The latest1 piece of amazing architecture to be unveiled in Ireland is the Spire of Dublin, known locally as the Millennium Spire. This is a giant spike made of burnished steel which sits in the centre of Dublin's main street, O'Connell Street.
The Spire is enormous, standing at 120 metres high (about 400 feet). That's not all that high compared with such notables as the Empire State Building (443m) or the Eiffel Tower (320m), but the impact of the Spire is great because it is only about 3 metres (10 feet) wide at the base and it narrows to a point at the top. It looks like a giant sewing needle, as it soars into the sky above Dublin. The top section is drilled with hundreds of tiny holes, like a cheese grater, and is lit from below by lights inside the Spire, so that it glows. This serves not only as a focus for the upward-pointing feel of the construction, but also as a warning light for low-flying aircraft. The light mechanism can be lowered by a series of ropes and pulleys to allow the bulb to be changed, so nobody has to climb up inside the very narrow Spire.
The Centre of Dublin
The Spire is located at the junction of Henry Street, Earl Street and O'Connell Street. This site was always considered the centre of Dublin and was occupied until 1966 by Nelson Pillar, a giant column of stone with a statue of Admiral Nelson on top. In 1966, the IRA2 blew the pillar up, as they considered it a sign of British Imperialism. The Spire now stands on the same spot.
The Spire was constructed in six sections, each about 20m high. The first two sections were put in place in late 2002 but construction had to halt over Christmas due to very high winds. The remaining sections were added in late January 2003, the final one being added on 21 January. Construction involved the use of the tallest mobile crane ever seen in these islands, capable of extending to 140m and dropping the sections of the Spire into place.
Although the official name for the construction is the Spire of Dublin, it is popularly known as the 'Millennium Spire'. It was originally conceived as a project to celebrate the Millennium (the beginning or end of the year 2000, depending on your inclination). Unfortunately, opponents of the Spire brought a legal action to prevent it being built. By the time this was sorted out, it was far too late, so the Spire is only being completed now.
Criticisms (and Rebuttals) of the Spire
It cost a lot of money which could have been spent on more worthwhile projects such as hospitals.
There are always more deserving causes than any piece of art. But if all the money was diverted to hospitals, there still wouldn't be enough, and we'd live in a grey functional world without any beauty. The Spire is beautiful and will make Dublin a better and more interesting city.
It is out of character with the rest of the street, being tall and narrow while the rest of the street is low and wide.
If the Spire were wide, it would certainly overpower the street. But it is so slender that it fits in very well, although it is so amazingly tall.
It doesn't mean anything. There are no inscriptions, statues or other things. It's just a bloody big spike pointing at the sky.
So what? Perhaps, people will be encouraged to lift their gaze out of the gutter and to look at the stars.