• Thursday , 12 December 2019

Interview – Strand Architects

Dublin's_Parlour Pencil drawing of Dublin’s Parlour as part of design for RIAI competition 2011.

Mark, how did Strand Architects begin?

The bulk of my working experience since qualifying as an architect has been on the adaption, renovation and conservation of existing buildings. It seemed logical for me to consolidate and develop this experience through postgraduate study so I undertook the Masters in  Urban and Building Conservation course in UCD between 2007 and 2009. After completing this I decided it was a good idea to try and establish a practice. I took part in a business course by the Northside Enterprise Centre and, after discussion with the RIAI Practice Director, I registered a business name with the CRO and the practice with the RIAI.

How would you describe the practice?

I am a sole-trader and my workload is divided roughly between full architectural services for individual clients such as homeowners, and partial services for institutional clients – so the likes of inspections, surveys, record drawings and Disability Access Certificate applications.

Mansion_House Drawing selected by the Royal Hibernian Academy for its 185th Annual Exhibition in May 2015.

Describe your work method.

My work method is closely modeled on the RIAI Good Practice Guide so I will look at the Guide quite frequently. For domestic projects I also often refer to the RIAI ‘Agreement between Client and Architect for Domestic Work’ stages that set out the basis of the appointment as described. As for design, I find this is often an iterative process. There may be a number of iterations or proposals presented to clients which are then modified before arriving at the final implemented design.

Do you find there is an increase in both work and general awareness regards to conservation?

Yes I think there is and this has probably taken place over a couple of decades. I think the large number of architects that have taken part in the RIAI Conservation Induction Module – the CIM – over the past number of years illustrates this. There are now probably several hundred architects who have taken part in the CIM.

Kilkenny_Castle Drawing of Kilkenny Castle produced during the practice’s workshops for the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny Castle Park, National Drawing Days 2013 & 2014.

What made you enter the best Emerging Practice Award?

I see the RIAI as a key organisation for architecture and architects in Ireland. To have the opportunity to present a practice profile to the RIAI is a great opportunity and therefore it seemed like an obvious thing to do.

How did you find presenting your work at the recent RIAI Annual Conference?

I enjoyed it a lot actually. What was interesting was the diversity across the four participants, starting with John McLaughlin who presented his work as Theory in Practice. Congratulations to him and to the other commended practices as well. The diversity of the four offices illustrates that there is a range of possibilities for individual architects who would like to start a practice.

Central_Bank Designs for DoCoMoMo’s Central Bank Ideas Competition, 2013.

You presented your entries to architectural ideas competitions…

Ideas competitions are great opportunities to address architectural or broader environmental and societal issues without necessarily being restrained by a strict brief in the way, for example, a school competition might do. I like ideas competitions simply because they are so free and open.

What is architectural practice to you?

For me it’s very much service-orientated. I am a service provider for people who want architectural services, whether that involves building design, advice about planning, assistance with building procurement and so on.

Brewery The brewery drawing was selected for public exhibition by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in 2013

How would you like to see your practice evolve?

Anything I do in practice needs to be considered within the broader context of society and one important issue that needs to be urgently addressed is environmental sustainability. I think it is essential that, as a society, we take action to mitigate damage to the global environment and architects can play a significant role in this.

What’s next for Strand Architects?

In the short term my goals include looking at the mandatory requirement for BIM in Britain for state funded projects. It would be sensible for any practice to equip themselves with BIM and that’s something I would like to address perhaps in the next year or so. In addition to this I successfully completed a recognised BER training course and I would like to take the last few steps that would allow me to register with the SEAI as a domestic BER assessor – perhaps I can do that in the next few months, we’ll wait and see.


Strand Architects
Mark Costello studied  architecture at UCD and after graduation worked as an architect in London and Berlin. Following his return to work as an architect in Ireland he went onto consolidate his experience working on historic buildings by undertaking postgraduate studies in urban and building conservation at UCD. Having completed the masters degree in 2009 he established the practice Strand Architects. Original drawings produced by Mark have been exhibited by the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Royal Ulster Academy and by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in addition to being commended by the Irish Georgian Society and receiving prizes from the Railway Procurement Agency.

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