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Nothing else says Dublin quite like the red-and-white striped chimneys at Poolbeg power house

Which building says Dublin to you? For architect Roisin Murphy, it's got to be the Pigeon House stacks

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Dubliner Neill Treacy at his Stoneybatter desk
damnfineprint.com.

Dubliner Neill Treacy at his Stoneybatter desk damnfineprint.com.

Dubliner Neill Treacy at his Stoneybatter desk damnfineprint.com.

Paris has its Eiffel tower, London has Big Ben, Australians brag about the Sydney Opera House so much that we mistake Sydney for the capital, New York has the Statue of Liberty, while Moscow has the Onion domes.

And we in Dublin have the Poolbeg stacks. Today, images of the two red-and-white striped chimneys are so often seen on T-shirts, mugs, tea towels and prints that you'd forget there was ever a Dublin graphic that included castles.

True, it's a leap of sorts in the lexicon of city-defining structures, but we're not alone in our love of the industrial engine as a city symbol.

London paved the way in the 1990s, when an old powerhouse was refurbished as the Tate Modern, and swept in an appreciation for industrial architecture.

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Pigeon House candles, €12.50; concrete base, €37.50 by Neill Treacy; available at pigeon-house.com; designist.ie; scoutdublin.com.

Pigeon House candles, €12.50; concrete base, €37.50 by Neill Treacy; available at pigeon-house.com; designist.ie; scoutdublin.com.

Pigeon House candles, €12.50; concrete base, €37.50 by Neill Treacy; available at pigeon-house.com; designist.ie; scoutdublin.com.

We took some time to follow. Initially Dublin City Council refused to include the old ESB power station in the Record of Protected Structures. It wasn't until 2014 that it hit the list. And there are other odd absences - many a fine modern piece of Irish architecture is still waiting for the 'call' - the old Kevin Street DIT, for example.

I was the architect present at a meeting in 2001 when a visionary archivist was trying to establish the ESB archive in the old Pigeon House beside the stacks. It was an idea that was way ahead of its time and was eventually abandoned for a purpose-built archive in Finglas. A loss, no doubt. But we still have the chimneys.

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‘Keep Apart’ print, €85 by Annie Atkins; proceeds to Alone, and St David’s Hospice;

‘Keep Apart’ print, €85 by Annie Atkins; proceeds to Alone, and St David’s Hospice;

‘Keep Apart’ print, €85 by Annie Atkins; proceeds to Alone, and St David’s Hospice;

It was probably sculptor Dorothy Cross who made us see Dublin Bay, and the architecture around its shoreline, with fresh eyes. She had a studio in the abandoned powerhouse in the early 1990s and was responsible for the famous 'Ghost Ship', a phosphorescent-painted light ship that glowed in the bay for a year.

Dubliner Neill Treacy was working on the ITV whodunnit series, Innocent, and dressing the old powerhouse into the location for a police station, when he began to reimagine the chimneys. The two brightly coloured stacks would make great candles, he thought.

"I have loads of ideas and thought I'd better try and actually make one or I'd be forever wondering," he tells me.

He went back the same evening to his bachelor pad in Dublin city centre and began the drawings for the design. (Bachelor pad, he says, because it contained a telly, a pool table and a drawing board.)

He designed the two red-and-white candles to sit into a concrete base that resembles the powerhouse, the candles are the stacks. He was determined to include the concrete as a nod to his love of Brutalist Architecture. That Protected Structure list would be a lot longer if Neill had a shot at it.

It took three years to make the Pigeon House candles viable. They have beautiful packaging designed by his fiancee Annie Atkins. Yes, that is the Annie who was part of the Oscar-winning production team for Grand Budapest Hotel. That period also saw him move from his city centre bachelor pad to Stoneybatter with Annie where they welcomed a baby son. Neill says he spent a while going from shop to shop persuading them to stock the candles that were stashed in the basket of his son's buggy.

Designist on George's Street in Dublin was the first place to stock them and they sold out immediately. I came across them when a group of girlfriends were betting furiously for a pair in a game of White Elephant. Luckily, the hostess had stashed a pair for all of us so the friendships survived.

Since lockdown, demand has rocketed and Neill's Dublin 7 home is filled with concrete bases curing in the garden and kitchen before they get sent all over the world. And Annie has recently added her own homage to the chimneys - a Covid-inspired print for charity.

Nothing says Dublin, it seems, quite like the Pigeon House stacks.

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