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The rising stars of Irish architecture

Ireland is experiencing a mini building boom – so who is doing the designing?

Ireland’s emerging design talent, from left to right: Rae Moore (front), Declan Scullion, Joan McElligott, Christophe Antipas, Lucy Jones, Declan Crowley, Niamh Chambers, Noreile Breen, John Monahan, Nicola Ryan, Elizabeth Clyne, Thomas O Brien, Gráinne Dunne, Darragh Breathnach and Shane Birney. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

When it comes to young architectural talent Ireland is spoilt for choice. Whether it’s a bespoke farmhouse extension; alterations to a challenging historic structure; a small Dublin terrace in need of a redesign or even something as small as a piece of furniture, these 11 young practices represent some of the best emerging design talent around.



Studio Red

Founded in 2008 by Gráinne Dunne and Nicola Ryan, Studio Red Architects have completed a range of bespoke residential and commercial projects, but their main focus is high-end residential design. Their accreditation in Conservation at Grade III means that two main strands have emerged in their work – reviving older properties and building contemporary homes within the Irish landscape. Their award-winning Farmhouse Extension in Co. Clare is an example of their skills at working with both the traditional and contemporary. This simple extension styled on the surrounding agricultural sheds cleverly brings together agricultural detailing, materials, and characteristics of the original buildings while creating a distinctively modern living space. www.studiored.ie

Current Projects

  • Co Clare – Conversion of stables building to artists’ studios alongside new dwelling.
  • Chapelizod, Dublin 20 – Terrace of three dwellings.
  • Howth, Dublin 3 – two-storey extension to a detached house in.
  • Dublin 6 – extension to a protected structure.
  • Co Offaly – extension to a thatched cottage.


DUA

The architects at Dublin-based practice DUA are interested in everyday life – no matter how simple. Be it a slit of light coming through a door, or the light refracting and dancing around a glass of water. These everyday moments are what inspire them. Darragh Breathnach, who founded the practice in 2015, wants their architecture to “involve as many senses as possible”; something that you can’t simply capture in a photograph – buildings that “you need to experience”. Each project regardless of size or type uses minimal materials and sees the practice working closely with local craftsmen. “We want to push the material as far as it can go,” says Breathnach – an approach evident in their Dublin 4 mews house where a simple material palette of brick, concrete, plywood and plasterboard come together to create a warm, homely and tactile interior. www.dua.ie

Current projects

  • Rathgar – a new three-bed house.
  • Dublin – Rock-climbing centre.


Antipas Jones Architects

Antipas Jones is a multidisciplinary practice working in scenography, product design, interior design, research, architecture & master-planning. Each project begins with the same questions: “How does this family live?” or “What is the potential of the existing conditions?” There is a simplicity to their work which Lucy Jones tells me is born out of their practice ethos which is to try and “understand the core of each project and to respond with a simple proposal”, an approach evident in their glass and steel garden room extension to a traditional townhouse in Terenure, Dublin 6. www.antipasjones.com

Current projects

  • Co Tipperary – Conversion of a 19th century farmyard to guest accommodation.
  • Amsterdam Zuidas – Design of a 115-room hotel in a new mixed-use tower.


NOJI

Sligo-based NOJI are an architecture studio whose projects range from seaside houses to retail, commercial and innovative large-scale public projects. They are curious about the meeting of tradition and culture evidenced by their award-winning extension to a period house in Dublin 4 — an extraordinary prefabricated plywood structure made up of a series of interconnecting triangular sections positioned to allow light deep into the plan as the sun moves through the day. Practice partners Elizabeth Clyne and John Monahan are both environmentalists, so a key part of the studios’ work is to investigate and explore issues that have an impact on the natural and built environment. They are also passionate about their local area and have started a co-work space in Sligo to promote job growth and are currently designing urban spaces for villages and towns in Co Sligo which they hope will bring value back to the town centres. www.noji.ie

Current Projects

  • Tubbercurry Co Sligo – Urban Design Strategy Plan


Rae Moore

Rae Moore is one of Ireland’s most exciting young design talents and was the recipient in 2017 of the Irish Design Institute’s overall Emerging Talent Award From small-scale furniture design to large-scale urban planning Moore’s concerns remain the same: “creating spaces and places that enhance the quality of life, promote wellbeing and encourage positive social interactions.” In her own words, Moore wants to “challenge your preconceptions about architecture.” She has recently started work on the Historic refurbishment and extension of the original Market Masters House, adjacent to the Fruit and Vegetable Market in Dublin city centre. www.raemoore.com

Current projects

  • Arran House – Historic refurbishment and extension of the original Market Masters House, adjacent to the Fruit and Vegetable Market in Dublin City Centre. A mixed-use residential and community building in the heart of the city.
  • Co-work Space – A 750sq/m flexible, multi-functional co-work space within a disused brick warehouse at the edge of Dublin City.


T O B Architect

While researching this piece there was one name that came up again and again: Thomas O Brien. He established TOB Architect in 2013 and has primarily been working in the residential sector. Among his peers, O Brien has developed a reputation. “In his generation, his work is in a different league,” one architect told me. The ironically titled “Normal house” – a recently completed extension to an existing Dublin house – is an example of his talents. It is normal insofar as it uses familiar residential materials: concrete block, timber, plaster and ceramic tiles — but the results created by how the materials come together is anything but normal. The end result is an example of how simple, everyday materials can be used to create something quite beautiful and very different. www.tobarchitect.ie

Current Projects

  • The Quay, Ramelton, Co Donegal – Conversion of a historic building into two townhouses
  • Farmhouse, Co. Tipperary – Construction of a new farmhouse with yards, gardens, and outbuildings


Shane Birney Architects

Shane Birney Architects is a Derry-based practice working on arts, residential and urban design projects. For director Shane Birney each project begins with two questions: “what can be done here? How can we bring this back to life?” But Birney also sees his job as being to push clients beyond their initial expectations. “You’re appointed by the client and you have to meet their requirements, but then it is also the job of the architect to challenge them; push them beyond what they might have expected – exceed their brief.” The success of Birney’s persistence can be seen in the restoration and extension of a 19th-century farmhouse in Ballyheather, Donemana. A well-conceived coming together of the existing traditional farmhouse and a contemporary timber clad extension. www.shanebirneyarchitects.com

Current projects

  • Wilton Terrace, Glandore Dublin – Meeting & Training Centre.
  • Simpson’s Brae, Derry – new passive house dwelling.


Joan McElligott Architect

JMA’s practice philosophy is simple: to “surprise and delight”. The challenge, says McElligott, “is to find the design potential in every scheme no matter how daring or modest the project” and to always try to move “beyond fads and fashions”. McElligott practices what she preaches; she made a daring move when redesigning her own house in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. She made it smaller, not bigger. Even though she reduced the overall size the way that McElligott has redesigned the internal spaces means that the end result — a simple but cleverly design interior with bright splashes of colour — actually feels bigger. www.joanmcelligott.com

Current projects

  • Ranelagh – Domestic extension & refurbishment of a protected structure


Noreile Breen

House at Cnoc an Óir in Co Kerry. Photograph: Alice Clancy

From skyscrapers to sheds, architecture comes in all shapes and sizes. One of Noreile Breen’s latest designs is small – a very small and witty take on the traditional “nest of tables”. Made from Douglas fir, these are simple yet beautifully crafted pieces of furniture. She recently exhibited a sculpture inspired by architect Luis Barragán at the prestigious Venice Biennale. Sharing her time between academia and practice, Breen’s career is in its infancy but when it comes to Irish design and architecture she is definitely one to watch. www.noreilebreen.ie

Current projects

  • House at Cnoc an Óir in Co. Kerry
  • House at Killea in Co. Limerick that’s a variation of a traditional Irish farmhouse.
  • Two homes on a shared site on Kerry Head; A modern clachán.


Studio Anois

Founded in 2016 by Niamh Chambers and Declan Crowley Dublin based Studio Anois’ projects range from domestic extensions to commercial and cultural buildings. “Each project is different,” says Crowley, “but there are underlying themes that run through all of our work — we value quality over quantity; architecture should have a positive impact on people’s lives; be robust enough to stand the test of time and grow with our clients.” And, most importantly, “architecture is much more than what can be captured in an image. The importance of comfort, warmth and fresh air cannot be understated,” something that is captured in their Fairview house. www.studioanois.com

Current projects

  • Diamor Co Meath – Timber frame passive house.
  • Dublin 7 – A small housing development.


Scullion Architects

“We’re in practice because we love architecture and delight in construction,” says Declan Scullion of Scullion Architects. “The joy in architecture is the process of discovery – uncovering something of the potential of a place, revealing something about how a client lives, and then solving how we might build it.” The joy of architecture is clearly evident in their work like the transformation of a Victorian three-storey terraced house near Dublin’s Docklands from three bed-sits into a generous family house. At the rear of the house, a small tower inspired by a Charles Rennie Mackintosh bookcase is clad in charred larch and copper, materials that will age gracefully over time as the carbon crust protects the timber and the copper naturally oxidises. www.scullion.ie

Current Projects

  • Blackrock, Co Louth – New house for a retired couple.
  • Athlone – Campus Square, a new public space.