Architects ‘a basic need’

Architects were told this week that they need to overcome negative public perceptions about their profession if they are to persuade people that “having a good architect is as basic as damp-proofing”. At a conference to mark the publication of a review of the Government’s policy on architecture, PR consultant Mark Brennock said these negative perceptions include a view that architects cant be “let loose” on a building project. “They are seen as indulging in group-think about what is ‘correct’, favouring abstract notions of style over functionality and seeking to impose their will on clients,” he said.”

Brennock, a former journalist with The Irish Times who is now public affairs director of Murray Consultants, said these perceptions – none of which he agreed with personally – “lay behind some of the worst stuff built in Ireland during the boom years”. At the same time, however, most people could see the value of good architecture, such as Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport “as opposed to the kind of shed Ryanair might have built”.

Architect and critic Shane O’Toole said that while architects may be pessimistic about their prospects because of the recession, it would be a huge mistake as it had more lasting value as a form of cultural expression. This “point of despondency is also the point of maximum opportunity to think about where we are going”, he said. All of the major recent works – including the new Wexford Opera House and Criminal Courts of Justice – are lavishly illustrated in a new publication, the first Annual Review of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, published on Tuesday.

The Irish Times