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A life in architecture

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No desert-island favourite buildings for Alex Reid, director general of the riba. Instead he has chosen to focus on one particular project which he considers the most remarkable case he has come across of architecture making a positive social contribution to life. The building is Glenveagh School in Belfast, a school for 150 children with learning difficulties, designed by Kennedy FitzGerald and Associates and built on a new site in the early 1990s (aj 31.3.93) to replace two old schools near the Peace Line.

Glenveagh won the uk Education Design Award in 1994. At the presentation ceremony, held at the riba, the head teacher Kay Murphy described to Reid how the new building had transformed the way the school functioned. One instance was the start of each year, always particularly stressful for parents handing over their children to the staff for first time, with the gloomy old building adding to their distress. Since the move to the new school all this had changed: the staff and community were so proud of the building that the day had become an uplifting experience.

Reid subsequently visited Glenveagh School and found it lived up to Murphy's praise. 'It isn't grand or lavish,' he says, 'quite simple materials have been used, but it's very light, airy and friendly, the spaces flow naturally into each other. I am a great believer in good architecture serving social purpose and this is a wonderful example of that.'

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