Everyone knows them. Most of us like them, and they've become icons of Dublin city. And now they're to become equally prominant after dark according to today's Irish Times, with a dazzling new lighting scheme - they are of course the Poolbeg Chimneys.
Got this relatively unseen view from the sea the other day:
They're bady in need of a lick of paint!
Built as part of the Pigeon House B project started c.1969, the station soon assumed the name of Poolbeg upon completion in 1971. Hence the two 207 metre concrete chimneys date from around 1970, making them the second tallest freestanding striuctures in the State, after the Moneypoint stacks on the Shannon Estuary which rise to 218 metres, dating from 1979-80.
Anyway, the story:
Bright idea for a power plant
An Irish sculptor's flash of brilliance could see the Poolbeg chimneys twinkling like the Eiffel Tower, writes Rosita Boland
They're hard to miss. Two red-and-white striped chimneys on the edge of Dublin Bay. At 207 metres they're by far the city's tallest structures. Seen from the air on the flight path into Dublin airport, they're a landmark of the city: a sign you're home in Ireland. At times, they appear and disappear in the sea mist, like the masts of some immense ghost ship. The Poolbeg chimneys, built in the 1960s, are still in use. Part of an adjoining ESB power plant, which burns oil and gas, some people think they're ugly, but many more are beguiled by these slender structures, visible from so many places in the city.
Now, if Irish sculptor Patrick O'Reilly sees his idea realised, the Poolbeg chimneys will become as beautiful as Paris's Eiffel Tower, which lights up like a firework, courtesy of 20,000 special strobe bulbs and the design genius of the Pierre Bideau company.
Pierre Bideau was the man who decorated the Eiffel Tower with twinkling, starry lights for the millennium. Originally intended to be installed for one year, the lights became so popular with both Parisians and visitors that in 2003 the tower received another lighting redesign, this time permanent. At night, every hour on the hour, for 10 minutes, the tower becomes a shimmering, illuminated pillar.
Bideau has carried out many other lighting design projects, most famously for the 2004 Olympics in Greece, when the Acropolis glowed with eerie beauty from within. He has also lit a number of cathedrals, public buildings and private chateaux, as well as Waddesdon Manor in England, the family seat of the Rothschild family, each time drawing out the subtleties of the architecture. His methods could not be farther removed from the harsh orange-hued floodlighting favoured by so many of our own public buildings.
Bideau retired two years ago, and sold his company, which was established in the 1960s. It still carries his name and does the same type of projects. O'Reilly was originally put in touch with the company through Brigid Harte, a Paris-based visual arts consultant, who is still involved with the project. Bideau retains a consultancy role with the company, with Bertrand Chiron now the general manager. This week, Chiron was in Dublin to visit O'Reilly and view the site. The project is still in a very early stage, but O'Reilly is currently having meetings with both the ESB and Dublin City Council, whose support he is hopeful of receiving.
"I have always wanted to do a project with the Poolbeg chimneys," O'Reilly says. "For me as a sculptor, I see this project as sculpting with light. I want to make something magical with those chimneys. They are beside the water, so the lights would be reflected in the sea, and they would shine through the sea-fog."
O'Reilly hopes that the public will support the project, and feel it belongs to them.
"The ESB are only caretakers for the chimneys. They are owned by the State, and thus really by ourselves. The Spire is technically a very strong piece of design but it doesn't have any magic about it, and the scale is nowhere near that of the chimneys. Also, there is something special about the fact there are two chimneys. They're like two friends. One on its own wouldn't have the same effect."
One reason it was possible to light the Eiffel Tower and get that twinkling, tinsel-like effect is the advances in light-bulb technology. Philips designed the flashing strobe lightbulbs that are on the Eiffel Tower. According to Chiron, since the redesign was installed in 2003, only 140 of the 20,000 bulbs has been replaced. The bulbs themselves have an average lifespan of 10 years.
O'Reilly estimates the Poolbeg towers project would cost about €1 million. The Eiffel Tower project cost €4 million. "The installing of it would be relatively straightforward," O'Reilly explains. "The chimneys already have ladders down the sides, so there wouldn't be a need for scaffolding, which is very expensive. Cables are thin and the lightbulbs are small." Chiron estimates that it would take a year to complete the project.
His idea is to light the upper two-thirds of the chimneys, with the uppermost part being a solid mass of white light. As in Paris, they would be lit for 10 minutes every hour, from lighting-up time to 1am. "So sometimes you'd look up and see them, or you'd be driving past and they'd be on, and sometimes you'd see nothing. People remember things better when they don't see them all the time; it's more of a surprise. And then, maybe they could be lit all night in celebration for special events."
O'Reilly hopes that, if successful, a public body such as the ESB would fund the lighting costs. "It couldn't be a better ad for an electricity board, if you look at it like that," he points out.
As in Paris, the lights would be invisible by day, so even with the lights installed, the chimneys would look exactly the same as they do now. Nor would the function of the chimneys alter in any way. And he argues that they could not possibly constitute a hazard to planes in the flight path overhead since the lights would make them even more visible than they currently are.
"I can't see any reason for a negative response from the ESB," O'Reilly says hopefully. And the name of his Poolbeg Chimneys lighting project?
© The Irish Times
Fantastic news! It's very important though that the apparatus will not visible. Also it's not clear if the 'uppermost part' in white light refers to the upper two thirds mentioned, or literally just the tips - I'd like to think it means all of the striped section. A year is a heck of a long time for installtion though!
Also just an interesting news clip from 1999 here of two (other!) Poolbeg chimneys crashing down