Competitions offer hope to Irish architects


WITH ARCHITECTS in Ireland facing a daily struggle for survival, and little prospect of improvement in the short to medium term, it’s heartening to see that Murray Ó Laoire won joint third prize in an international competition to re-design Richard Wagner Platz in Nürnberg.

Joined by former colleague, landscape architect Remi Salles of Bordeaux, their entry was among 50 shortlisted in the competition. And the setting could not have been more prestigious – right in front of Nürnberg’s opera house, dating from 1905. Murray Ó Laoire Architects have had an international presence since the early 1990s when they opened an office in Moscow. Headed by Hugh Murray and Seán Ó Laoire – currently president of the RIAI – they’ve been cutting back lately due to the recession. This is happening at a time when the international profile of Irish architects has never been higher. Over 300 attended the RIAI/OPW-sponsored lecture in Dublin Castle on May 21st to learn more about Grafton Architects’ Bocconi University project in Milan. Named as “World Building of the Year” at the 2008 World Architecture Festival in Barcelona last October, it was bound to bring people out. But let’s not forget Heneghan Peng Architects who recently won a competition for the design of a new bridge on the Rhine.

Seeking and winning work of this nature is challenging. But it is clear that international competitions offer a route for talented Irish architects to stay busy, even in a recession, when projects at home are mothballed.