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Interview Learning

Meet the Graduate Panel: Helen McFadden


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 Helen McFadden, Postgraduate, TU Dublin.

Helen is pursuing a Masters of Architecture degree in the Dublin School of Architecture, TU Dublin. As an architectural intern she has collaborated with practices based in Mayo and Dublin. Through research and design she seeks to offer meaningful and specific responses to the circumstances and nuances of our cultural and physical context. 


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

I am currently a Masters of Architecture student in TU Dublin. My thesis investigates the roles of both time and the landscape within architectural design. Our research unit, Architecture and the Landscape, has been working on Mulranny in Co. Mayo. My project seeks to protect landscapes, or timescapes, by intervening with existing infrastructure which has fallen into various states of disrepair over time. These include a Famine pier and a Victorian pumphouse and causeway. There is a complex ordinariness to the proposal as these small interventions would have significant consequences for the future of Mulranny and the various land formations along its coastal edge. 

Over the summer I am also working as a collaborator with some practices and studios based in Ireland.


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

The subjects I enjoyed most in school were art and technical drawing. I used these subjects to inform one another and to communicate ideas effectively. Architecture seemed to lie at the intersection point of these subjects, and I felt a certain curiosity to explore this area more. My aspirations are to work in practice while continuing to learn from people who have influenced me along the way. I am hoping to, quite literally, put my thesis to work by conducting practice-based research on the roles of time and the landscape within architectural design.


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

Architectural graduates in Ireland are bursting with opinions, energy and enthusiasm for the future. I joined the panel as I have observed the IAF’s positive contribution to architecture in Ireland and felt I could be of use through the graduate panel. I would expect that with the strength of a panel and with the backing of the IAF we might collectively be able to make an even stronger, positive and worthwhile contribution to the future of architecture in Ireland. 


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

I enjoy observing the work of practices which first research and then rearticulate their findings into the various scales of a design. I think the works which emerge from this particular design method offer a significant contribution to our cultural and physical context. This form of practice-based research, in which an appropriate architectural response is sought by shapeshifting observations into experimental drawings and models, appeals to me. I hope to encounter opportunities which would benefit from this line of research in action.


Tell us about your favourite contemporary Irish building, or contemporary building designed by an Irish architect.

This is a very long list, and the ranking is always changing, but right now I would say New House at Kimmage by Steve Larkin Architects. This is a measured, subtle and timeless piece of work which seems somewhat surreal to me. I particularly enjoy how the house and garden collectively engage with the inherited industrial site through the interweaving patterns of the seasons and material choices – how shadows from the garden are cast and gently flicker on the brick, concrete and pebbledash finishes and how the structure is played out to frame discrete moments into the garden. There is most definitely a complex ordinariness to this project. I can imagine it ageing very gracefully, nestled in its own secret little world narrating the passage of time.