Practice history & context McCullough Mulvin’s architectural practice has produced striking contemporary works - in Dublin, in Ireland and, further afield, in the Indian Punjab. Putting an order on what the practice does is not straightforward; there is no one way of making form, no signature shapes, but more an attitude and a methodology. If the work is about anything, it’s about place: the close relationship between the project and its site, its geography, its cultural significance - and time: the relationship between new and old things, the incorporation of history into making architecture, the effect of time on fabric and materials.

Linked Projects
  • Thapar University
    Thapar University

    Patiala, India

  • Waterford Fire Station
    Waterford Fire Station

    Waterford, Ireland

  • Beaufort Maritime and Energy Research Laboratory, UCC
    Beaufort Maritime and Energy Research Laboratory, UCC

    Cork, Ireland

  • Blackrock Further Education Institute and Blackrock Public Library
    Blackrock Further Education Institute and Blackrock Public Library

    Dublin, Ireland

The work is based on a belief in empathic knowledge and understanding of people and place being at the root of making original and interesting decisions. It is a complex layered process, far from the simplistic soundbites of contemporary architecture - and a consequent methodology of deep immersion in place and context. It is also about the right kind of slowness, taking time to get things right.

The work - in Trinity College in Dublin, in India, in rural Ireland - and in existing buildings like Rush Library or St Mary's Museum in Kilkenny- is of the 21st century in form, function and materials but it belongs. It seems right where it is, and has a quality of ordinary/special - it is part of a search for ideas which are original but subtle, not shiny/special or declamatory, without the accompaniment of simplistic architectural monologues promising instant transformation. It could be described as exploring a generous view of geography - building in and on landscapes which can be hills and valleys, but also cities, and the geography of existing buildings. Also forming new landscapes out of architecture which extend the natural world and finding ways to make public space in very different climates and cultures.

From the outset, the practice has sought a breadth of vision and a lateral view. Less about the standard tropes, more about a wider inclusion of the whole history of architecture as a source. Coupled with this, a parallel exploration of thought through writing books and making films which influence projects and reflect light on ideas has always played a part. Partly as a result, there are maybe more (interesting) questions than answers- a questioning of standard views, an open-ness to experiment. For instance, the practice has a strong interest in radical intervention - making new additions to old things. But, while supportive of agreements about treating existing buildings with great care, we would be less supportive of doctrinaire ideas about the relationship between new and old things, for example the requirement for new things to be subservient to the monument they engage with - this is a matter of architectural skill and judgement.

Combining the words radical and conservation is NOT a reference to being radical with existing building fabric and space - i.e. scouring away the patterns of age. It’s the opposite - about being very careful with them in terms of fabric and meaning, but looking at radical ideas as to what they might be used for and how new fabric and old should be integrated, without fear; the way architecture has happened over many centuries. It involves a close survey and development of knowledge about the existing building/site/place as a physical artefact. It involves incorporating the history of place into the architectural idea and using that knowledge to find ‘soft spots’ for change within the fabric. It also involves finding the capacity to make a) suitably grounded and researched proposals for change within the existing building itself and b) adventurous proposals for new form associated with it based on the idea of architectural judgement.

The integration of new and old creates a new architecture which is unlike simple contemporary architecture - it is a reflexive dialogue between both. Ireland, with its conflicted history, has particular opportunities for using radical conservation as a way of dealing with the past, something which is not embalm-ment, but is optimistic transformatory and energetic. These opportunities, of immense cultural potential, are explored by McCullough Mulvin.


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