Sign up to our newsletter

Find about what we're up to with regular updates
sign up now!

Interview Learning

Meet the Graduate Panel: Stephen Johnston


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 Stephen Johnston.


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

I am a graduate architect with a background in Architectural Technology. I have recently started a role with O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects where I am working on a number of large scale projects. Previously, I have spent over 3 years at Bucholz McEvoy Architects working on projects that exemplify low energy and low embodied carbon principles. I am currently working on completing my Professional Diploma at TU Dublin. After this I will pursue means of specialising in ESG (environmental, social and governance) related areas with a particular focus on MMC (modern methods of construction) and biogenic materials.


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

I had liked the idea of ‘inventing stuff’ as my father appeared to do as an engineer. I’m another one of those clichéd kids who preferred not to follow the lego instructions. However, I found I also really enjoyed art and was drawn to richly imaginative places in works of fiction – sci fi and fantasy books, movies and games surrounded me as a child. Architecture as a profession seemed like a way to make a living off my imagination – perhaps an attempt to never grow up. However, it turns out architecture is quite a serious profession and I now see architecture as a powerful means of addressing social and environmental issues.


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

I believe the IAF is an essential aspect of the profession’s vitality in Ireland. I wanted to get a little bit closer to the goings on here. I was also interested to network with peers who might be passionate in similar areas of architecture and see what would come out of any collaboration. The unbuilt.ie project has been enjoyable to support, and I hope it grows to reach its full potential. I expect the graduate panel may broaden and deepen its utility as a springboard for ambitious architecture graduates.


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

I am primarily motivated to help move the industry towards net negative carbon buildings. However, I am also convinced that architecture has a direct effect on us. My graduate thesis explored the likely behavioural outcomes of various design decisions, through the lens of “affordance theory”. I had wondered if design decisions could encourage stewardship of locality, which would subversively assist with stewardship of the planet. I imagine this thesis will be a constant that I can develop in my practice going forward.


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

I have two biased choices for this: Operations and Maintenance Depot at Ballyogan by Bucholz McEvoy Architects, for its prescient use of a rapidly assembled Mass Timber Structure combined with an innovative passively cooled, heated and ventilated facade. And Passage House by O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects, for its contemporary use of biogenic materials (timber, straw, stone) which reinterpret familiar traditional Irish tectonics and forms.