I graduated in Architecture from UCD in 1985 and worked in France for 10 years. I moved back to Ireland then and started teaching in WIT in 1998. I have been based here in Waterford since then combining teaching and practice.
My academic research area considers the relationship between conservation and vernacular architecture and the requirements of refurbishment, particularly in technological and regulatory terms, in light of new paradigms in the construction industry. The advent of ‘super-regulation’ to the area of construction (Health and Safety legislation, the Building Control Acts and the new certification regime) effectively renders obsolete the vernacular building tradition of which ‘traditional’ conservation often forms a part. This follows a trend since the 19th Century of a certain ‘bias’ in conservation theory towards ‘the monument’ and the tangible elements of heritage as distinct from more ‘ordinary’ and intangible qualities of historic fabric. This problem is most acute in our historic urban environments of streets and terraces which also merit the term vernacular (although of a very different type to the rural vernacular) and where the individual components (outside of designated architectural conservation areas) are usually not regarded as having sufficient cultural significance to merit protection. This fabric has suffered the most from this new regulations-based construction environment and its perceived ‘inadaptability’ to current standards is a large part of the reason for the decline in our historic urban residential environments. Its reuse poses very specific challenges bit these can more-often-than-not be overcome through careful design and specification. There is a strong sustainable case to be made for their reuse too despite the fact that new-build consistently outscores older fabric due to consumer-driven criteria of assessment which rely heavily on the addition of expensive and energy-reliant technologies.
My practice research involves the ongoing design and construction of a variety of building types with an emphasis on historic building adaptation, including work to protected structures and to national and historic monuments. This type of work always requires the production of a conservation report which requires primary research on the building's origins and evolution using a variety of repositories and media. The building's significance can then be assessed, often for the first time, and a blueprint for a development approach that respects its character can be determined as a result.
I have been researching and writing on this topic for the last 5 years or so mainly under the aegis of the EAAE Conservation/Transformation group. My most recent paper emanating from the Rome workshop in October 2013 compares the Abruzzo village of Castel’vecchio Calvisio to Waterford’s Viking Triangle around the themes outlined above.
There is much work to be done throughout our industrialised societies and particularly in Ireland on the reuse of historic urban fabric. Our own city of Waterford would provides an excellent case study. Such a research programme would of necessity combine the disciplines of architecture, conservation, sustainability, historical research, building technologies and the regulatory requirements. The School of Engineering in WIT contains all of these disciplines within its departmental structure and is thus ideally positioned to lead such a research programme.
Papers published and/or presented at conferences on this topic are:
The Death of the Vernacular? The Challenges to Conservation posed by Changes to Lifestyle. Presented at the AIARG (All Ireland Architectural Research Group) conference, University of Ulster, Belfast, January 2014.
Paper emanating from EAAE conference on the theme of Conservation/Regeneration; the Modernist Neighbourhood; entitled Lessons from Bucharest: Cultural Continuity, Reversibility and Attitudes towards Change in the Context of the Conservation Charters, in EAAE Transactions on Architectural Education, Leuven, Belgium, March 2013, ISBN 978-2-930301-57-0, pp 387-403.
The Problem of Ghost Estates – architecture restoring community as a means of reclaiming society presented at AIARG conference, University of Limerick, January 2013
Waterford Health Park – The Story of Project by Fintan Duffy/dhbArchitects. Limited edition publication by The Heritage Council, 2012.
Designed Interventions in the Conservation Context delivered at the AIARG Untitled Conference, DIT, January 2012.
Paper emanating from an EAAE conference Transformation/Conservation; entitled Can continuity survive the transformative process in interventions on historic structures? The Importance of Craft as an Aspect of Continuity. Published by the EAAE Transactions on Architectural Education Leuven, Belgium, May 2011, ISBN 978 2 930301 50 1, pp 229-238.
My teaching experience started in the Department of Building Technology in the late '90s and I was part of the team that subsequently developed the new Honours degree course in Architecture which we have been teaching since 2005. Currently I teach design studio in year 5 and architectural conservation in years 3 and 4. I also direct an annual international workshop in the 'building envelope' with a number of European partner institutes. I am part of the inter-departmental aRCH research group and a participant in the AEEA conservation studies group.
For a list of my current research interests and most recent publications, please Research section.
I am on a jobshare contract with WIT in order to have time for my architectural practice - see Professional Experience.
Director dhbArchitects Ltd
Graduated from School of Architecture at University College Dublin in 1985. Worked in Paris in the offices of Marcel Breuer Associates, and Henri Gaudin Associates, followed by Michel Seban Associates. Set up private practice in Paris and became member of the French Order of Architects in 1990. Completed Masters in Urban and Building Conservation (MUBC) in UCD in 1998. Lecturer on the Architectural Technology and then the B.Arch. programme in WIT. Founded dhbArchitects Ltd in 2004 with Máire Henry. Joined by Harry Bent in 2006. I am a registered architect in France and Ireland.
With dhbArchitects have been responsible for the design, construction and restoration of award winning projects including a medical centre, a monastery extension, schools, cultural and religious buildings, with work published both in Ireland & France. Recent awards include 2013 Chicago ‘Places to Flourish’ (for Waterford Health Park) and 2010 & 2011 short–listings for the World Festival of Architecture awards in Barcelona (for WHP and Mount Melleray Abbey extension). These recent conservation projects have been cited as best practice examples in recent Irish government publications.
Current projects include the refurbishment of 66 Merrion Square as the offices of the French Embassy in Ireland and a Gaelscoil in Tramore County Waterford.
Active member of ICOMOS and Irish Georgian Society (Practice Member). Recent practice-based research has contributed to the European Association of Architecture Education (EAAE) and All Ireland Architectural Research Group (AIARG).