House designs

Are these the best home designs in Ireland?

Three houses are on the shortlist of 35 construction projects chosen by the judges for this year’s awards by the Royal Architects Institute of Ireland (RIAI). They include a house with vaulted concrete ceilings in Sandymount, Dublin, by GKMP Architects; a house made from shipping containers in Dublin’s Ringsend harbor district by LiD Architecture; and a Dublin house on a remote site with pedestrian access only by TAKA Architects.

If these, and the three expansions also on the shortlist, are anything to go by, then design trends include white painted or exposed bricks, bare concrete, and wood elements.

The judges of the 29th RIAI Irish Architecture Awards have chosen the shortlist from the most entries since the recession, and the winners will be announced on June 8. In the meantime, the public can now express themselves by voting for the Public Choice Award on the institute’s website ( Last year, around 14,000 people voted, up from 10,500 in 2015.

The side of a floor of Belgrave Mews, Dublin, by TAKA Architects. Photograph of Alice Clancy

Of the 14 categories – from conservation to commercial projects – three relate to housing: extensions, housing and houses.


The owners of the shortlisted home in Sandymount had watched her for 14 years, gazing at her from their neighboring home. They saw it as an “opportunity to create our perfect home,” even though at this point it was a home and a store. And one day, it became theirs. Although they saw its potential, they “knew that it would take distinctive and expert architecture to transform it into a home – a hardworking family home that would bring us joy.”

GKMP Architects, founded by Grace Keeley and Michael Pike, added an extension to the side and back, to tie the house together and better connect it to the back garden. While the house is open plan, the architects used vaulted ceilings and cinder block columns to delimit the kitchen, dining room and living areas. This industrial look at high levels is anchored and warmed by the selective use of wooden shelves, floors and stairs and glass walls overlooking the garden. Everything is beautifully detailed to perpetuate the calm of the materials.

And, after that 14-year wait to buy the house next door, customers say, “The bottom line. . . exceeds our long-standing aspirations for ownership.

Exterior of the vaulted house by GKMP Architects.  Photography: Alice Clancy

Exterior of the vaulted house by GKMP Architects. Photography: Alice Clancy

Using white painted bricks inside and outside the 130m² house they designed at Belgrave Mews, Dublin, TAKA Architects approached the two houses next to this landlocked house both in materials and in scale. They referenced them using bricks and a slate roof without copying their shape. The house has one floor on the east side, which is closest to a neighbor, and two floors on the opposite side, which has more space in front. TAKA Architects, led by Alice Casey and Cian Deegan, showed how to manage these landlocked sites that are becoming more in demand as housing pressure increases in cities.

Large windows

The third house on the shortlist is Ringsend, by LiD Architecture, built from 11 corten steel shipping containers. They have large holes cut to provide openings and large windows, creating a lightness from heavy metal. The genius of the project is that it could be built in phases depending on the funds available, stacking more containers as the finances increased. “We are looking forward to adding the third level this year,” say customers. “We hope the project can convince people that container construction is not only viable, but that it can exceed conventional building standards.

The extensions on the shortlist are St Catherine’s in Dublin 8, by Ryan W Kennihan Architects, where exposed brick walls in the living room and kitchen added a loft feel; Haddington Park in Dublin, also using bricks and wood, by Robert Bourke Architects; and Portico in Dublin, in white brick, by David Flynn Architects.

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