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Des McMahon - Gandon Medal, 2015
Architect:Des McMahon, FRIAI
Award Type:Gandon Medal
Founder and former director of Gilroy McMahon Architects. Past President of the Royal Hibernian Academy.
On 30 November, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland awarded its James Gandon Medal for lifetime achievement in architecture to Des McMahon, FRIAI, co-founder of Gilroy McMahon Architects. Inaugurated in 2011, this was the third time that the James Gandon medal was presented with the two earlier recipients being the late Dr Ronnie Tallon of Scott Tallon Walker Architects and the US-based Irish architect Kevin Roche.
Des McMahon is founder and former director of Gilroy McMahon Architects and a Past President of the Royal Hibernian Academy. Uniquely in Ireland, he has won the RIAI Gold Medal twice (the biggest honour in Irish architecture for a building) – for the extension to DIT Bolton Street and for Croke Park Stadium. Croke Park (83 000 capacity) is considered Europe’s first modern stadium and epitomises a new era of stadia culture, which sees their use extended beyond match days. Other awards for Gilroy McMahon include the RIAI Triennial Silver Medal for Architectural Conservation and the International Gulbenkian Award for Museum Design. Among the portfolio of Gilroy McMahon are many significant national cultural projects including the extension to the Dublin City Gallery of Modern Art, The Hugh Lane; the national venue for traditional Irish music, Glór, Ennis, Co. Clare; and the conversion of Collins’ Barracks, Dublin, to the National Museum of Ireland. Education forms another important part of the expertise of Gilroy McMahon including Ballyfermot Senior College and Library and the winning entry in the RIAI / Department of Education design competition for a new primary school suited for 21st century learning.
RIAI President, Robin Mandal, who nominated Des McMahon, described the architect as “gifted, tenacious, committed, charming, with a broad mind that understood the complexities of life”. “For me, Des is the epitome of the architect – an outward looking worker committed to excellence with a wide range of interests. He sees architecture in the continuum that is culture and as the mother of the Arts. As President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, he further embedded architecture into that artistic maelstrom that is so much part of our cultural identity. Des is one of the few renaissance men to have survived the grinding specialisation that our world demands. An obvious leader, he holds centre stage while playing whatever part the script demands. His belief that the reality of architecture is people’s physical mental and emotional response to it is clearly seen in all his work. It lies well in the belief that all we do as architects should be based on serving communities. From the Ballyfermot Senior College and Library to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Collins Barracks and Croke Park, his architecture is about cultural communal identity. Without his love of music, Glór in Ennis would be a very different place. In a world where Yeats’s aphorism that ‘the best lack all conviction; the worst are full of passionate intensity' holds sway, Des is the exception that proves the rule: He has both conviction and passionate intensity.”