Saturday 21 October 2017

Irish architects designing cities in China and a cutting-edge cancer unit nine storeys beneath London

The vision for the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which is being designed by Irish firm Heneghan Peng. Photo: Archimation/Heneghan Peng
The vision for the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which is being designed by Irish firm Heneghan Peng. Photo: Archimation/Heneghan Peng
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Irish architects are leading the way globally, from designing high-tech hospitals in London to museums in Cairo.

Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) president Carole Pollard has said we need to start valuing our architecture more, and said that Irish firms were employed in some of the most exciting projects globally.

Heneghan Peng is designing the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo - which will be one of the largest in the world when complete - while Scott Tallon Walker is involved in the new Proton Beam Therapy Centre at University College London Hospital, which will provide cutting-edge cancer treatment.

"This is state of the art," she said. "They are going down nine storeys in the centre of London to house this proton beam unit and it's Irish architects doing that.

"There are Irish architects master-planning cities in China, teaching everywhere. We have incredible talent.

"The Danes aren't genetically any better at designing than the Irish, but they value it and they promote it and they keep telling everybody they are the best designers in the world, and we need to start doing the same.

"I think awareness of design has grown. Design is very high on the agenda of the National Planning Framework. We were fortunate enough to have a national policy framework on architecture, but it expired last year and we need another."

But she said she did have concerns about the number of women in practice, saying there was a 50/50 ratio in the universities, falling to 78/22 in practice.

"There is a huge loss to the profession in terms of management, leading projects, dealing with clients," she said.

"By losing so many women graduates, we're narrowing that skill-set."

She said there were five "really good schools" of architecture at DIT, UCD, UCC, UL and Waterford IT, but the cost of studying architecture was high.

"I am very concerned that architecture will become the preserve of the middle classes, because it's becoming a very expensive degree to take," she said.

"It limits the pool and opportunities, and you can't deny opportunity to people."

Irish Independent

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