Ian Ritchie Architects

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Notes on a Monument, 1998/1999

The Design, Structure and Environmental Considerations of Spire of Dublin

Summary

Form and Material Choice

The spire form evolved from a study of standing stones and obelisks. Just as these represented the height of constructional aspirations and ability of their times, the spire was designed to embody a similarly optimistic and far reaching spirit of construction in contemporary Ireland. The slender vertical emphasis of the design was an essential characteristic required to reintroduce the necessary counterpoint to the prevailing horizontality of O’Connell Street’s buildings.
It was important to “frame” the monument by the east-west streets, without visually “filling” the streetscape. This demanded a very slender profile. A width of 3 metres was considered the maximum and this led to a proportion of base width to height which achieved elegance. The 1 in 40 ratio was considered challenging technically, but ideal visually.

No alternative design to the spire was judged to achieve the design objectives. Alternatives were considered in the detailed design of the spire tip and the base. The area of the tip illuminated from within was enlarged from 3 metres to 12 metres in order to increase the visibility of the monument apex in the sky.

The base design presented at stage two of the competition was altered as a result of the Architects’ concerns over the safety of mercury. This was confirmed through consultation with The Health & Safety Authority of Ireland and the Department of The Environment. An alternative design using bronze was developed. Bronze is a material which has a long and powerful history in the development of art in Ireland. It is a material which weathers extremely well and its surface can be cast to create a design which is elegant, slip resistant and hard wearing. The design follows the original theme of a spiral; the past expanding through time into the future.

Cultural Heritage Context

According to the perspective of the individual citizen, the spire can carry a variety of meanings or associations. It can be read as an allusion to an underground church, the spire transformed at night into a votive candle of an urban dimension. In an abstract vein it can also, as the competition jury stated, be seen as “a primary element, a freed point in the urban dynamic” (Rossi). The multivalent nature of the Spire’s imagery allows it to appeal to a variety of values, while being resistant to the exclusive incorporation into a single value system.

Description of the Proposed Development.

120 metres high and 3 metres in diameter at the base, the Spire will rise above O’Connell Street, breaking above the roof line with as slender and elegant a movement as is technically possible. Its structure and surfaces respond to the character and climate of the Irish landscape; the spire will gently sway in direct response to the wind and during daytime the monument will softly reflect the light of Ireland’s sky. From dusk the base will be gently lit and the tip illuminated from a light source within to provide a beacon in the night sky over Dublin. It will have its roots in the ground and its light in the sky.

The base is flush with the surrounding paving, allowing individuals and groups to stand on the base and touch the spire surface. The bronze base incorporates a spiral alluding to the continuity of Ireland’s history and an expanding future.

The spire is to be the flagship project of a wider improvement of O’Connell Street in Ireland’s capital city. The monument will stand in celebration of Ireland’s confident future in the third millennium.

For further description of the conceptual, poetic and technical characteristics of the proposal, please see Stage 2 spiral bound submission.