Historic buildings in Cork, Laois and Longford all receive top award for conservation from RIAI

7 Oct , 2019  

An historic water works, a town library in a former market house, and a cathedral restored after a devastating fire, have all been announced as recipients of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) Silver Medal for Conservation. The RIAI Silver Medal is the highest award for buildings that have undergone a process of conservation and is awarded to the architectural practice several years after the completion of the project so that the success of the building can be confirmed by the passage of time.

This year’s medals are awarded for projects completed in 2005-2007, 2008-2010 and 2011-2013.  The recipients of the RIAI Silver Medal for Conservation are:

RIAI Conservation Medal for 2005-2007 – Jack Coughlan Architects for Old Cork Water Works

The Old Cork Waterworks dates back to Sir John Benson’s 19th Century Cork City water supply scheme, although water was extracted from the area as far back as the 1760’s. The buildings were conserved and adapted by Jack Coughlan Architects to provide a new role as Old Cork Waterworks Experience featuring a modern interactive display on the themes of water, energy and waste.

RIAI Conservation Medal for 2008-2010 – de Blacam and Meagher for Abbeyleix Library in Co. Laois

The refurbished library, designed by de Blacam & Meagher Architects, is housed in the Market House in Abbeyleix which was built in 1836 by Viscount John de Vesci. The brief to the architect was that the whole building should be redesigned internally to incorporate a modern 21st century public library facility and art gallery.

RIAI Conservation Medal for 2011-2013 – Fitzgerald Kavanagh + Partners in association with Richard Hurley (1932-2011) for St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford

St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford was very badly damaged by fire in 2009. Built between 1840-1893 and a protected structure, the cathedral is a landmark in the town of Longford. This project restored the Cathedral to its former glory, while also creating a cathedral for the 21st century.

Speaking at the presentation, RIAI President, David Browne, said: “The projects being recognised here today with the RIAI Silver Medal of Conservation, are a testament to the quality of work being delivered in the field of conservation by RIAI members. The protection and restoration of buildings is critical to our cultural heritage and has an important social value as they form an integral part of people’s sense of identity, belonging and place. The conservation of older buildings presents many challenges however we can see how the careful intervention of architects can bring new life to our built environment and enable buildings to be repurposed and adapted for contemporary use.”

Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO, said: “The RIAI Silver Medal of Conservation winners are all different in their role and purpose but they have a common thread of being centres within their communities, places of welcome and gathering. One of the aspects of the process that was illuminating to the jury was the level of community involvement and social identification with the projects that we saw. This aspect of architecture serving the community is particularly strong in conservation work, as it forms part of the continuum of cultural inheritance.”

The RIAI Silver Medal for Conservation is supported by Stone Seal.