MMM – Dublin’s Stainless Steel Spire

Photo credit: Publicart.ie

After wrapping up two weeks of European travel, I couldn’t help but marvel at some of the more modern metal structures juxtaposed against historical thousand year old structures. For Magnificent Metal Monday we’ll travel to Dublin, Ireland, where one metal structure in particular caught my eye – there in the middle of Dublin’s historical town centre stands “The Spire,” a 120 meter high stainless steel spire.

The Dublin Spire, also known as the “Monument of Light,” was the winning entry in an architectural competition to provide a replacement for Nelson’s Pillar which was blown up in 1966. Nelson’s Pillar was a large granite column capped by a statue of Horatio Nelson, built in the centre of Dublin’s well known O’Connell Street. Nelson’s Pillar was completed in 1809 when Ireland was part of the United Kingdom; it survived until March 1966, when it was severely damaged by explosives planted by Irish republicans.

The original Nelson’s Pillar honoring Horatio Nelson, a British flag officer for the Royal Navy.

The column was originally dedicated to the memory of Nelson, which was erected in 1808; the foundation stone having been laid by the Duke of Richmond, Lord Lieutenant, on the 5th of February in that year. William Wilkins of Norwich designed it, but the statue of Nelson is by an Irish sculptor, Thomas Kirk, R.H.A. It was blown up in 1966 in the middle of the night, but the head of Nelson has been preserved by the Dublin Civic Museum.

The Dublin Spire is one hundred and twenty metres tall, making it by far the tallest structure in Dublin’s city centre. It is three metres wide at the base and tapers to a 15 centimentre wide beacon at the top. The steel underwent “shot peening” in order to subtly reflect the light falling on it. The pattern around the base of the Spire is based on a core sample of earth and rock formation taken from the ground where the spire stands. The pattern was applied by bead blasting the steel through rubber stencil masks whose patterns were created by water jet cutting based on core sample drawings supplied by the contractor.The top section is perforated and lit by small LEDs. The structure looks different under every lighting condition. At night, its stainless steel surface resembles black satin, while early morning and last light gave it a steely blue colour. In daytime under bright sunlight, it doesn’t look real from a distance, instead it looks like a computer simulation.

As we passed it on our tour, I wondered what this sleek steel structure was doing in the middle of this historical city. Our guide settled my curiosity and explained that the modern day spire is thought to serve as a symbol of moving Ireland forward into the next century.

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