Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - RINGSEND & POOLBEG

From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageby Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).

THE RINGSEND GASHOLDER

SAMUEL CUTLER & SONS

In 1996 property developer Liam Carroll of Zoe Developments purchased the 7.8 acre gasworks site from Bord Gáis for just over €10 million. The subsequent development included Gordon House on Barrow Street (where Google are now head-quartered), six hundred apartments and, most notably, the ‘Ringsend Gasworks’. This landmark structure, or Gasholder, has dominated the South Lotts skyline since 1885 when installed for the Alliance & Dublin Consumers’ Gas Company. The decorative wrought iron frame was made by the London firm of Samuel Cutler & Sons, based at the Providence Ironworks in Millwall on the Isle of Dogs. When completed, the Gasholder was one of the largest moving metal structures in the world.

THE CANARY EFFECT

Gas explodes when it comes into contact with oxygen. That made traditional gas-holders dangerous. However, the Cutler design ensured no air could get in. As the volume of gas went up and down, a sub-roof rose and fell within the structure, ensuring the holder never had space for anything except gas. Even if a little gas escaped, through a slipped tile perhaps, there was never enough air in the mix to make it explosive. As with the coalmines, a caged canary was kept in the void between the two roofs to monitor gas leakage. Canaries are particularly sensitive to toxic gases and if the bird’s whistle gave any sign of distress, then that was a clear signal that conditions were unsafe and the gasholder should be evacuated. An external lift ran up the outside of the structure, providing access to the roof. Many a cameraman has scaled these heights to capture a ferry coming in to the North Wall.

MODERN TIMES

Architects O'Mahony Pike oversaw the subsequent transformation of the Victorian gasholder into a nine-storey apartment block. This rather skilful evolution was carried out by Daninger and Fabrizia, subsidiaries of Zoe Developments. Now known as ‘The Gasworks’, the 210 apartments were built as a cylindrical block within the original wrought iron, while the exterior was fully restored and repainted. The block was clad with a structurally bonded glass façade system to achieve reflections of both the gasholder frame and the sky. It is more than likely that the building will now be converted into a 520-bedroom hotel, one of the largest in Ireland.

 

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