17 Inspiring Examples of Modern Irish Architecture

On St. Patrick’s Day, we’re sharing some of the country’s coolest constructions.

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Architects love going green, but today it’s not a byword for our preoccupations with eco-friendly innovation. Celebrated around the world on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect opportunity to recognize Irish culture (and have a cheeky pint of Guinness or three).

St. Patrick’s Day originates in ancient times, being the date traditionally acknowledged as coinciding with the death of Ireland’s patron saint around A.D. 493. However, the day is now as much of a celebration of contemporary culture across this fair isle, and architecture represents an important component of the country’s recent drive to embrace modernity.

This includes a number of cracking new projects in the residential, commercial and civic typologies, displaying a surprising degree of diversity and daring by architecture firms across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Here’s our pick of the bunch. Enjoy and may all the luck of the four-leaf clover be with you on this festive day!

Titanic Belfast by Todd Architects, Belfast

One of the foremost architectural landmarks of the 21st century in Northern Ireland sits on the harbor front in the center of Belfast. The 150,700-square-foot building is the largest museum of its kind devoted to the infamous ocean liner Titanicand is formed by four soaring, aluminum-clad shards inspired by the hulls of boats constructed in this very dockyard a century ago.

Formwork Studio by Architecture Republic, Dublin

On a smaller scale, Architecture Republic conceived this artist’s retreat as a simple textured cube, with workbenches, steps and seating formed by a continuous ribbon of concrete around the room. The minimalist style and lighting creates a serene, calming atmosphere, reminiscent of many works by the king of concrete himself, Tadao Ando.

VISUAL & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre by Terry Pawson Architects, Dublin

This €18-million building forms a multifunctional space for the arts in the Republic of Ireland’s capital city, combining VISUAL — a high-ceilinged exhibition space for displaying contemporary art — and a large theater venue. The building reads as a series of volumes clad with opaque glass and presented on a raised concrete plinth, providing ample day lighting for the galleries in the daytime and forming a contemporary lantern by night.

Dwelling at Maytree by ODOS, Wicklow

This sleek modernist structure looks more like a contemporary gallery than a private residence, with sculptural elements containing open-plan living spaces beneath a steep, tree-covered escarpment. In the midst of the snow-white walls and cool gray window frames, flashes of lime enliven the building’s appearance, and a bold cantilever is supported by a quirky cluster of bright red columns.

The Plastic House by Architecture Republic, Dublin

Architecture Republic returns to our list with this startling residential renovation, which saw a typical mid-terrace house transformed into a futuristic minimalist environment. The interior has been left entirely open with double-height spaces and gantries throughout (only the bathroom is enclosed), and its pure palette of black and white gives it the feel of a 3D Mondrian painting.

Trinity Long Room Hub by McCullough Mulvin Architects, Dublin

Designed as the new Humanities Research Building in Trinity College, the Long Room Hub is intended to form a modern yet contextually respectful intervention alongside the College’s Neoclassical buildings. The building’s façades are comprised of stone and glass to echo the material palette of the surrounding architecture, but the structure’s simplified aesthetic offers a striking contrast within this historic square.

3 Mews Houses by ODOS, Dublin

The raw aesthetic of these private residences in Dublin’s city center nods to the area’s industrial heritage. The cantilevered upper section is comprised of power-coated, metal industrial floor planks arranged in varying widths to create a dynamic rhythm along the mews frontage. Behind this metal veil, open-plan living spaces are punctuated with plant-filled rooftop terraces.

Via Hufton+Crow

Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre by heneghan peng architects, Antrim

Heneghan peng was nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize in 2013 for this subterranean visitor center, which is designed as an extension of the stunning natural landscape of Antrim’s rugged coastline. The green-roofed Centre is formed from “two folds into the landscape” with stone columns imitating the extraordinary basalt formations of the Causeway itself.

5Cube by de Siún Scullion Architects, Dublin

5Cube is a semipermanent pavilion that was set at Hanover Quay in Dublin in 2015. Sponsored by the European Union–funded ACE for Energy project, the installation physically represents the volume of oil the country consumes every fives minutes. 5Cube encourages viewers to think more deeply about the use of renewable energy in Ireland. One side of the boxy structure reveals 473 barrels of oil, which measures 4.2 meters cubed [about 1,100 gallons]. The opposite side shows Ireland’s target volume of energy used from renewable sources by 2020.

Scale of Ply by NOJI, Dublin

This Victorian, two-story house in Dublin received a major interior upgrade from NOJI in 2014. A previously dark and damp building, the architects envisioned a luminous design with a plywood lattice structure as the focal point. The new interior features a series of interconnecting triangular planes that are positioned to allow deep light into the home throughout the day. With the original ground-floor walls knocked down, the new kitchen and dining space now also extends into covered areas that relate to the garden.

DrlLexicon by Carr Cotter Naessens Architects, Dublin

Set in Moran Park, Dublin, drlLexicon visibly demonstrates the natural fault line between the harbor and the town of Dun Laoghaire. The building is wedged into a granite escarpment that reconnects the two levels of the park. The upper level is conceived as a new public space with a pond constructed as a series of weirs, a raised belvedere that extends toward the sea and a forecourt at the library’s entrance. The building, a concrete shell with a granite and red brick façade, is composed of two forms: Along the street are meeting rooms, workshops and reading spaces, while the park-side space houses a lounge with a “piano nobile” above, each with long windows that frame the park.

Roscommon Civic Offices by ABK Architects, Roscommon

ABK Architects designed a 6,600-square-meter [71,000-square-foot] civic office for the city council on the site of a former criminal justice precinct. The building is created as a series of interlocking volumes and a central, linear concourse that serves as the primary public space, linking offices with a large council chamber at the front of the structure. Dramatic windows line the façade, allowing ample natural light into the building. The unique design also gives way to a variety of external spaces such as woodland gardens, a forecourt and a covered walk sheltered by the cantilevered form of the offices above.

Grillagh Water by Patrick Bradley Architects, Derry, Northern Ireland

Grillagh Water is a contemporary piece of architecture set in rural Northern Ireland that’s built to break through the stereotypes of traditional design in this region. Not only is it a low-maintenance and innovative design, but it showcases how good design within a modest budget can encourage and enliven its occupants. The farmhouse is constructed out of four 45-foot-high, cube shipping containers and is inspired by the form of local agricultural sheds. Its unique cantilevered form features rusted COR-TEN steel and dark gray expanded metal.

Island Dwelling by O’Neill Architecture, Aran Islands

This stunning private home is located on the Aran Islands just outside of Galway Bay in Ireland. It provides spectacular views of the Cliffs of Moher and the surrounding landscape. The 104-square-meter [1,119-square-foot] house is located on the north end of the site with a south-facing garden. The main entrance is located on the lower level with two double bedrooms. A staircase that follows the slope of the hill leads upward to an open-plan living space. A 30-square-meter [323-square-foot] studio sits behind the main building. The project was constructed with a special honeycomb structure clay masonry, allowing the house to be breathable and light amid the high moisture content of the area.

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and Grand Canal Commercial Development by Studio Libeskind, Dublin

When completed in 2010 and 2011, this mega-project was at the heart of the revitalization effort for Grand Central Harbour. The civic structure is a 2,000-seat performing arts center and a 375,000-square-foot office and retail space. The Grand Theatre has become the main façade of the project, serving as a backdrop for activity and performances on the large public piazza. The two office blocks feature multistory glazed atriums, courtyards and landscaped roofs.

Solid Sanctuary by 4 Architecture, County Sligo

Solid Sanctuary is a striking wooden box set in a vast landscape. The project was designed with a gradually sloping roof and a carved recess that allows maximum natural light into the house. These light shafts also provide diagonal views of the surrounding environment. Vertical slits appear throughout the façade further bringing daylight into the building, while a corner window frames the view of a nearby mountain. While bright and airy, the project also gives ample privacy to its clients.

Flynn Mews House by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects [LOHA], Dublin

The Flynn Mews House was built in the heart of Dublin on the site of an 1847 coach house. The original historic façade was stored and remains the main entrance by way of a small mews. Its design reframes the site using a distinct two-volume formation that flanks an interior sunken courtyard. A glass bridge is suspended across the central void, visibly connecting the interior, exterior and the historic character of the house. This project was part of the Dublin Green Building Pilot Program.


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