Homeowners or not, we have never been more beguiled by architecture and design. As the man who is arguably Ireland’s most high-profile architect puts it: “There is a hunger for architecture that I have never experienced before.”
Writing in the keynote industry publication Irish Architecture: The RIAI Annual Review, Dermot Bannon notes: “As a nation, our fascination with home ownership has never left us, but gradually our focus can be said to have shifted from mere quantity to a more holistic recognition of quality.”
Considering the housing crisis, it’s something of an anomaly — or maybe not.
Whether we’re stretched out on a chaise longue in a palatial penthouse (grape-feeding and fanning optional), cocooned in a commune, or peering out from a pod — or any kind of accommodation in between, rental or otherwise — there isn’t one of us that doesn’t become a very vocal expert when home improvement and design programmes light up the small screen. And this is why I am convinced the eighth volume of the annual RIAI review is a compelling read for all.
From super-clever house extensions to full-on glamour restoration projects, this publication opens an inspiring and entertaining chapter on Irish architecture as well as communities.
Its stunning photography showcases the best of Irish building and design both at home and abroad and the review also asks the tough questions as it tackles the important issues of our time — including the homelessness crisis.
As always with a glossy coffee-table tome like this, there are two ways of enjoying it. You can either plunge right in at the deep end and front-crawl your way through the topical and extremely engaging essays and interviews or do as I did, and treat yourself to a fun doggy-paddle through the pictures first before swan-diving randomly on to those tasty nuggets that take your fancy. Because this is a publication that serves up a tempting visual feast (it includes 18 award-winning buildings) as well as offering some food for thought in the form of expert writers’ takes on towns, villages and communities.
“The projects featured in this edition range from stunning architect-designed homes to public places where the entire community can come together, and from a finely-crafted school extension to pioneer research laboratories and innovative workplaces,” says its editor, Dr Sandra Andrea O’Connell.
It’s also issuing a rallying cry to seek urgent solutions to the housing crisis as well as urban sprawl. Dermot Bannon makes a passionate appeal to all and sundry to demand better quality for our homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals and public realm, resulting in a better built environment for all.
“In order for this sea change to happen, there needs to be a shift in how the decision-makers, government, planners, developers and, most importantly, the people who buy homes and housing, see the role of architecture and good urban planning in shaping our cities, towns, villages, open spaces and homes,” he says.
Those familiar patterns of development established in the middle of the last century need to evolve, he notes in his essay “Why We Need to Talk Architecture”. “Luckily for architects, as influencers and instigators for change, the mood of the current zeitgeist displays a craving for design-related content that most of us could only have dreamed of 15 years ago,” he adds.
“The myopic understanding of ‘good design’ as begin something related to the addition of a sun-room or a new en-suite in our homes has been supplanted by an appreciation for ‘light’, ‘flow’ and ‘connectivity’ between internal and external spaces.”
As for public spaces, read all about how Barcelona’s Ramblas (“only writ smaller”) have been transplanted to west Cork, in Irish Examiner Property Editor Tommy Barker’s feature on Clonakilty “A Town That Doesn’t Do Grey” where he lays out the Clonakilty 400 Urban Design Masterplan.
A strong theme of this edition is the continued success of Irish architects delivering landmark projects abroad. The cover of the publication features the Palestinian Museum in Ramallah by heneghen peng architects, which recently shared the 2019 prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
Closer to home, O’Donnell + Tuomey’s Central European University (CEU) in Budapest demonstrates the great skill of Irish architects in creating works of outstanding quality in complex urban settings.
One of the global successes of Irish architecture was the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, which was under the curatorship of Yvonne Farrell (FRIAI) and Shelley McNamara (FRIAI), founders of Dublin-based Grafton Architects.
- The RIAI Annual Review Volume 8 (€30) is available from the RIAI Bookshop,Dublin, and selected bookshops or call 01-676 1703 to order