Saturday, November 10, 2012

Irish Infrastructure

When I talk about "infrastructure," I'm kind of loosey goosey as to what I mean. Sometimes I'm referring to straightforward examples of infrastructure, like highways or bike paths or power distribution. Other times I'm talking about something that facilitates something else in a more metaphorical sense, like social networks and individuals within them. For this post, I've been thinking about infrastructure as something that tells you where you are.

This is the sound you hear when the luggage hatch opens on a Bus Éireann motorcoach.

In the U.S., the national bus service has a greyhound as its symbol. In Ireland, it's an Irish setter.

When we visited Donegal Castle, I thought about castles as a form of security infrastructure. These hanging fireplaces show how stone walls endure longer than wooden floors.

On this back street in Dublin, double yellow lines mean no parking.

Here's what it looks like when you sit upstairs on a double decker Dublin bus.

In Dublin's Kimmage neighborhood, glowing bollards light up a dark roundabout.

Across the city, an empty commuter train travels toward Dún Laoghaire.

The outlets can be switched on and off individually. I liked the way this made me think about energy efficiency, and how you could leave a charger plugged in but switched off. And switching those little buttons had a satisfying feel.

Towers for communications, towers for spectacle. Although I suppose radio towers are a form of spectacle in themselves, showing technological rather than architectural prowess.

More castles, this time on Dublin's city crest. 

A railway bridge in central Dublin carries travelers over the complex system of curving roads.

I get a kick out of how many competing designs there are for hand dryers in the world.

On board an Irish ferry named after James Joyce's Ulysses, a plastic tube protects a neon tube from Irish Sea spray. Nesting tubes.


  1. Light up bollards are the most amazing idea!

  2. ^^^this^^^, especially on dark bike-paths. Also, the switches on the outlets have not-much to do with energy efficiency, and a lot more to do with the fact that 110-120 VAC can zap you pretty good, but 220-240 VAC kills you pretty reliably. This is also why the plugs are enormous. Did you see a power-strip over there? They're ridiculous looking.

  3. That photo of "upstairs" on an Irish bus reminds me of the time back in the 1970s when I took one of my daughters for a ride on an RTD double-decker here in Southern California. I think we went from El Monte to Pomona (then we returned on a "normal" bus). Other than feeling like we should duck on a street with a lot of trees, the element of the trip that I noted was the "isolation" from the usual transactions of a bus ride--people paying fares, receiving transfers and asking for information. Unlike most suburban children, my daughters were no strangers to public transit, and nowadays, my older daughter rides a Metrolink commuter train to work, doing the last mile or so on a local bus.

  4. Jeff, 230V in Europe or 120V in the US/Canada will both do you quite a lot of damaged, particularly if you're standing on a wet floor or something like that.

    Thankfully, in most cases in Ireland and most of Europe those circuits are protected by an RCD (GFCI) which will limit your shock to a few milliamps. Those devices have been required since the late 1970s in the Republic of Ireland anyway.

    Switches are not required on Irish or British outlets, they're an optional extra which are just quite commonly installed. They're very handy if you want to leave something plugged in, but switched off.
    You can buy switched / unswitched outlets. Most people prefer them, so they install them a lot.

    The plugs are very big for two reasons:

    1) They have to contain a fuse because of a system known as 'ring circuits' that is used in some wiring. It means the outlets are connected to a circuit powered from both ends and fused at 32amps. To protect the individual appliance wiring, they include a fuse in the plug. This is rated 1 to 13amps, depending on what the appliance is, so you can fine-tune the protection and in theory use thinner appliance cords than the US.

    2) We do not allow 2-pin plugs. The ground pin's required to open the shutters on the socket and to ensure the plug can only be inserted one way. To simplify things, they just never allowed 2-pin (non-grounded) plugs. No such item exists to fit UK/Irish sockets.

    You can get small-ish UK/Irish plugs, but they're generally a LOT bigger than a US 2-pin version.

    There are a few other safety features too e.g. the pins are partially sheathed in plastic, so you cannot touch the live pins as the plug's being inserted. That's been the case since the 70s.

    Also, ALL outlets are shuttered. This means that you cannot insert anything other than a plug and kids can't electrocute themselves too easily. That's been required since the 1940s!!

    I suppose different places just developed different systems for these things!