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MORE THAN 100 new school buildings are to be built

Posted by Francis O' Toole on September 26, 2012

FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor Irish Times

MORE THAN 100 new school buildings are to be built over the next five years to cope with a “massive rise” in the number of children who will need school places, according to the Minister for Education.

Addressing the annual conference of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) in Dublin yesterday, Ruairí Quinn said this challenge for his department was also a “real opportunity to seek innovation in the design of these new schools”.

He noted that the post-primary school design competition held earlier this year was the first competition for school design since the landmark community schools design competition in 1973, which had demonstrated a “clear step-change” in architectural quality.

Mr Quinn said he was delighted the latest competition generated “incredible levels of interest”, attracting “the highest ever number of entries for a design competition in Ireland” with 154 submissions, including 43 international entries from 14 countries.

He stressed that the competition – which was won by ARPL Architects from Ayr in Scotland – was “not just an ideas competition but focused on delivering real innovative school designs that could be built”, starting with a 1,000-pupil secondary school in Kingswood, Tallaght.

“In the current economic climate, coupled with the challenge of additional school places, it would be deceptive to raise expectations in seeking just a once-off flagship project” and his department was “in the process of appointing the winning design team”.

Mr Quinn said the outcome of the competition “demonstrates clearly the integrity of the process and the professional manner in which we do business in Ireland”, noting that Irish architects were also winning work overseas.

Building on the success of the competition, Mr Quinn – an architect himself – said a joint RIAI-Department of Education day-long colloquium on post- primary school design would be held on December 13th in his department.

RIAI president Michelle Fagan urged architects to get more involved in their local communities and offer their expertise on the built environment, “whether their opinion is invited or not”, because they had an “ethical role” to benefit society.

At the RIAI’s first conference in Dublin for 21 years, she said Ireland was competing for inward investment against “countries and cities [that are] even now creating the kind of built environments that business leaders look for and will invest in”.

Ms Fagan bemoaned the “untapped and underutilised potential” of architects in Ireland, many of whom are currently underemployed or unemployed.

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