Do you know that Ireland has supported the concept of architecture policy since the 1990s? The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is now in the process of preparing our third architecture policy, which is to be published at the end of this year. So what is architecture policy and does it make a difference to architects or the general public?

The new National Policy on Architecture will contain architecture and built environment actions to increase quality in our urban and rural buildings, places and spaces for the benefit of the people who use them, now and in the future. This is an ambitious objective! To help identify the main areas to prioritise we have distilled the many and complex aspects of the built environment and the needs of its users into five themes:

– designing for climate resilience and sustainability;
– designing quality places for public benefit;
– respecting our past, shaping our future;
– leadership;
– knowledge and innovation.

As part of a wide ranging consultation process the Department published a discussion document at the end of last year outlining these themes and seeking responses from the public. We received over 150 submissions and held eight stakeholder workshops, which we are now analysing.

The challenge is to devise practical and useful actions that address current and future environmental, social and economic pressures to sustainably design, construct, use and conserve the built environment.

Ireland has had two architectural policies so far, Action on Architecture 2002-2005, and the Government Policy on Architecture 2009-2015. We have links to these and related architecture/built environment resources on our website.

So what did our previous architectural policies achieve? A few highlights are:

– Increased public knowledge about architecture and the built environment e.g. the National Architects in Schools Scheme, Engage with Architecture, Downstairs Dublin, and the Irish pavilions at the Venice Biennale.
– Increased research and knowledge, from landscape character to urban regeneration, like the Heritage Council Landscape Character Assessment training; University of Limerick’s Georgian Lab and Intelligence Unit; and the RIAI’s Old House New Home publication and the Town and Village Toolkit
– Design manuals and guidelines that help those who work in architecture, for retail design and local area plans, and adaptive reuse. We also grant funded books, annual reviews, documentaries, guides and exhibitions

In the next post we will show some great examples of new-build, conservation and adaptation projects that have benefited from the flow of research, expert design knowledge and high construction quality fostered by architecture policy.

Nessa Roche & Nicki Matthews
Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage
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There are two other articles in this series –  Why is a National Policy on Architecture important? and What can we learn from architectural policy elsewhere?