Review  of A-IARG 2016 Conference for the Perspective Magazine by Tara Kennedy


A-IARG 2016, CCAE, Cork


Reflecting on the Fifth Annual Conference of the All-Ireland Architecture Research Group, the distinct value of this platform in assembling architectural research from within practice and academia is clear. Hosted at the Cork Centre for Architectural Education on 29-30 January, the main body of this years A-IARG conference consisted of twelve thematic sessions, selected through an international open call. Each session typically had four paper presentations investigating the topic in question through a wide variety of approaches. As sessions ran parallel, the below is a necessarily incomplete picture touching on overlapping and striking themes discussed.


Much like the unexpected outcomes of research, indirect themes provoked through the chaired sessions proved especially valuable. At a session titled ‘Women in Architecture’, chaired by Dr. Tanja Poppelreuter and Dr. Jenny Russell, fascinating research explored representation, recognition and challenging realities for women, but the most pertinent questions were those raised indirectly. These were questions on recognising the role of collaboration in architecture, on authorship, acknowledgment, awards and the ways that we place value on our work.


Closely aligned to thinking about collaboration, a number of sessions fore-fronted discussion on systems thinking. At ‘Adaptation’ historical study presented by Philip Crowe on the visionary work of Patrick Geddes resonated with recent critical examination of Ireland’s contemporary water infrastructure by Dr. Mary Moloney, making apparent how vital it is that we engage with issues of interdependency between social systems, ecological systems, buildings and spatial practices.


Historical research was again in dialogue with very current issues of concern during ‘Co-Productions and Co-Habitations’ chaired by Deirdre McMenamin and Dougal Sheridan, a rich investigation of tensions and potentials between the individual and the shared in relation to housing. The scope of sessions and papers over both days repeatedly highlighted the value of productive tensions between historiographical, practice-based, abstract and more scientific approaches to research. Divergences and vital questions around knowledge exchange also featured in a topical exploration of ‘Architectural Education’ which took place across two sessions.


The relationships between theory and practice were also afforded a tangible intersection through the inclusion of an excellent site visit during the conference to the newly opened St. Angela’s College by O’Donnell Tuomey. This interlude provided a timely reminder of the continued importance of critical thinking and research alongside building as cranes begin again to appear on our skylines. A-IARG provides an important and unique platform for appreciating dynamic engagement between these sometimes divergent practices.


Perspective Magazine: Published bi-monthly by Ulster Journals, Perspective is the official publication for the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA). Click here for link