Urban Decay: North King Street, Dublin 7
Smithfield is an area on the Northside of Dublin not far from my apartment. Historically, Smithfield was a suburb of Oxmantown and lay within the civil parish of St. Paul's. There is no general agreement on the extent of the area known as Smithfield, but it might be said to incorporate the area bounded by the River Liffey to the south, Bow Street to the east, Queen Street to the west, and North Brunswick street in the suburb of Grangegorman to the north.
The focal point is a public square, formerly an open market, now officially called Smithfield Plaza, but known locally as Smithfield Square or Smithfield Market.
Smithfield Market was laid out in the mid 17th century as a marketplace. Until recently the square was lined with inner city 'farm yards' housing livestock. In 1964 Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor spent time here, as Burton worked on the film set in Smithfield for the film adaptation of John le Carré's novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Smithfield "played a role" of Checkpoint Charlie in the movie.
Smithfield was recently rejuvenated under the HARP (Historic Area Rejuvenation Plan). An architectural competition was held and won by McGarry NiEanaigh Architects in 1997. The restoration involved lifting more than 400,000 one hundred and twenty-year-old cobblestones, cleaning them by hand and re-laying them. Following each monthly horse fair at the plaza, despite the best efforts of city council cleaning staff, the cobbles remain stained and grubby, with animal waste to be found permanently staining the plaza.
Contemporary architecture and twelve 26.5 metre gas lighting masts, each with a 2-metre flame, now flank the square. Although the flames are rarely lit, the lighting mast shades are regularly to be seen in different colours, reflecting cultural events throughout the year. For example, they change to a vivid green shade as part of St Patrick's Day celebrations.
The Smithfield area is also home to the Dublin City Fruit Vegetable and Flower Market. The Fish Market adjacent to it was torn down by the City Council who plan to redevelop the rest of the site.
Smithfield's iconic tower, and its observation deck, is no longer accessible to the public, as it has long-since been closed due to health and safety concerns.
The Light House Cinema was resurrected in May 2008 in the Smithfield Square, after it had been forced to close its doors on Abbey Street on 27 September 1996. It closed at this location in April 2011 due to difficulties in paying the rent. The Lighthouse Cinema reopened to the public on January 20th 2012.