RIAI Housing Award for Wooden Building, Temple Bar

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      Paul Clerkin

      Dublin architects deBlacam and Meagher have won the premier housing award of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) for the Wooden Building in Temple Bar.

      The silver medal for housing is the fourth major RIAI award to be won by the practice. Three years ago, it won the medal for a timber-clad apartment at No 1 Castle Street, Dublin.

      The other two major awards were the RIAI gold medal for the library and information technology building at Cork Institute of Technology (1997) and the conservation medal for the dining hall and atrium in Trinity College (1986).

      Developed by Temple Bar Properties, the Wooden Building is a nine-storey residential tower clad in iroko teak and lime-mortared brick, with wooden canopies at its upper levels, a copper roof and space for a small retail unit on the ground floor.

      Located in Upper Exchange Street, it was intended to be 13 storeys high but was reduced to nine following objections from An Taisce, whose then chairman, Michael Smith, characterised its evocation of medieval towers as a “procrustean contrivance”.

      However, the RIAI awards jury described it as “a singular and memorable building” that successfully addressed the ceremonial space framed by the City Hall and the gates of Dublin Castle, “one of the great set-pieces of 18th century urban design”.

      The jury, chaired by architect Michael Cullinan, said the promise held out by its exterior was matched by the spatial richness within, demonstrating how “through imagination and technical mastery, a work of architecture can transcend and inspire”.

      Despite the controversy about its original proposed height, Shane deBlacam said he was delighted not alone to receive the award, but also that the Wooden Building was now acknowledged as “a great place to live”.

      The jury highly commended two holiday homes overlooking Clew Bay, in Co Mayo, designed by Paul Keogh Architects, saying this scheme offered “a valuable contribution to the debate on how successful building in the countryside might be achieved”.

      Three other projects were commended – Custom House Square, in the Docklands area of Dublin by Anthony Reddy Associates; Mount Saint Anne’s in Milltown by O’Mahony Pike Architects, and Bulfin Court, Dublin 8, by Cullen Payne Architects.

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