Ireland has an impressive architectural history, with examples of architectural heritage dating back to the Neolithic period, and its architecture remains world class. Buildings throughout the country have a specifically Irish character and quality, from the megalithic monuments of c.2500 BC to churches, monasteries and friaries, round towers and tower houses, castles and country houses and the later urban architecture of Dublin. Successful new architecture in the country’s capital respects the grain and character of this unique and historic Viking city.
The history of Ireland’s architecture has been shaped by its relationship with Europe and changes have occurred as a result of a history of invasion – of both armies and ideas.
Ireland’s architecture reflects the evolution of the country’s cultural heritage. Celtic, Christian, classical and modern phases are reflected in monuments and buildings around the country. These range from the passage grave at Newgrange, to Norman and medieval ecclesiastical sites, to the Renaissance and the emergence of classical architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries, to Victorian cathedrals, schools, railway stations, factories, shops, gaols and markets, to the new Ireland of the early 20th century with emerging state programmes for housing and hospital construction.
Dublin is one of Europe’s most interesting and vibrant cities with architectural treasures from the medieval period evident in its fine public buildings. The city is particularly noted for the scale and unique character of its Georgian domestic architecture and subsequent Victorian suburbs. This architectural richness and diversity was captured most recently in PIVOT Dublin, Dublin’s bid for designation as a World Design Capital 2014.
Irish architects are talented and have achieved great success, not only at home but also on the international stage. Heneghan Peng Architects have won many international awards and competitions including the design of two bridges at the London 2012 Olympic Park and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This year Grafton Architects were awarded the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale for their impressive presentation of a new university campus in Lima, Peru.
The Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) is the professional body that represents Irish architects. Two of the RIAI’s most illustrious honorary members from the twentieth century were Eileen Gray, one of the contemporary masters of Modern Movement interiors, and Kevin Roche, an architect of world stature in the United States. Roche’s Dublin Convention Centre has greatly enhanced the city’s cultural and urban landscape. Irish architects continue to work in the public and private sectors throughout Ireland to enhance everyday life in Ireland through great buildings and design.