Award-winning Irish public buildings shortlisted for top British prize


TWO IRISH public buildings have won architectural awards from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, and have been included on its British equivalent’s 50 best new buildings list for 2012.

The Lyric Theatre in Belfast, designed by O’Donnell and Tuomey Architects, won the Best Culture Project award from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), it was announced last night.

The Wexford County Council headquarters, by Robin Lee Architecture, with Arthur Gibney and Partners, won the RIAI’s Best Public Building award.

Both are also on the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) 50 best new buildings of 2012 list. This puts them in the running for the Stirling Prize shortlist later this year.

The RIAI judges, headed by Eddie Conroy, county architect of South Dublin County Council, praised the Wexford County Council HQ’s “rhythmic balance of solid and void and the power of the materials”, while the Lyric was admired for its “robust and expressive forms, in particular the interlocking relationship of volume and movement of its public spaces”.

Also on the international scene Heneghan Peng architects – working out of Dublin on projects in Egypt, Riyadh, Germany and London – took the International RIAI award for its Olympics bridge in London. Henchion Reuter – based in Ireland and Germany – was awarded Best Leisure Project for a Tropical Biome in Leipzig, Germany, that recalls the glass globes at the Eden Project in Cornwall by Nicholas Grimshaw Architects and the British Museum Great Court cover by Foster and Partners.

The awards recognised established practices: McCullough Mulvin won RIAI Best Health Project for its Dublin Dental Hospital; and Paul Keogh Architects won Best Housing Project for the Seán Treacy House scheme in Dublin.

There was also recognition for relative newcomers, including Steve Larkin, who took the Emerging Practice Award, but also the prize for Best House, for Bog west, Co Wexford.

A young practice also won the Extension award. Design trio LiD took the gong for its Butterfly House in Co Leitrim. “Great confidence is displayed in the building language, airy spaces and the formation of dramatic opening to the landscape,” said the judges.

Another warm richly timbered building is the extension to a primary school in Crumlin, Dublin, by Mary Laheen Architects, which won the Best Educational Project award. This was admired for its “rigorous understanding and integration of space, structure and light”.

Public service architects got two awards: the OPW for the conservation and restoration of the Monaghan Courthouse and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council architects for an outdoor space linking the town with the sea.

The winner of the Public Choice award this year is the Engineering Building NUI Galway by Taylor Architects and RMJM. It also won the Best Sustainable Building award.

In her assessment of the 50 buildings picked by the Riba its president, Angela Brady, said: “What really stands out is that even in times of austerity, we can still deliver amazingly clever, high-quality buildings that reflect the needs of today and enhance our daily lives.”