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Minister English at the National Housing Conference – Speech and Presentation of RIAI Silver Medal for Housing 2013–2014

Published on Tuesday, 21 May 2019
Aire Stáit Damien English TD

Speech by Minister Damien English TD

Joint RIAI/Department of Housing Planning & Local Government Housing Conference, Dublin Castle, Tuesday 21st May 2019 

Check against delivery

I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me here to Dublin Castle and this is the second occasion I have attended this award ceremony. It is a particular pleasure because this conference marks the 50th anniversary of the initial collaboration between the RIAI and Department of Local Government, as it was then, to organise the National Housing Conference, first held in the RDS in 1969.

I would also like to thank the RIAI and Colleagues in my Department who have worked so hard to deliver this very successful conference, and to thank all the keynote speakers, moderators and panel members and all of you the delegates who have contributed to this important debate.

Since 2017 I have had the honor of serving as Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, a role that cuts to the heart of some of the most complex challenges we face in Ireland today; the supply of housing and the challenge of homelessness.  At the time I took up this role An Taoiseach spoke about building a ‘Republic of Opportunity’ and whilst we have witnessed increased opportunity, the rehabilitation of the economy and reducing unemployment; tackling the legacy challenges of housing and homelessness is the ongoing priority of this Government.

When we published our Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan in 2016 we were acutely aware that there was no silver bullet that could provide an immediate and complete solution to the situation. Many experts and stakeholders offered their preferred solutions and roadmaps to tackling the crisis we faced at the time.

We listened to all of these views and it became clear that, given the complexity of the challenges across the sector, it would take a slew of measures, working in tandem to make an impact on these problems.

Multiple measures, means multiple stakeholders and multiple approaches, harnessing the best of what was already available in the system, developing capacity to deliver more, seeing ahead to a sustainable future, and also bringing the necessary supports and services to complement physical development.

Your conference has considered the future provision and indeed the shape of housing to come in Ireland within the context of our other national planning strategy, the National Planning Framework, Project Ireland 2040, and I hope you will all take away valuable and informative ideas from the conference.

But before I declare the conference closed, and here I am reminded of the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, where the athletes of the world are invited to reassemble in four years, so similarly, I would like to invite all the RIAI members, the architects, with colleague engineers, planners and housing professionals to reassemble two years from now in 2021.

Previously the conference has been held at venues around the country, and whilst Dublin Castle has great facilities and is an excellent venue, and many thanks to them, and to the State Architect, Ciaran O’Connor, for their support over the past number of conferences, I would urge the organisers to consider again taking the show on the road next time. For instance, and I am only speculating here, Navan might make a great conference venue!

Anyway, returning to the order of business, I am happy to be here to present the RIAI Silver Medal for housing.

As you may know the Silver Medal for housing was first awarded in 1955, and is awarded retrospectively for a completed project within a given period. The purpose of the medal is to give public recognition to housing projects of exceptional merit.

The medal is awarded several years after completion so that the success of the building can be confirmed by the passage of time. The term 'housing' is interpreted broadly to including housing schemes and apartments, both public and private groups of buildings of a single multi-functional housing/dwelling type.

The Silver Medal for Housing is the highest award for housing design given by the RIAI. It is a biennial award made to encourage excellence of design in housing.  Only projects designed by Registered Architects are considered for the RIAI Silver Medal for Housing.

The impact of the economic conditions of the recession coincided with the award period of Silver Medal for Housing 2011-2013 and the RIAI decided not to award a Silver Medal for that period, but were pleased to award Highly Commended and Commended Certificates. I can well remember awarding these Certificates at the last conference to two projects:

Highly Commended – Social Housing project at Sean Treacy House

Architects: PKA Architects, which is the practice of Paul Keogh and

Commended - Somerville College, University of Oxford

Architects: Niall McLaughlin Architects

This year I am pleased (and relieved) to announce that The Silver Medal is being presented at this RIAI and DHPLG National Housing Conference for a scheme completed in the period 2013-2014.

A distinguished jury comprising

  • Niall Rowan, MRIAI, DTA Architects, Chair
  • David Naessens, Carr Cotter Naessens Architects
  • Denis Byrne, MRIAI, DBA Architects (I have to thank Denis for his valuable input to our recently completed guidance manual (Bringing Back Homes)
  • Grace Keely, MRIAI, GKMP Architects and
  • Mel Reynolds, MRIAI, MRD Architects

So thank you all for your time in deliberating to reach your verdict.

So I propose to announce first the Highly Commended award.

The 2013 -2014 Silver Medal Highly commended is awarded to:

Lawrence and Long Architechts for "Wainscotted", 23 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4


And finally the RIAI 2013 -2014 Silver medal for Housing is awarded to:

ABK Architechts for Southill Older Persons' Accommodation, Limerick

And that concludes our business and the conference here today.

Many thanks and Safe home everyone.