The first section of the Spire of Dublin, alternatively titled the Monument of Light, is lifted into place on December 18, 2002. The spire is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 390-feet in height, located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar and statue of William Blakeney on O’Connell Street in Dublin.
The Spire is designed by Ian Ritchie Architects, who sought an “elegant and dynamic simplicity bridging art and technology.” The contract is awarded to SIAC-Radley JV and it is manufactured by Radley Engineering of Dungarvan, County Waterford, and erected by SIAC Construction Ltd & GDW Engineering Ltd.
The first section is installed on December 18, 2002. Construction of the sculpture is delayed because of difficulty in obtaining planning permission and environmental regulations. The Spire consists of eight hollow stainless steel cone sections, the longest being 66 feet, which are installed on January 21, 2003. It is an elongated cone of diameter, 9.8 feet at the base narrowing to 5.9 inches at the top. It features two tuned mass dampers, designed by engineers Arup, to counteract sway. The steel undergoes shot peening to alter the quality of light reflected from it.
The pattern around the base of the Spire is based on a core sample of rock formation taken from the ground where the spire stands and the DNA double helix. The pattern is applied by bead blasting the steel through rubber stencil masks whose patterns are created by water jet cutting based on core sample drawings supplied by the contractor. The design around the 33-foot lower part of the Spire is created by the architects making a 3D pattern model combining the core sample and double helix and then digitally translated to a 2D image drawing supplied to the contractor and used by specialists for cutting the masking material.
At dusk, the base of the monument is lit and the top 33 feet is illuminated through 11,884 holes through which light-emitting diodes shine.
The monument is commissioned as part of a street layout redesign in 1999. O’Connell Street had been in decline for a number of reasons such as the proliferation of fast food restaurants and the opening of bargain shops using cheap plastic shop fronts which were unattractive and obtrusive, the existence of derelict sites and the destruction in 1966 of Nelson’s Pillar following a bombing by former Irish Republican Army (IRA) members.
The Anna Livia monument is installed on the site for the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations. In the 1990s, plans are launched to improve the streetscape. The number of trees in the central reservation, which had overgrown and obscured views and monuments, are reduced dramatically. This is controversial, as the trees had been growing for a century. Statues are cleaned and in some cases relocated. Shop-owners are required to replace plastic signage and frontage with more attractive designs. Traffic is re-directed where possible away from the street and the number of traffic lanes is reduced to make it more appealing to pedestrians. The centrepiece of this regeneration is to be a replacement monument for Nelson’s Pillar, the Spire of Dublin, chosen from a large number of submissions in an international competition by a committee chaired by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Joe Doyle. The Anna Livia monument is moved to make way for the Spire in 2001.
Some opposition initially greets the monument. Supporters compare it to other initially unpopular urban structures such as the Eiffel Tower, while detractors complain that the Spire has little architectural or cultural connection to the city. It has inspired a number of nicknames, as is common with public art in Dublin, including the nail in the Pale, the stiletto in the ghetto, the pin in the bin, the stiffy by the Liffey, the spire in the mire, or the spike.