McCullough Mulvin Exhibition, Sao Bento Metro Station, Porto, Portugal


ABOUT MCCULLOUGH MULVIN Based in Dublin, McCullough Mulvin Architects does not produce trophy architecture for 21st century consumption; the practice is concerned with time, place and nature - which guide where to build, and not to build, how to make something right in a particular place. There are questions on how to make ordinary things in an age of extremes and superlatives, how to make appropriate 21st century public space places for people to meet. Buildings are different because ideas, places and functions differ; materials are used as long as they are interesting; there is no house style. There are ways of doing things - approaches to material and fabric - which are creative tensions in practice - making things which are static, extracted, carved out - and others concerned with line, tension and geometry. All practice is about exploration and some experiment - working over and back on ideas that endure and get combined, moving around things in parallel rather than directly forward, which, by degrees starts a stuttering language.

The work is mainly public and university buildings in Ireland - museums, libraries, fire stations, research buildings- projects in the cities and towns - especially Dublin- and in the countryside, now also in India, where the practice has designed Thapar University in the Punjab. They are new things- but of a place, or new additions to older buildings, a knot of rooms and materials growing up and around old roots. Architecture occurs at the junctions on, in, and around geographies- of the past, of nature, of cities - the project a open question as much as a solution. Living in Ireland sustains an interest in nature, in its phenomenal landscape, its weather and light - in how to build on it, in it, how to frame it - making fissures that become ways of admitting light, making buildings that become geography - working on the tight line that divides nature and artifice - extending to archaeology- the nature of incision, revelation and layering. This brings engagement with the nature of construction and destruction; everything is being made or falling away; work on existing buildings is just another layer- a view on the frailty of material things and a commentary on the passage of time. In the same way, old things provide a formal and typological source, modern architecture but also that of the ancient world with its abstraction and unavailability of intent. While built projects are critical, the practice also makes explorations through writing, making books, etching, films- the basis of the Porto exhibition.

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION The project is about McCullough Mulvin, about Ireland and India, about projects that the practice is currently engaged in - completed, in design evolution, one under construction.  Two are of urban scale - Thapar University in the Indian Punjab and Trinity College in Dublin, where the practice has built three major projects in an historic university. Two projects are palimpsests, partly new and partly old - St Mary’s Museum in Kilkenny and the Military Archives and library project in Dublin - where new elements are like accretions on older ones; three relate specifically to ideas of ‘constructed’ geographies - Kishogue School in West Dublin, the Beaufort Laboratory in Cork - which studies wave energy - and Waterford Fire Station in Waterford City.

Kishogue School, the Fire Station and the Beaufort are set in specific geographies and work with different kinds of geometry to create architecture. Kishogue conjoins three regular abstract forms- shapes relating to the art of the Irish artist William Scott; internal and external spaces are woven between them as a second language. The other two are buildings to do with process - moving fire engines, measuring water - but they are quite different because of function and location - one makes an abstract world in a neutral landscape to house a particular kind of life, the other reflects a very specific geography - an opposition of tense and relaxed geometries....