Irish model kit builds global momentum

Wicklow-produced Arckit described as ‘sophisticated Lego’

A modelling product invented by an Irish architect, which went on sale in May, is already selling in a number of prestigious outlets around the world.

British architect Sir David Chipperfield has described Arckit as "a sophisticated form of Lego" and the Co Wicklow-manufactured product is being used as part of its curriculum by the University of Huddersfield in the UK and the Loretto Kirribilli Senior School, in Sydney, Australia.

The product, which is manufactured for Arckit in Tinahely, Co Wicklow by Automatic Plastics Ltd, and is available online, is being sold in the National Building Museum in Washington DC, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Alvar Aalto Museum in Finland, and the Royal Institute of British Architects bookshop, in London.

Arckit inventor Damien Murtagh (47), son of the Kingspan chairman Eugene Murtagh, says he had been working on the concept for four years and got funding two years ago, before launching on the market in May 2014. Investment to date has been in the order of €250,000, including some funding from Enterprise Ireland.


Up to around 20 years ago, architects typically made physical models of their designs. Then digital modelling took over, not least because of its lower cost. However, Murtagh felt that if he could design components that could be quickly made into models, and could be repeatedly used, they would sell.

‘Reality Minecraft’

Arckit, says Murtagh, has been described as “adult Lego” or a type of “reality Minecraft”. The reuseable, interconnectable components, which he designs, can be used to create model gardens, house, office blocks and rooms, and it is his intention to continue to design new components that will extend the scope of what the product can be used for. Architecture students can buy it in first year and still have it when they retire.

“It has opened up the possibility for everybody to physically design their ideas using a physical tool,” says Murtagh. “It’s a freeform box of magic.”

There are 26 components in the range so far “but there are a lot more in the pipeline, in drawings and in my head.” Already available in three kit sizes, Murtagh plans to issue individual component packs in the coming months.

Purchase includes online access to a materials library where users can print off imagery, such as stone and wood, that can be stuck on their models and later peeled off.

The components are also available digitally, via Sketchup, allowing users to also make digital designs using Arckit.

Murtagh says it is the only product of its kind, which made it difficult at times to convince others of its feasibility but saidsays he had received backing from Enterprise Ireland.

A graduate of Hull University, Murtagh began to practice as an architect in 1994 and worked through to the collapse of the property market. Since then, he has been working in the UK as a designer of furniture and other products while also working on the establishment of Arckit. He hopes to be able to work full-time on his product by the end of this year.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent