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Aileen McConaghie wins contest for Belfast’s own ‘Serpentine Pavilion’

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Aileen McConaghie of Shane Birney Architects has won the Royal Society of Ulster Architects’ (RSUA) competition for a temporary 250m² pavilion in central Belfast

The young architect – who studied at Queen’s University Belfast and The Macintosh, and worked at Donnelly O’Neill Architects in Belfast before joining the Derry-Londonderry practice three years ago – defeated four finalists to win the top prize.

The runners-up were Hayden Allen of London-based Fourpoint Architects, Adam Joyce of local firm TODD Architects, Jonathan Gannon, also of TODD Architects, and Tara McCloskey of Spacelab in London.

Open to architects under 40 working or born in Northern Ireland, the contest sought proposals for an ‘uplifting’ public structure similar to London’s Serpentine Pavilion.

There is no funding to deliver the winning scheme, but the project aims to kickstart an annual commission similar to the Serpentine Pavilion which was designed by BIG this year.

Backed by Saint-Gobain subsidiary JP Corry (Ireland), the contest encouraged applications which focussed on the role of buildings in challenging climate change.

Proposals had to respond to the Saint-Gobain Multi-Comfort building concept – which aims to provide low-energy structures with high levels of thermal comfort, excellent acoustics, visual comfort and superb indoor air quality.

Participants were free to select any public centre site with high footfall such as outside Belfast City Hall, the Botanic Gardens or near the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction by Civic Arts and Todd Architects.

The full shortlist

  • Hayden Allen
  • Adam Joyce
  • Jonathan Gannon
  • Aileen McConaghie (winner)
  • Tara McCloskey

The judging panel was led by Paul Crowe, managing director of Todd Architects and RSUA President, and included Joan McCoy of White Ink Architects and Stephen Moon of McGarry-Moon Architects.

Judges’ citation

The winning submission challenges our concept and understanding of ‘comfort’, considers the extremes of our environment and explores our biological reactions.

’Comfort’ is not just the absence of discomfort nor is it about filtering our negative sensations.

This entry is potentially educational, physically and psychologically stimulating and is an exceptional response to the brief and to its setting.

’The winner submission challenges our concept and understanding of comfort’

It is designed as a solid but expressive rectangular and rigid timber form suggesting that we should live comfortable / daily lives.

The interior however is an organic sculptural form representing our ability to adapt and to enjoy new experiences.

The pavilion incorporates two small rooms and an ‘open air’ central space. One room will have a temperature of -10°C and the other +40°C thereby exercising our biological make up and testing our conventional idea of comfort.

It is set in the beautiful context of Botanic Gardens and we believe would be an excellent addition to our physical and cultural landscape.


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