Why housing needs unlocking – a personal view.

Isoilde Dillon (retired architect)

The idea for this competition, as I understand it, derived from a sense that, although housing supply is increasing, in many cases we are not getting the housing we want or that we need – housing that will provide all of us with good places to live now and into the future, that will positively contribute to our existing natural and built environment, that will enrich our communities, that is affordable, and that, above all will help us to address climate change and the other challenges our society is presently facing Our approach to housing design is embedded in policies and practices that have developed in this country over time, and there is, I think, a reluctance to embrace new ideas and solutions, even when change is urgently required, and when other ways of doing things can be seen to work successfully elsewhere. However, Irish society is changing, and the world is facing crises and challenges such as have not been encountered before – the housing we design must respond to these challenges. 

Architects, because they have been trained to think critically and creatively, and because, in their work, they are required to fully understand the complex process of designing and delivering buildings, are uniquely placed to question those traditional policies and practices, to identify what needs to be adjusted or changed, and to propose new pragmatic, imaginative solutions that address our need for shelter.  

Irish society is changing, and the world is facing crises and challenges such as have not been encountered before – the housing we design must respond to these challenges.’

 

Isoilde Dillon (retired architect). 

For example, the war in the Ukraine and the resulting rise in the number of refugees coming to live in Ireland, is a tragic reminder of the need to ensure that we can make best use of our existing building stock and that we ensure that it can be easily adapted to respond to the unexpected. What could to be done, at design stage, that would enable our housing supply to expand or contract, as needed? What if our hotels, our studio apartments, our student accommodation, our nursing homes, out army barracks and many other buildings, were designed so they could, with minimum cost and very quickly, be used to provide good quality family housing if required, and to subsequently revert to their original, or to another, use, if need be. Achieving this degree of flexibility might seem pretty far-fetched.  However, I believe that the potential architects have to address issues such as this is largely untapped – and who knows what one minor change, such as might emerge as a result of this competition, could lead on to. 

This competition therefore provides architects with an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to engage with this and the many other issues, both small and large, in order to ensure that we create good quality homes for all to live in, now and into the future 

Journal

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