Working with your Town and Neighbourhood

Towns, villages, and neighbourhoods can be great places to live, work and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. To support those involved in the regeneration or creation of such places, we have put together this page with information and free online resources.

Architects are trained to consider design holistically. An architect with urban design skills is involved in analysing places and identifying opportunities. This process leads to strategies that reimagine and revitalise places, based on their individual qualities, to create a people-centred environment.

Architects can engage with the community, develop innovative solutions and co-ordinate a wide range of specialists involved in urban regeneration. An important part of the role of the architect is to listen and to develop a shared vision.

The RIAI has developed a number of resources with the support of our RIAI Urban Design Committee, such as our Town and Village Toolkit and Special Awards in the Tidy Towns Awards.

RIAI Town and Village Toolkit

Towns and villages across Ireland have been integral to Irish economic and cultural life for centuries. They can also be great places to live and work for modern lifestyles. To support those involved in Irish towns and villages, the RIAI – with support from the Government Policy on Architecture – has launched a free online resource.

The RIAI Town and Village Toolkit provides practical advice, references and successful case studies of places that have overcome challenges with architectural urban design expertise.  Case studies include Clonakilty, Cloughjordan, Westport, Tuppercurry and Waterford’s Viking Triangle.

RIAI Special Awards - TidyTowns Awards

The RIAI is delighted to partner with the TidyTowns Competition 2022 by providing 3 Special Awards to support TidyTowns committees. These awards have been developed with support from the RIAI Urban Design Committee. 









Caption: Proposal for Dungloe Town by Pasparakis Friel Architects, the 2019 Winner of an RIAI Special TidyTowns Award 


In 2022 there are three special RIAI Awards:

1. The RIAI Town Challenge Award

The RIAI is delighted to support the great work of the TidyTowns with a special award – the RIAI Town Challenge Award. The award provides the services of an Architect to work with a local TidyTowns Committee to create a visionary urban design solution to a problem in your town. If a town or village has difficulties, for example, with derelict sites, signage, poor quality public space, traffic or parking issues, an Architect with urban design skills will develop a design vision that can enhance the quality of space in a town or village.  

The 2022 Winner is Mulranny TidyTowns Committee. 

Previous winners and projects are: 

Oranmore TidyTowns Committee in partnership with Louise Cotter MRIAI, Carr Cotter & Naessens Architects

Castlegregory TidyTowns Committee in partnership with David Williams MRIAI, Wrkshop Architects

2. The RIAI Shopfront Award

The RIAI Shopfront Award is a Special Award, designed to raise awareness and promote good shopfronts in Irish towns and villages. The RIAI Shopfront Collaboration Award aims to support a Tidy Towns Committee who wish to provide guidelines for the design of shopfronts in an historic context with the help of a Registered Architect.

2022 Winner - Birr TidyTowns

2021 Winner - Ennistymon TidyTowns


3. The RIAI Good Windows Award

The RIAI Good Windows Award is a Special Award to promote appropriate windows in Irish towns and villages. The streets of Irish towns and villages are composed of both historic and modern buildings. Well-kept historic windows and well-designed modern windows are equally valid.

2022 Winner - Enniscorthy TidyTowns 

2021 Winner - Dalkey TidyTowns and Highly Commended was Portobello

For all winners, please see the TidyTowns Awards 2022 Results.

10 Top Tips for Designing Outdoor Living Spaces

The RIAI and the RIAI Urban Design Committee have partnered with Chambers Ireland on this timely guide, which provides 10 Top Tips for Designing Outdoor Living Spaces ahead of the re-opening. This guide offers useful tips on how to make the most of the outdoor space available to businesses and the wider community for the coming months as we embrace outdoor spaces.

Old Town New Place

Old Town New Place is produced by the RIAI with support from the National Policy on Architecture. Based on interviews with Architects and those involved in conservation and heritage in local authorities, the film by Ros Kavanagh tells how five towns – Clonakilty, Ramelton, Naas, Stradbally and Dun Laoghaire – have been transformed for their communities through quality architecture and urban design interventions. The film features an extensive interview with the late Bob Hannan MRIAI (1967-2023) who led many visionary architecture and urban design projects for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

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Creating a Vision for a Town or Neighbourhood - RIAI Design Reviews

To support towns and urban neighbourhoods undergoing urban regeneration, the RIAI has developed a Design Review process.

An RIAI Design Review enables communities to benefit from architectural expertise and innovation from the start of a project. Responding to a comprehensive briefing from the community, client and stakeholders, a Design Review panel of Registered Architects creates individual high-level visions and proposals for the project site.

The primary benefits of this process are that it is independent and non-directional and the resultant vision and development ambitions for the project are open and far-reaching.

Past RIAI Design Reviews include:

If you are interested in carrying out a RIAI Design Review or would like to find out more, please contact Dr. Sandra O’Connell, RIAI Director of Architecture and Communications.

Online Resources

The Town and Village Toolkit has a wealth of resources and information:
Town and Village Renewal Scheme:
A Framework for Town Centre Renewal, Published April 2017:
Scotland's Towns Partnership:
Putting Town Centres First:
Community-led Village Design Statements:
Free Market:


Guidelines for the Management and Development of Architectural Conservation Areas, Cork County Council Heritage Unit
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Creative Ireland and the RIAI, Old House New Home – What the Buildings Told Us

Further reading

Patrick & Maura Shaffrey, Buildings of Irish Towns – Treasures of Everyday Architecture, Dublin: O’Brien Press
Shopfronts Sean Rothery, The Shops of Ireland, London: Quarto Publishing Group UK, 2009
Town: Origins, Morphology & Future' by Orla Murphy (2012)

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about ‘Working with an Architect’ in your town or neighbourhood, contact the RIAI.