Architects have designs on Venice


IRELAND'S PARTICIPATION in the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale, this autumn, was announced by Minister for the Arts Martin Cullen yesterday.

Nine Irish architectural practices are heading to the exhibition, starting on September 14th, with projects that will explore the central role of space in our society and show aspects of Irish politics, society and culture. It will include films on the dismantling of the Maze prison, by Dara McGrath and Robinson McIllwaine, and a study of how Irish church buildings have changed since medieval times, by Gerry Cahill Architects.

"Buildings speak of us as a society and define us," said the Minister, promising that the new Abbey Theatre would "go ahead in my time".

As well as showing the world a bit about Irish society, the "Lives of Spaces" exhibition gives Irish architects a rare enough chance to show their work on a world stage and most of the nine practices are basing their projects, which comprise films, on their own built work, or on family homes.

Simon Walker and Patrick Lynch's story surrounds the holiday home of Robin and Dorothy Walker in west Cork, "which has played a crucial role in the cultural life of the nation over many decades", not least through its political and artistic visitors, which included Séamus Heaney.

This is the fifth time Irish architects have shown at the exhibition and for some of this year's participants it marks a return. Tom de Paor kicked off the Irish involvement in 2000 with a small building of peat briquettes, donated by Bord na Móna, which got plenty of publicity.

In 2002 Bucholz McEvoy charted their building of Limerick County Hall and in 2004 O'Donnell and Tuomey (back this year) went with their Letterfrack Furniture College Project - all three practices are now recognised internationally. Two years ago Ireland had its first group showing, curated by FKL Architects, which received critical acclaim abroad.

Other practices visiting this year include Hassett-Ducatez with its Youth Centre in Tallaght; McCullough Mulvin and its Waterford Library; Taka which is charting the house move of a Dublin family; and Grafton Architects, with its designs for the Department of Finance building on Merrion Row, Dublin, and the Luigi Bocconi University, Milan.

The Lives of Spaces, curated by Nathalie Weadick, director of the Irish Architecture Foundation, and Hugh Campbell of UCD, is a deep and meaningful exhibition title, said Cullen,

"All of our daily lives are affected by architecture. It can bring all sorts of emotions, and make us happy, uplifted or sad - something all great artistic people can do," he added.