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News: Ritchie's monument winner reaches for the Dublin sky

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Ian Ritchie Architects has won the international competition to design a replacement for Dublin's Nelson monument, which was blown up in 1966. The 120m light-tipped replacement, in O'Connell Street, is seen as a symbol of the new future for Ireland, and has won a warm reception in the republic (plus ribald names for it) following announcement of the decision last week.

The design (engineer is Ove Arup) comprises a stainless-steel cone, 3m in diameter at the base, with a 12m luminous top comprising perforated stainless steel, and a 500mm optical glass tip. Lumination comes from a 2kW searchlight within the cone, positioned 50m above ground and accessible for maintenance. The circular base, a 7m diameter of Kilkenny black stone, will have mercury pulsed on to the surface from the perimeter, representing Ireland and Dublin's population flowing together and separating into the Irish Diaspora. The mercury will be subject to protective measures wherever it flows.

The £3 million steel tower (£1 million under the maximum budget) will have a flush finish with no weld lines visible, says the architect; there is no need for internal reinforced horizontal rings of flat stainless steel between sections because of an increase in thickness compared with the original design, now 30mm at the base, and 10mm at the top. The steel will be 'shot peened' using stainless steel and then glass beads, to give a surface which will reflect the changing light of the sky, and should be maintenance-free. The tower will sway, at maximum predicted wind loadings, up to 2.5m.

Organised by Dublin Corporation and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the competition jury was chaired by former riai president Joan O'Connor. She described the scheme last week as a 'technological wonder', a 'beacon to mark the centre of our city', and as having 'the capacity to become a well-loved landmark'.

Commenting on the scheme, the Irish Times said that it would certainly lift people's spirits. It noted that the tower would form part of a wider regeneration scheme round O'Connell Street, and 'seems cheap at the price for a monument which will usher in the new millennium, confidently looking to the future and underlining the optimism of these prosperous times'.

Other Dublin wag comments on the scheme included one tag, drawing on the city's drug problems, as 'a 394ft hypodermic'; another, reflecting on the rundown state of O'Connell Street, branded it 'the pin in the bin'. Another still referred to the spire's bulbous glass beacon, nicknaming it 'the Viagra needle'.

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