An architectural revival is underfoot in Ireland, driven by Irish Design 2015, a year-long government initiative promoting Irish design at home and abroad. The positive outlook is long overdue, after a difficult few years for the Irish construction industry. With opportunity restricted by the recession, Irish firms cast their nets further afield – and the results are paying off.
The 2015 Stirling Prize shortlist included Dublin-based Heneghan Peng Architects for the University of Greenwich Stockwell Street Building, and London-based, Dublin-educated Niall McLaughlin Architects for Darbishire Place. 2015 has also seen O’Donnell + Tuomey become worthy recipients of the prestigious RIBA Royal Gold Medal, putting Irish architects in the limelight.
What's been happening on home turf? We hand-picked 15 projects to showcase the variety of recently completed works in Ireland. Ranging from celebrated public buildings to a miniature pavilion, there is a commonality in bold forms and an economy of materials. There are the industrious place-makers of dlr LexIcon by Carr Cotter & Naessens, breathing a new lease of life into Moran Park on Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront, and the Picture Palace by dePaor Architects creating a landmark building for the burgeoning Galway film scene.
Continued government investment in education, in times when capital expenditure was dramatically reduced elsewhere, has led to the creation of inspiring learning environments. The crimson form of Athlone Community College by Mc Garry Ní Éanaigh Architects and the timber clad cluster of Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture by OPW (Office of Public Works), redefines preconceived notions of institutional buildings. Education embraces heritage in the sensitive restoration of Blackrock Further Education Institute by McCullough Mulvin, in which four listed buildings have been united by a striking addition. Integrating restoration and new build is seen via examples such as the Inchicore Model School by Donaghy + Dimond and St Angela’s College, Cork by O’Donnell + Tuomey; both enhance existing protected structures with contemporary interventions.
Tailor-made houses including Alma Road in Dublin by ODOS, The Lake House in Howth by Aughey O’Flaherty and Church Road in Belfast by Hall McKnight, demonstrate a mastery of materials and meticulous attention to detailing, whilst tackling planning restrictions and variable site conditions. In the same vein, The Haven in Killarney by Gottstein Architects, nestles into its residential setting in a formal composition.
A contrast in scale is demonstrated by the smart Merrion Cricket Pavilion by TAKA Architects, a mere stone’s throw from the RDS Arena, Dublin’s multipurpose sports stadium. The RDS is earmarked for a multi-million euro development with a competition winning proposal by Newenham Mulligan & Associates in collaboration with Grimshaw Architects.
Finally there are the miniature muses, a small but perfectly formed collection of pavilions to provoke thought and celebrate cultural heritage. 5Cube Energy Pavilion by de Siún Scullion Architects addresses the reliance on fossil fuels. The thatched folly of Jeffrey’s House by Thomas O’Brien and Emily Mannion provides a retreat from the weather, and Square Moon by Shindesignworks commemorates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Irish Nobel prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats.
Times have been difficult on the island, but it looks like the road to recovery is well underway. Commencing in 2016, the Irish Government have released plans for a six year capital investment framework called 'Building on Recovery', setting an agenda for significant development in education, healthcare and social housing, making Irish architecture a definite one to watch.