Simply the best

IT’S that time of year when the annual RIAI review is published and although it feels like a familiar annual event, (it arrives at Christmas), the 150-page, fully illustrated booklet, the Review, has been in print only since 2010 — ironic really that it coincided with the lowest point in our slough of despond, but also marked the moment of recovery, perhaps.

And the publication could be seen to be a watershed in that sense too — a time for stocktaking and for promoting the best we have to offer in terms of our living space and how we live, against a reassessment of what it means to be Irish and to live in Ireland.

The appreciation of the work of Irish architects has become increasingly secularised — it could be said that there is a common acceptance of the importance of architecture in the fabric of our lives and that it’s no longer the preserve of professionals and the commentariat, but a living, strong and recognised presence in the our built environment.

The surprising success of property programmes such as Grand Designs and Room to Improve, (with property forming a huge part of Channel 4’s programming) and the less mainstream output from the BBC in the form of high-end architectural histories, (with the occasional shot from RTÉ), shows that the appetite for and the awareness of good design has never been more apparent — or more important.

And this democratisation of architecture has been the subtle but instinctive response to the building industry’s collapse by certain members of the architectural community, not least Dr Sandra O’Connell of the RIAI.

Simply the best

She is to be credited with the conception, and continued success of the annual Review, which she edits. It’s a great, thumbing reference for international, national, regional and local work by big fish architects of Irish origin and the small fry of rural and urban and emerging practices. And it’s an ideal showcase for the layperson, as well as the professional. The projects chosen are matched by essays from leading practitioners and commentators and are based on selections from the RIAI’s annual Irish Architecture Awards for 2014/2015.The review is published with support under the Government Policy on Architecture, 2009-2015.

This year’s edition, the fifth, includes an essay by Paul Keogh on housing, while Dublin City architect, Ali Grehan, celebrates Ireland’s design talent in light of the forthcoming Year of Irish Design, ID2015.

Raymond Ryan reflects on the creative and diverse work of Irish architects post-recession, and RIAI president Robin Mandal highlights the contribution Irish architecture makes to creating a sense of plac

Simply the best

A special focus of the Review — and its front cover image — is the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics by our own ‘starchitects’ O’Donnell + Tuomey, who received a RIBA Gold Medal this year, one of the world’s highest architectural awards.

And of the emerging practices, Robert Bourke and Liston Architecture figure, along with landmark buildings like Waterford Museum, the award-winning urban farm, Airfield Evolution and a range of rural and urban residential projects.

* IrishArchitecture, The RIAI Annual Review Vol 5 (2014/2015) costs €30 in bookshops and at:


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