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Interview Learning

Meet the Graduate Panel: Niamh Hurley


Established in 2021, the IAF Graduate Panel offers a discursive and collaborative space to share ideas and an opportunity to link with the IAF’s core programme. We’d like to introduce you to our panelists over a series of interviews.

Meet Niamh Hurley, part-time faculty member at the Cork Centre for Architectural Education.

Niamh Hurley is an architectural graduate and part-time faculty member at Cork Centre for Architectural Education (CCAE). She holds a BSc (Hons) degree in Architecture from CCAE (joint MTU/UCC) and has collaborated as a designer and editor on publications and reports for CCAE, UNESCAP, UCC and Arts Council funded projects. Currently she is working as a project assistant on CCAE’s new Resilient Design Curricula research projects funded by the Higher Education Authority’s Human Capital Initiative. While being a member of the 2021-23 IAF Graduate Panel, she is also a member of the 2022-23 A-IARG committee and their conference sub-committee. Outside of her architectural activities, she is an avid photographer and enjoys crafting through knitting and bookbinding.


Tell us about the work you’re currently involved in.

Since graduating from my four-year Bachelor’s degree in 2021, I have spent my time working to discover my role as an architect. I wanted to explore the different avenues within the architectural field both in a professional and educational environment. Professionally, I work as an architectural assistant in small practices and a freelance graphic designer and editor, while educationally, I tutor and demonstrate graphics skills to undergraduate students part-time in Cork Centre of Architectural Education (CCAE). I have since become part of some of CCAE’s new research projects, including one developing out of Human Capital Initiative Resilient Design Curricula projects funded by the Higher Education Authority. This balance allows me to develop new skill sets in academic mentorship and collaborative teamwork and to experience the joy of seeing design go from concept to construction. My next venture is to further my architectural studies by completing a Master’s in Architecture, which I will be continuing in Cork at CCAE.


What drew you to a career in architecture? What are your aspirations?

From a young age, I have been drawn into subjects with a more innovative and creative focus that lean heavily on practical work. My 5-hour Leaving Cert Art practical was surprisingly one of my favourite exams, if you could enjoy being tested. The drive and adrenaline of creation within a set deadline prepared me for what architecture school would be like. I learned that architecture not only draws on your own innovation but can aid in solving world issues and improving lives by means of designing spaces and places. In practice, this is something I want to continue to explore, and with the world ever changing and evolving, I see this as a constant. I also hope to bring further historical and contemporary knowledge and technology to implement these ideals.


Why did you decide to join the IAF Graduate Panel? What are your expectations?

One of the main reasons I decided to join the IAF Graduate Panel was to connect with graduates and professionals within the architectural field. In 2021, I graduated from my BSc (Hons) degree in Architecture from CCAE, and with the world still recovering from a global pandemic, I felt lost in what my role was within architecture. The concept of the IAF Graduate Panel consisting of graduates with a similar mindset and experience and with the support of the IAF and their connections intrigued me. It sounded like the right kind of nurturing and collective environment suitable for a graduate like myself. Throughout my experience of being an IAF Graduate Panel member, I have connected with some amazingly talented and driven individuals who, given our location, I would not have met otherwise. I have participated in a number of exciting projects, such as Róisín Cahill and Jessica Keller’s Unbuilt project and connected again with Róisín and Helen Fadden, who spoke at the 2023 A-IARG conference I organised with other academics from the Irish architecture schools.


What area of architectural practice are you most interested in and hoping to further develop your career in?

It is quite difficult to narrow down what area of architectural practice I am most interested in because architecture, in its nature, is a complex and broad discipline. I see myself continuing to get more involved in the academic and research side of architecture while designing for the consistently inconsistent world we exist in. I have a particular interest in the conservation and potential for adaptive reuse and redevelopment of existing buildings within our built environment, respecting their historical and communal contexts while committing to our goal to make architecture and construction a more sustainable industry. Architecture would not be the same without an issue to solve!


Tell us about your favourite contemporary Irish building or contemporary building designed by Irish architects.

Picking your favourite contemporary Irish building is never an easy feat, particularly when Irish architectural firms are as accomplished as they are. While it is only in its early stages, I would not be surprised if Grafton Architect’s design intervention on Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery could become one of my favourite contemporary Irish buildings while respecting its history and the narrative behind its importance for the city. As a Corkonian, I may be slightly biased in that regard. As home to Cork’s first architecture school in the 1960s, the Gallery is deeply connected to architectural learning and brought with it the very architects who make the city what it is and is not today. A documentary and newspaper publication project by another IAF Graduate Panelist, Michelle Delea, records this notion and illustrates the rebellious and innovative nature of Cork people and architects.

Other buildings which I look to for inspiration include O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects’ Glucksman Art Gallery in University College Cork and dlr LexIcon by Carr Cotter & Naessens, while I look to Paul Dillon Architects, Ryan W. Kennihan Architects and Fuinneamh Workshop for smaller builds that combine Irish vernacular techniques with modern technology.