DTA Architects wins RIAI award for Santry social housing scheme

Development shows ‘there’s no need to compromise’ in design excellence for affordable housing, says RIAI president

Dublin firm DTA Architects has been awarded the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) housing medal for Domville Woods in Santry Demesne, a social and affordable housing scheme in north Dublin.

Located on a gently sloping 6,500m2 site on Santry Avenue, the development is made up of 75 social housing apartments grouped into three buildings around a central landscaped space.

Designed for family living, most of the apartments, which have two or three bedrooms, have their own front door and private terraces or gardens.

The scheme was commissioned by the architects' department in Fingal County Council, and funded by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. It was completed in 2010.


RIAI president Robin Mandal said it was "timely that such a wonderful social and affordable housing scheme has won our highest housing award".

“This demonstrates that there is no need to compromise on excellence in design for any type of housing. Good design is good design and is not budget dependent. This winning scheme sets a high bar for other social and affordable schemes.”

It is the third time DTA Architects, headed by Derek Tynan and Niall Rowan, has won the RIAI Silver Medal, the highest award for housing.

A key element of the brief given to the architects was to minimise shared internal access spaces, and incorporate significant carbon reduction targets as well as energy saving technologies.

The height of the buildings varies between three and four storeys, with sloping parapets. The facades are a combination of clay brick and render, with aluminium windows and recessed porches clad in hardwood boarding.

Fabric insulation, mechanical ventilation heat recovery units and high-efficiency condensing boilers were installed to ensure high levels of energy efficiency, while existing mature trees on the site were worked into the design.

Praising the winning entry, the judges said the layout of the design was a “clever idea that is deftly executed to provide a genuine sense of intrigue, space and ownership”.

“There is real architectural skill in designing housing of this nature that works from outside to in and vice versa. One can imagine the lives of families interrelating and growing up happily in apartments such as these.”

Runners up for the Silver Medal were the Timberyard social housing scheme in the Liberties in Dublin, designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects, and Moire Moire Moire, three residential mews houses in Dublin city centre designed by ODOS Architects.

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine