Our Global Village

By Ruth Kennelly

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Forma Interiors Magazine, Volume 3 Issue 4.

In the endeavor to discover how international design education enables the production of new interiors and architecture, I spoke to an eclectic group of Irish based designers who have studied for some, if not all, of their careers abroad.

Murray Osborne a South African Architect now working in Chris Ryan Architects, Mount Street studied at the University of Port Elizabeth. Here, the 5-year architecture degree is based on the English system and is therefore similar to the Irish degree course. With a strong theoretical base the South African education system does not emphasize practical application.

“it’s like being in an architectural sweetshop”

The ubiquitous year out, central to the Irish and U.K. architectural courses is not promoted in S.A. As Murray points out this year is a very positive element and should be promoted among all up coming designers. Currently working with his third Irish employer, Murray’s expectations of Ireland as a place of working design have been exceeded. The Irish location next to Europe ensures a wide variety of lighting and materials that are available for specification, “it’s like being in an architectural sweetshop”. Governmental policy ensures that the O.P.W. is strong on design and consistently employs creative designers resulting in a consistently high quality of work.

However, these positive sentiments do not echo so loudly among all of his contemporaries.

Leanne Mitchell currently working with Traynor O’Toole Architects studied at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Her educational experience consisted of a part time degree course, which was carried out while working for a registered architect.The 6-year course was monitored biannually in the filling out of a logbook. This contained details of the number of hours spent and the capacity of the work. From an employment perspective this method has proven very successful. The student finishes the degree and has also carried out 6 years work experience with a registered architect. The main thrust of this course was both technical and practical.

When we discussed her expectations of design in Dublin prior to arrival, Leanne pointed out some disappointments. From an International perspective Temple Bar put Dublin on the map however since then there has been no great leaps forward. Apartment developments have gone up so quickly around the city that there has invariably been a great deal of repetition. The restrictions, placed by planners, on the building of architectural designs were also a much-mentioned issue. When any student leaves university in any country the reality of budgets, planners, and space restrictions can leave one feeling rather deluded.

Whether it is interiors, architecture or furniture, interaction with our global colleagues is the key to a more developed aesthetic.

Sarah Woods also expressed this sentiment, currently commencing her second year of postgraduate employment. Sarah studied for the first 3 years of her degree in the University of Hull in the U.K. and then transferred to UCD for the final 2 year B.Arch. A positive advantage of the Hull based study lay in the fact that architectural students studied in the same area as fine art, furniture and interior design students thus leading to a larger creative pool, and a wider access to various design facilities. There is much to be learnt from other students and this is an aspect, which can be developed whilst studying abroad.

When Eimeir Johnson finished the first year of her design degree in DIT Mountjoy Square she went to Germany in search of practical experience. She found it far easier to secure design work in Germany with the little experience she had than it would have been in Ireland. Employing students was a regular feature of the design houses in Germany and Eimeir suggests this may be because they as a country respect design more then their Irish counterparts.

As a qualified furniture designer, Anne Marie O’Connell feels that the opportunities for employment in Ireland are limited; she thinks this may be due to the lack of Irish role models in this area. As a country Ireland is not aware of Irish furniture design, whereas the Vitra Design Museum in Berlin sponsors workshops in France each summer where highly respected designers share their knowledge with students and fellow designers. Anne Marie attended one of these workshops in Boisbuchet near Poitiers where designers such as the Campana brothers from Brazil, designers of the cone chair and Joop van Lieshout shared their vision and creativity. The most exciting element of this educational experience for Anne Marie was the speed of the creativity. With the workshop so close by, all the ideas could be made manifest in a matter of hours.

Experience of the international arena is imperative when it comes to design. Whether it is interiors, architecture or furniture, interaction with our global colleagues is the key to a more developed aesthetic. International design education takes many forms; from the theoretical base of the University of Port Elizabeth to the furniture workshops of Boisbuchet, regardless of it’s origins it is true to say that Ireland is all the richer for its well-travelled Irish designers.

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