BUILDING bridges in the air for internet search engine companies, completing a psychiatric care hospital for the Under 18s in Cherry Orchard, Dublin, and fitting out offices in Cork for the likes of VMware and extensions for Boston Scientific — the architectural practice Reddy O’Riordan Staehli is back being busy as it celebrates its 40th birthday.
By Tommy Barker
Bucking the gloom that has decimated the design profession during the construction downturn, the firm has seen its employment numbers start to pick up in the past year, says Cork office director Paul Butler. Under the umbrella of the multi-office name Reddy, RORSA employment is now at 20, up from a low of 14, having hit 80 during the mid-2000s, when the Reddy practice was one of Ireland’s top design employers.
Current work between its Dublin and Cork offices include a new, three-way bridge for a major search engine company’s Dublin HQ, plus a fit-out of buildings at Barrow Street, totalling 160,000 sq ft and due for a phased completion in 2013. In Cork, they’ve sizeable recent projects for Boston Scientific and Styrker, with new schools ‘on the boards’ for St Columba’s BNS in Douglas, and Scoil Nioclais in Grange.
RORSA marked their 40 years in business in Cork’s Rochestown Park Hotel this week, in the hotel’s recently created atrium space - which they designed for the hotel.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney was on hand and remarked “much of the city was shaped by the talents in your office...you have left a lasting and positive mark on the skyline of Cork city.”
Minister Coveney — also marking his 40th this year — said his own father, Hugh, and grandfather Patrick were quantity surveyors, admitted to a knowledge of the design and building businesses, and revealed he had wanted to become an architect.
The minster name-checked a number of RORSA buildings, such as the Cliffs of Moher Visitor centre (winner of a design competition in 1982, out of 80 international entries) St John’s Central College “it needed a radical design for inner-city renewal, and it got it”, as well as well as UCC’s Student Centre, Ballincollig Barracks Square renewal, Nemo Rangers as one of the country’s best sports facilities, and Cobh Garda Station. Minister Coveney singled out several as personal favourites: they included the Castlemartyr Resort when he had his wedding “and where the paint was still wet as we arrived”, and the stunning Maternity wing of the CUH “where our two daughters were born, and where the building looks like it just slotted in.”
The minister praised the resilience of the firm started in 1972 by Limerick-born Donagh O’Riordan, with Desmond Staehli, and predicted with their concentration and expertise on education and hospital building design Reddys would be well-placed to grow once more when construction recovers to sustainable levels over the next two to three years.
Former RIAI president Tony Reddy, now chairman of Reddy Architecture and Urbanism, said when he acquired ORSA in 2004 he knew there’d be benefits from their various specialisms but observed “the synergy has been greater than the sum of the parts.”
Now-retired founder Donagh O’Riordan, recalled the frenetic nature of the boom where, at one stage, they were being interviewed on one floor of a building by the IDA for one commission, while on a floor below, a US firm was waiting to interview them for further work. He couldn’t recall if they even got the job, but said a top French architect with RORSA at the time observed “you have more work on than most architectural practices get in a lifetime.”
Donagh O’Riordan concluded “good and talented young people made the practice, and out of small things came a fine practice.”
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