Ireland’s Concrete Print

Drawing inspiration from the elements that make up a city, Irish architects elevated two structures in London last year to celebrate the London Festival of Architecture. The two pavilions stood across from each other in Cubitt Square, one red and one yellow; and in an effort to emphasise on all that makes up something, the yellow pavilion showed off components of a city in the form of a library of bricks.

The idea behind the pavilions was not merely to reflect the elements of a city, a society or anything else, but also to highlight the relationship between a city and the new spaces created for new buildings that are being designed and erected within cities. There was a correlation in these structures that balances out opposites such as old and new, public and private or labour and pleasure, according to the project curators. Irish architecture is nothing new in London, and this project was just an example of the many things Irish architects have accomplished in the British capital.

Amongst the most celebrated architects are Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, founders of the O’Donnell & Tuomey practice, whose most celebrated work is the award-winning Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics (LSE). Their work - permanent and temporary - has been described as “the epitome of the architect’s craft” by Stephen Hodder, ex-President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The building has been a success since the beginning, with many ‘starchitects’ praising its shape, its form, its utility and everything it has inside. This has naturally opened up the doors for new projects not only for this creative pair, but for other Irish architects.

Just a few months ago, a Dublin-based Irish architecture firm Grafton Architects was chosen to design the new LSE Paul Marshall Building, estimated at £100 million. The building will house the schools departments for accounting, finance, management and research. The Irish firm’s presentation knocked other finalists from London, New York and Switzerland off the park. With O’Donnell & Tuomey’s building, LSE will now house two Irish originals for its students.