The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has launched an attack on Irish Republic president Mary McAleese for picking a surveyor to design a home that she and her husband plan to build in a scenic part of the west of Ireland.
Director John Graby said that given her position she should have considered 'leading by example in the design of this house'. And former RIAI president David Keane claimed that the single-house development planned 'is precisely the area in which the worst standards prevail'.
A planning application for the four-bedroom house near the picturesque village of Cootehall, County Roscommon, has been lodged with the local council.The 2ha lakeside site was bought earlier this year by McAleese, who has a holiday cottage in the area. Presidential spokesperson Eileen Gleeson stressed that the house is not a replacement but 'a permanent home for the future'.
The plans were drawn up by C Gray & Associates, a building consultancy headed by Conor Gray and based in Carrick-on-Shannon, in the west of Ireland. Gray has acknowledged that he is not an architect, but has a degree in building surveying and employs a number of architectural technicians. 'Our brief was planning and we basically designed what President McAleese and her husband wanted, ' he said.
According to Gleeson, the couple did not feel the need to engage an architect 'because they knew exactly what they wanted and have been designing it in their minds for a long time'. The design, she said, is based on a traditional country farmhouse near Rostrevor in County Down, owned by an aunt of the president.Gray had been given the commission, she explained, because he had previously advised the president and her husband on another matter and because of his knowledge of the area. She emphasised that the couple had 'nothing against architects', but did not know any in the area.
RIAI president Arthur Hickey has written to President McAleese offering assistance and the names of local architects. Ironically, the controversy follows a policy commitment from the government to promote high standards of design and construction. Legislation to establish a register of architects and expose the cowboys is also planned, following a campaign by the RIAI. Its former president, David Keane, asked whether McAleese would be reluctant to sign such legislation when she 'clearly feels that it is not necessary to employ an architect in the design of a building'.