Yesterday evening Ireland’s leading architects, and many of their happy clients, gathered at Dublin’s Mansion House for the 28th RIAI annual awards. The awards given by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland applaud architecture, from healthcare to sustainability, commercial to conservation, across 14 categories. One of the most eagerly-awaited categories is the House of the Year.
From a timber and glass box rising from the ruins of an old stone farmhouse by Boyd Cody Architects, to an ODOS Architects origami-puzzle of a house on a tight site near Dublin’s city centre there are, as it turns out, not one but five houses of the year, as the awards wisely recognise the virtues of new architecture throughout Ireland’s distinctive regions.
“I think what’s great about the regional awards is that it’s emphasising that architects don’t just work in urban areas,” says RIAI president, Carole Pollard. “A lot are on rural sites, and when you look at them, and then look at the standard issue houses in the countryside, you see what it means to work with an architect who responds to a site, who puts a house in its context.”
It’s a distinction that goes two ways according to Pollard. “These buildings are designed so that the people living in the house have a relationship with the landscape, as does the house to the people going by. Some people think that designing a house is just combining a collection of rooms under a roof,” she says. “All these go way beyond that.”
Looking at the winning designs, this includes some extravagant gestures but also could be down to something as simple as the positioning of a window to exclude some views and make the most of others, or getting the proportions of a room just right.
The houses also demonstrate how an architect’s input can help with negotiating planning and building control. “Architects are the only construction professionals that are trained in design,” says Pollard. “They’re able to interpret the site and its restrictions. Sometimes having a really restricted site is a challenge for an architect, and they love that,” she says. The payoff is definitely worth it. “We wake up each day and are amazed that this is our family home,” say Padraig and Bernadette Ó Mianáin, of their compelling contemporary house, Tireighter Cairn. Ireland’s Houses of the Year: the winning designs