As we look forward to the upcoming Architecture and Building Expo, 6-7 October, Architecture Ireland takes a look at the Expo’s annual Interior Design & Fit-Out Awards through a series of interviews with 2016′s winning practices.
In this article, we speak with Geoffrey Whelan of Darmody Architecture. In 2016, Darmody Architecture were awarded the ‘Commercial over €5m’ Award for EPIC Ireland at CHQ.
Darmody Architecture won an award in 2016 for EPIC Ireland – could you please tell us about the initial aims and brief for this project and some of the main challenges involved?
The design challenge was to accommodate cutting edge technology and multimedia displays whilst at the same time retaining and enhancing the special character of the protected structure. In particular, the conservation challenge was to retain, clean and repair the historic fabric of the vaults, followed by the insertion of a modern museum that achieved the functionality required by the project brief. Minimum intervention with maximum enhancement of the character of the protected structure was the main principle applied during the design and construction process.
EPIC Ireland tells the story of Irish emigration and of the country’s diaspora. How is this narrative structured and how did it influence the overall design of the exhibition spaces?
The central concept and pre-occupation was to insert a new use that still retained the legibility of the historic building. It was very important to respect the grain and character of the historic building. A new raised access floor was inserted which allowed new services to be integrated and adapted easily. We wanted the vaults to be comfortable with low level recessed lighting that would guide visitors through connecting spaces. The design team worked with artists and set designers to create one-off designs which rest comfortable within each vault.
The exhibition is divided into four parts: Migration, Motivation, Influence and Diaspora Today. Target audiences include inter-generational family groups, members of the diaspora, other international tourists and school groups. The exhibition uses the linear character of the historic vault to take visitors on a journey that starts on the island of Ireland and concludes with a view of the world that illustrates the Irish global presence today. Each thematic area has its own character and sense of story, time and place. The areas are physically divided by the vaults, each telling a chapter of the story. Transition spaces and thresholds between vaults are considered as part of the visitor journey, offering opportunities to pause and reflect on one chapter, or to introduce the next.
How did it feel to have a prize-winning entry in the Interior Design and Fit-Out Awards 2016? Has the award influenced your practice in any way?
We were delighted to receive the award as it’s a recognition of the diverse skills involved within what was very much a collaborative effort. A creative and empathetic partnership between all team members was critical to the success of this project. The holistic EPIC experience was a culmination of designers collaborating across many disciplines; architecture, art, content design, conservation, structural engineering, and mechanical and electrical engineering.
We continue to work closely with our client and see this as the beginning of a series of future exciting projects within The CHQ Building at Georges Dock. This form of recognition has been rewarding to everyone involved.
With your experience of Interior Design and Fit-Out, what are the main changes you’ve witnessed in the area of the last number of years and do you have any predictions for the future of the sector?
From our experience in interactive museum design, we would expect to see further development in the collaboration between technology and design. Within the EPIC museum experience, lighting and sound designers worked closely with the design team to produce atmospheric elements throughout the vaults. Lighting was designed to be adaptable to a variety of installations with the twenty vaults. Sound control was highly important as the historic vaults reverberated sound transmission from one vault to the next. Our solution was to design sound absorbing elements within the exhibition layout, tracing the historic structure.
Can we expect to see any recently completed work entered into the 2017 Interior and Fit-Out Awards this year? Have you any current interior design and fit-out awards on the drawing board at the moment which particularly excite you?
The team at Darmody Architecture have been instrumental in creating a range of innovative and dynamic projects, always achieving a vision and sense of place irrespective of scale. The practice now enjoys a wide breadth of work including public sector, educational and arts, commercial, mixed-urban developments, and sensitive renovations of protected structures, together with one-off private residential commissions. We have a number of projects currently on-site, which are both exciting and provide opportunities to develop and implement new design strategies. We look forward to entering into the Interior and Fit-Out Awards 2018.
Darmody Architecture is an architectural practice with a passion for detail and a wide spectrum of experience, based in Dublin, Ireland. We specialize in architecture, urban planning and interiors with a portfolio that spans complex mixed-use developments to exquisite private residences. Currently we are engaged in a varied range of projects in a variety of sectors in Ireland and the UK.
Our practice is built upon clearly defined principles: The need to understand with clarity our clients’ briefs, the generation of a clear vision and strategy for each project irrespective of scale, a passion for design and detail, and a single-minded obsession with delivering buildings and spaces to the highest possible quality.