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Remarks by President McAleese at the presentation of the RIAI Triennial Gold Medal

Published: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tá an-athás orm bheith anseo i bhur measc inniú.  Go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht bhur bhfáilte caoin.

Thank you all for that very warm welcome.  My special thanks to Seán O’Laoire for his kind invitation to return again to the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland to present the Institute's Triennial Gold Medal for 2001 to 2003.  Such a change has come over the world of Irish architecture in the three years since I presented the Gold Medal to O'Donnell & Tuomey Architects for the wonderful Ranelagh Multidenominational School.  The confidence and the cash that characterised much of the past generation allowed a dramatic change in our built environment, with evidence of great creativity, imagination, talent and hope in redevelopment projects, in conservation, in new buildings and homes of all scales, sizes and purposes.  A fresh new chapter was written in Irish architecture.  The mood is more sombre now and the economic downturn has taken a particularly difficult toll on your profession.  Yet it is important to be reminded of the genius of each generation and the right of each to make their mark, leave their enhancing imprint on our built environment.  That is why this medal and the recognition it gives will grow in importance through these tougher times rather than diminish. 

Our architects have competed successfully against the world’s best, exemplified recently when Grafton Architects won the “World Building of the Year” award at the World Architecture Festival 2008 for their inspiring new Universita Luigi Bocconi in Milan.  The current global economic situation does not change the fact that we have a wonderful architectural talent base.  It changes the environment and the realities within which they will work and find work.  It will provoke from them new answers, even greater innovation, competitiveness and adaptability.  Older members of the profession are veterans of other recessions; younger members may be feeling nervous about careers in which they have invested so much time, effort and passion.  On this day we gather to encourage, support and reward those who drive this profession to new levels of success and achievement.

The RIAI’s Gold Medal competition is today a much needed shot in the arm as well as an accolade that comes out of a very testing peer-reviewed scrutiny.  Each entrant in today's shortlist lifts our hearts and heads with pride and respect for them and their projects.  Walter Gropius, the famous German-American Architect put it well when he said “Society needs a good image of itself. That is the job of the architect.”  Your sense of the aesthetic, your care for place and people, your design values, help shift and challenge our self-image helping us to see even in the humblest of buildings an opportunity to do things superbly well.

Right now we need to be reminded of the inspirational things you have introduced us to, of the many ways you outreach to the public, to our children and to international audiences, championing the built environment and giving us more educated eyes with which to see and appreciate its possibilities and its needs.

The eight projects short-listed for the Triennial Gold Medal award today showcase contemporary Irish architecture at a watershed moment in our history. They have a very special resonance because of that.  But they are also a statement of intent that the next chapter will draw from a well of proven talent and genius which will have its day, its say and its successes that we will gather in three, six, nine, twelve years time to marvel at, just as we do today.

I thank the judges for taking on the complex job of assessing the candidates and selecting the Triennial Gold Medallist this year. Could they have chosen a more popular and iconic building - one that already has in the short few years since its transformation created a store of historic memories, some of them little short of miraculous.  I am speaking of course of Croke Park, scene of sporting triumphs, scene of peace-making and unparalleled reconciliation, but most of all the scene of intense and emotional national pride that such a wonderful place could have been aspired to and delivered by an amateur sport and a volunteer organisation.  The designers Gilroy McMahon Architects have rightly emerged triumphant and to them we offer our warmest thanks and congratulations.

Is iontach an obair atá ar siúl agaibh agus guím gach rath air san am atá le teacht.

Comhghairdeas libh arís. Go raibh maith agaibh.

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