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International Rugby Experience Voted the Nation's Favourite Building
Photo Nick KanePhoto Nick Kane
International Rugby Experience faced considerable competition from a shortlist of 53 projects. This year shortlisted entrants were located across the length and breadth of the country in Belfast, Carlow, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Down, Dublin, Kildare, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Waterford and Wicklow, as well as internationally in London and Lesotho.
All of the projects on the shortlist were designed by Registered Architects based in Ireland and completed in 2022 and selected for the shortlist by the RIAI Awards Jury who visited the projects.
Winning first place, the International Rugby Experience by Níall McLaughlin Architects – entered into the Cultural and Public Buildings category – is a new cultural institution and visitor experience to celebrate the worldwide game of rugby. Located in the heart of Limerick, this ambitious project seeks to reinvigorate the city centre, complement the existing local arts and heritage attractions and forge links with Muster rugby. Its contribution as a cultural and public building breathes new life into the city.
Occupying a prominent corner, it has a strong civic presence and a quality akin to a city hall, library or gallery. The façades are given a sculptural quality through the articulation of vertical brick piers and the façade bay proportions complement the Georgian streetscape. Its scale successfully addresses both the immediate, local context, while also announcing itself to the wider city. Almost ‘gothic’ in nature, the building form is beautifully proportioned with red brick and precast concrete elements articulating the façade. It is robust, yet extremely elegant and light. The dramatic public hall at the top floor is a real success. Truly a cathedral to celebrate world rugby!
Second place in this year’s Public Choice Award went to Béal na Bláth Centenary by Cork County Council CPIU Architects with Scott Tallon Walker Architects and Professor Finola O’Kane. The Béal na Bláth ambush site is one of the most significant and emotive sites in Irish history. As part of the national commemorations marking the centenary of Michael Collins’ death, the Béal na Bláth memorial was upgraded to provide a new public space aimed at enhancing the visitor experience and reinstating the authenticity of the memorial landscape.
The new memorial landscape conserves the considerable authenticity of the general valley section with its escarpments, bridges, great trees and sniper bóithríns. The existing brick platform was replaced with a simple platform allowing for ceremonial possibilities in a design recalling the early choreography of gun salutes and the presentation of arms. The existing monument cross is retained and accessed along a new interpretive route that follows the original road alignment as it was on the day of Collins’ death. The story is told by the physical arrangement in conjunction with the manipulation of natural daylight through the gaps in the new wall, marking the events that took place on the day. A public space that has utility and meaning in an important cultural landscape.
Third place in the Public Choice Awards was awarded to Tropical Fruit Warehouse by Henry J Lyons. Located on Dublin Quays, the architects designed a daring composition of three interconnecting elements: the restored 1890s warehouse which is a protected structure; a lightweight overhead glass extension; and a new 7-storey office building to the rear.
Interventions to the original warehouse included the sensitive retention and restoration of the historical fabric, including 30 original Scots Pine timber trusses, brick facades and slate roofing. Remnants of the Hibernian Marine School, which was located immediately west of the warehouse, were discovered during opening-up works and have been successfully captured as an integral element of the restoration. Modern insertions were made to complement the restored construction and animate the building’s facades to allow enjoyment of the building’s internal fabric. The over-sailing cantilevered glass extension was constructed to reinvigorate the warehouse as a new urban landmark.
Charlotte Sheridan, RIAI President, said:
We are thrilled to announce International Rugby Experience has been chosen as Ireland’s favourite building. The shortlist for this year’s Public Choice Award has some incredible buildings that demonstrated the highest level of architecture. It is clear from the level of entries that Irish architects are amongst the best in the world, supporting not just design but Ireland’s economic, cultural and social structure. I would like to congratulate our winner, our runners up and the entire shortlist on their superb entries.”
The RIAI Irish Architecture Awards are the most prestigious awards of their kind in Ireland. They celebrate the quality of current work by RIAI Members at home and abroad and create awareness of the important role that architecture plays in delivering Ireland’s societal and economic infrastructure.
For updates, please follow: @RIAIOnline #RIAIawards
The RIAI Awards 2023 are proudly supported by our Awards Gold Sponsor Equitone.
The RIAI Irish Architecture Awards will be announced in full on 22 June at the Museum of Literature Ireland. For updates, please follow: @RIAIOnline #RIAIawards
The Jury for the RIAI Awards 2023 are:
Dr Siobhán Ní Éanaigh, Chair FRIAI retired
Dr Ellen Rowley, Distinguished Guest Juror
Christophe Antipas MRIAI
David Dwyer MRIAI
Nives Dzindo MRIAI
Máire Henry MRIAI
Seán Moylan MRIAI
Derek Murphy MRIAI
Ruth C. O'Reilly MRIAI