RIAI Annual Conference
Speaking at the 2011 RIAI Annual Conference in VISUAL, Carlow, Ruiari Quinn, TD, Minister for Education, said that the building of new schools was urgent and that his Department had developed a new brief for a Post-Primary School for the 21st century. The Minister spoke about his “nightmare of a demographic train coming at us in four and five years” due to the current baby boom and the need for both new primary and secondary level schools. “These children will be looking into fields rather than playgrounds, if we don’t start the process soon and we can’t event blame the last government, because we are in power now”. Minister Quinn said he would announce an architectural design competition with the RIAI later this year as well as a comprehensive inventory of existing schools in Ireland to enable the Department to plan better. “We don’t know enough about our own infrastructure”, said the Minister.
Welcoming the Minister’s statement on behalf of the profession, RIAI Director John Graby warned that urgent reform of the procurement system was needed and that this could be done within the existing EU directives. “We need to make considerable changes and apply logic to streamline the system, urged the Director. “We will change the procurement system”, responded Minister Quinn, adding that the profession’s assistance was required to bring about change. RIAI President Paul Keogh also stressed the urgency of the procurement reform and said that the Conference looks at the future of Irish architecture and at the core values of the profession: “We must retain the value of what we do as architects and how we can contribute to the urgent issues of a growing urbanised society and internationalisation.”
At the Annual Conference, Minister Quinn conferred, on behalf of the RIAI, Honorary Fellowships on the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, renowned architectural critic Kenneth Frampton, and on the distinguished architect and writer Edward Jones, Director in the London practice of Dixon Jones. (pictured above is Rafael Moneo receiving an Honorary Fellowship from Minister Quinn)
The Annual Conference heard inspiring presentations from all three Honorary Fellows. In a tour de force on Critical Regionalism, Kenneth Frampton applied his theory to a diverse range of projects from Alvaro Siza’s homage to Brazilian in-situ concrete, at the Iberê Camargo Foundation in Porto Alegre, to Anna Heringer’s award-winning school in Rudrapur, Bangladesh, which reinforces regional tradition through local building materials. Edward Jones discussed his long-standing relationship with Irish architecture and architects, in particular the days of the ‘Flying Circus’ when teaching staff from London and Glasgow ran UCD’s School of Architecture. Rafael Moneo inspired delegates with a highly insightful talk on his work and thought process. Presenting two recent projects – his sculptural Church in San Sebastian and the Northwest Science Building, Columbia University, in New York city – Moneo argued for a return to the principles of construction and space in architecture, at a time when there is overreliance on iconography.
Other speakers at the RIAI Conference included economist and journalist Marc Coleman and spatial planner Dr. Conor Skehan, who both offered thought-provoking predictions for Ireland’s return to economic growth and the role of the profession, while Kingsley Aikens, Director of the Ireland Fund, discussed global economic opportunities through strategic networking with the Irish diaspora. Martin Colreavey, Chief Architectural Advisor with the DoAHG, presented an update on key actions of the Government Policy on Architecture, 2009-2015. In lively discussions, delegates contributed from panels and the floor, with much criticism expressed at the profession’s current low fee bidding.
Grafton Architects were presented with two prints by artist Sean Shanahan, based on their acclaimed Bocconi University, for their achievement in winning the 2009 World Architecture Prize. The prints were commissioned by John Meager on behalf of the Irish Architects Benevolent Society and are available for purchase from the IABS, contact Orla Fitz.Gerald, OFitzGerald@fitzgeraldassociates.ie
The RIAI Annual Conference took place on 23 and 24 October in VISUAL Carlow. Designed by Terry Pawson Architects, the building won an RIAI Irish Architecture Award for ‘Best Cultural Building’ in 2010.
Details of the RIAI Annual Conference 2012 will be announced in the New Year.