Croke Park up against pumphouse for architects' Gold Medal


A SCHOOL in Co Galway, civic offices in Co Meath and Co Offaly, a library in north Dublin, two university buildings and a pumphouse in Clontarf are competing with Croke Park for the most prestigious award in Irish architecture.

The eight building projects – all completed between 2001 and 2003 – have been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) triennial Gold Medal, to be presented by President Mary McAleese at a ceremony on April 7th.

The Gold Medal has been awarded by the institute to one of its members since 1934 for the design of a building of exceptional merit, usually three to five years after completion, so that it can be judged in a mature state by fellow architects.

This year’s jury consisted of former RIAI president Joan O’Connor, former Dublin city architect Jim Barrett and three award-winning architects – Dermot Boyd of Boyd Cody; Pat Creedon of Magee Creedon Kearns, and John Tuomey of O’Donnell + Tuomey.

Grafton Architects, who won the World Building of the Year award for the Bocconi University in Milan, have been shortlisted for three projects here – the Urban Institute at UCD, Dunshaughlin Civic Offices in Co Meath, and Ard Scoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

ABK Architects made the shortlist for Áras an Chontae in Tullamore, Co Offaly, which the jury described as “a pathfinder in the generation of new civic offices in Ireland . . . an elegant assembly with considerable civic presence, which has weathered beautifully”. McCullough Mulvin and KMD Architecture are on the list for the Ussher Library in TCD, overlooking the college playing fields. This greatly extended the earlier Berkeley Library (1967), for which ABK’s Paul Koralek should have won an RIAI Gold Medal.

Two other public projects – Dublin City Council’s pumphouse facing the end of Vernon Avenue in Clontarf, and Fingal County Council’s Baldoyle Library and Local Area Office – have merited inclusion in the shortlist for dePaor Architects and FKL Architects, respectively.

Finally, Gilroy McMahon Architects have been shortlisted for the spectacular redevelopment of Croke Park, which the jury hailed as “a landmark in the historical, cultural and architectural landscape of Dublin . . . with the necessary sense of occasion and grandeur”.

The jury had one major crib – “the paucity of submissions in the housing category”, despite the fact that so much housing was built in the 2001-2003 period. It also suggested that a bronze medal should be awarded for excellent one-off houses and extensions.

RIAI director John Graby said the Gold Medal “celebrates the best of contemporary architecture” and the standard of projects judged this year was exceptional – “proof positive that Irish architects are among the most innovative and talented in Europe”. “How many great plays or great works of art were produced in the same period?” he asked. “You’d be hard put to think of any.” What the shortlist showed was that architects had “produced the goods”, making a real contribution to Irish society.

Mr Graby said it was vital to maintain this standard, particularly in the current economic climate. “Ireland needs to be recognised as a place of international architectural excellence where people will want to visit and companies continue to invest.”