An English architect in Ireland…

So how did I end up as a UK trained architect, now working as a Chartered RIAI architect in the wildness of County Mayo, Ireland? And what lessons have I learnt that can be passed onto others.

The short story is that I wouldn’t have been able to selfbuild a house for the money we had available in the UK; the opportunity and mind-set in Ireland is geared towards self building. It is the tradition here to build your own house rather than the exception. The amount of land and open space and the type of house we bought would have been impossible in England. And that is how I returned to architecture following various other careers as CAD consultant (mostly VectorWorks), Virtual Tour creator, Web designer…and never looked back after self building our house in Foxford. As the writer Stephen King said (his book ‘on Writing’, if god gives you a talent, why on earth wouldn’t you use it).

Following an interview at the RIAI and attending the UCD Part 3 course (thank god I didn’t have to take the exam again!) I became a member of the RIAI (incidentally, I’m still an RIBA member)

So, what’s it been like working here?

I’m used to being self employed but to be honest it has been a baptism of fire, here are the main differences:

1. Effectively there’s no Building Control, you submit your Commencement Notice and that’s it; no passing of Building Regulation Plans, no visits by Building Control or approved inspectors, nothing. The responsibility of complying with Building Regulations effectively rests on the architect; as you can imagine this makes for interesting discussions with self-builders and contractors.

2. I’ve had to really up my game. The standard of work created by Registered Architects in Ireland is incredibly high. This is possibly because of the sheer amount of other professions providing “architect” services; from every class of engineer, BER assessors and even retired wood work teachers! Any work an architect produces needs to set itself apart from the rest. People using architects in Ireland are generally looking for that ‘something different’.

3. The sheer amount of driving that needs to be done. After the schoolruns, I have to do a LOT of driving, getting to sites, attending meetings etc; often trying to find obscure sites in difficult areas.

4. The variety of work has been incredible. My specialty is one-off residential designs and I’ve been lucky in the time working here to work on the great (extending and doubling the size of 6000sqft bungalow) to the restoration of a 10m2 cobblers cottage (as shown in the Little Designs movies).

I’ll definitely be returning to this topic; would love to hear other peoples experiences on working in Ireland…

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