire in relation to other buildings.
A view of the spire during construction.The Spike
The Spire in the Mire (a reflection on O'Connell Street's unsavoury reputation)
The Stiletto in the Ghetto (O'Connell St is a very short distance from some of Dublin's poorest and most drug-ruined communities).
The Nail in the Pale
The Stiffy by the Liffey (a reference to Dublin's principal waterway, the River Liffey)
The Pin in the Bin (a reference to the perceived amount of litter in O'Connell Street)
The Stick