This was the final talk of Design Bites: a series of lunchtime talks given by various creative professionals hosted by Irish Design 2015. Held in the couch house of Dublin Castle, a building that has been rejuvenated to modernity where currently the clean design aesthetics of the interior is contained in solid mock Gothic exterior.
We entered into the room to a seated audience where a man sitting at the front was peering into a mac laptop. His appearance a little reminiscent of what David Lynch might have looked like if he were Irish. This man was Marc O’Riain. He is currently President of the Institute of Designers of Ireland (IDI), a founding editor of Iterations and he also lectures in CIT in the architecture department.
I caught up with Marc after the talk. Here is how it went…
What inspires you?
Innovative work inspires me. I like to see when people question the existing order. As interiors and architectural professional too much of the work is lazy, too much simply copies what has been done before. There are of course notable exceptions. I loom around the world at starchitecture and it really turns me off. I really like the work of Clive Wilkinson. He’s probably the only visionary out there today.
Can you describe your creative process?
It’s hard to say in one way as I find it very complex. I try to work in existing buildings, breathing new life and a new use into them. I would usually look at the intended use and question how culture is changing that use. Technology is always changing so how we interact between people changes. When we look at how we create spaces that facilitate interaction, I tend to think of technology, exploration, vista and play. I sketch and model make from the outset. I look at the feasibility of the budget and I think of the user process. Of course there’s a lot of iterating ideas, simplifying and then presenting to clients. For me creativity and innovation are partners with strategy, business and realisation.
How did you first get into architecture?
In a very roundabout way I chose industrial design over architecture on the CAO but this was probably a mistake. I learned a very good process from industrial design. After 4th year I knew I didn’t want to redesign white goods. I initially got a job illustrating buildings (pubs) then I got an opportunity doing 3D visualisation in Galway. I paid for a Gateway computer which cost €2.4k (that must be over 10k in todays money). I then went around architectural practices hawking 3D visualisation. You would get drawings from architects for interiors with very little detail and you were forced to make it up. Kevin Hough in Access Building Design noticed this and offered me a job. He had no idea I had a degree. From that point i learned a lot, mostly like an apprentice. People will guffaw at this but I pretty much memorized the Home Bond book. I was given a lot of rope and we did some very impressive stuff for large multinationals and some real mingers too! It was only when I got to ORSA in 2002 that my position, skill set and creative process would come together to really develop.
Could you describe your style?
That is hard. My style is not consistent. My work is generally exciting and challenging. I don’t have a house style but I am very interested in the industrial, the potential of industrial buildings for new uses. I also love period buildings. I love the texture of these old buildings. They create that kind of interesting urban grain to a city. I am very much about what makes the ‘here-here’ about the place.
Do you have favourite materials that you prefer working with?
Not really, natural materials and industrial materials as the need arise. I will always specify sustainable materials with low embodied energy.
Why do you prefer those?
Construction can be responsible for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions and as designers we have a big role in reducing this, more than most people. I was 16 when Chernobyl blew up and was a member of Green Peace. I’m not a woolly hat wearing hippy dippy designer but I have learnt to be pragmatic about what responsibility we have and how to deliver on that.
What would your ideal project be?
A public building for the good of the public. An existing building, perhaps a Victorian warehouse…5 floors, lots of brick. Love it!
Maybe something like this Marc?
Who would you love to design something for?
I would like to design Design Hubs for every city council in Ireland! These would reinvigorate areas and promote growth and research in design proving also a valuable cultural and tourism attraction across the regions.
Do you have any creative hobbies?
Design is my life, outside of that I have a family and I surf.
When you have a choice between several solutions how do you choose?
It is usually pragmatically based on cost or appropriateness. I would tent to canvas opinions and then ignore them.