Sign up to our newsletter

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

2019 Programme 2020 Programme Exhibition Film Interview Ireland at Venice Venice Architecture Biennale

Project 20×20 – Profile: Close Encounter


As part of Project 20×20 – Profile we are delighted to share a series of short interviews with the curators and each of the 16 architects & architectural teams from Close Encounter.

‘We wanted to present it not as a group, but as a flavour of what’s happening in Ireland in terms of architecture, what it is that makes it important.’
Shelley McNamara


In this, the first in a series of short interviews recorded for Close Encounter: Meetings with Remarkable Buildings, Professor Hugh Campbell, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara introduce the exhibition concept.

In our second film Peter Carroll, Director at A2 Architects discusses the focus of their contibution to the exhibition, the Museo – Fundacion Oteiza, in Alzuza, Spain, by Francisco Javier Saenz de Oiza. 

“The particular aspects that we wanted to focus on especially I suppose were how light is controlled to form atmosphere, how movement is guided within the building, again how the architect was working so closely with the artist’s intentions, but primarily about this rendering of emptiness, making visible emptiness somehow and that sense that somehow you could house a space or contain a space.”
Peter Carroll



Dermot Boyd and Peter Cody of Boyd Cody Architects were asked to look at the work of Eileen Gray, E-1027, Roquebrune and Tempe a Pailla, Castellar, Alpes Maritimes, France.

“We felt that the emphasis on Eileen Gray’s work was very much about her interiority and her objects she made of furniture. So as architects we were interested in dealing more in terms of her siting of projects, dealing with essentially the free space that surrounds her buildings, that would be the land, the sea, the sky, the views, sunlight, moonlight.”
Dermot Boyd


Merritt Bucholz and Karen McEvoy of BucholzMcEvoy Architects discuss their contribution to Close Encounter, a model which looked at Delaware Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted for the city of Buffalo, New York.

Karen McEvoy: “They wanted another Central Park in Buffalo, and that’s not what he did, he stood back and said well actually, it’s not about another park in the city, it’s about the city in the park and really using that as a nourishing underlay to the development of the city. I thinks that’s a very important thing and relevant to today, in different ways, where if parks could be looked at in that sense as a guiding framework for city planning, as opposed to being a leftover space after all the grey infrastructure’s been put in…It’s a multilayered response because he really looked at multilayered issues – social, environmental, economic etc.”

Dominic Stevens & JFOC Architects examined Alejandro De La Sota’s Maravillas Gymnasium, in Madrid.

Dominic Stevens: “We wanted to make something that people could look in at eye level so that they felt like they could be one of the participants in the piece, beyond that it needed to be big enough that it engaged people in that way. Architects put together walls and floors and ceilings and windows, and we make space and we make light, but I see the role of these things to make places for people to do things. The conversation I’m interested in is what people will do there, how they feel there, what it will be like in the morning for them as opposed to the evening, in the summer as opposed to the winter. The end result isn’t a building, the end result is a place for people to do things, and really that was very much embodied in this building.”

Will Dimond and Marcus Donaghy of Donaghy + Dimond Architects explored the Anhembi Tennis Club in São Paulo, Brazil by João Batista Vilanova Artigas and Carlos Cascaldi.

Will Dimond “As well as being a tennis club it’s a whole community centre for part of the city, and it’s a really fascinating structure. The roof of this building is like a big table on legs which taper down to points. This heavy concrete structure appears to float, and within the space between this roof and the ground, is this extraordinary flowing space which connects inside and outside. It exemplifies the generosity that is embedded in this idea of FREESPACE. A building can work in many ways and it can facilitate all kinds of different ways of living and occupying it.”

Marcus Donaghy “The section, the long drawing that we chose to make in a sense is not demonstrative of structure it’s more about the long iterative thing of one bay after another under which a whole narrative world of playing games, changing, swimming, eating, having your hair cut and all sorts happens under this, and actually the act of imagination or the architecture comes together out of a complex of remembered things, even the building is not complete…There’s this solidity of experience of a building but there’s also a memory you can have of either studying it or experiencing it, and I think we were trying to put that together in collage in three dimensions in a drawing.”

Andrew Clancy and Colm Moore of Clancy Moore Architects looked at Kay Otto Fisker’s Hornbækhus, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Andrew Clancy “So the project we were asked to look at was the Hornbækhus housing project by Kay Fisker, which to us is a really important project, particularly in the Irish context. So it’s an early twentieth century project for a monumental social housing block, the success of which, it actually produced a momentum in Danish social housing that really ran for a further sixty to seventy years. So sophisticated was that housing block and how carefully was it delivered it produced a place where people just love living and people want to be a part of, and that produced an economic engine to further social housing. We found that really compelling.”

Colm Moore “It was a response to a housing crisis at the time, which was a product of mass industrialisation, and the ambition for the block is extraordinary, and not only in its architecture but in its scale, which is huge and is actually a scale that is close to more contemporary situations and I suppose we were drawn to it in that sense in that it manages to deliver on that scale with humanity.”

Grace Keeley and Michael Pike of GKMP Architects explored José Antonio Coderch’s Edificio de Vivendas Girasol in Madrid, Spain.

Grace Keeley “The particular aspect that we were struck by when we went there to Madrid was this deep threshold space between the private world of the apartment and the public realm of the street below, so there’s this deep sort of balcony space that steps up from the living space and hangs over the city.

We wanted to make an installation that the visitor would walk through, so they’d walk through it and they’d come away from the exhibition with some sense of this building in Madrid, some sense of the spatial qualities. So we started by taking the actual vertical dimensions of this threshold space in the apartments and translating that into the vertical dimensions of the installation. Then the plan dimensions are actually one fifth of the real dimensions of the space but things like the curves and the privacy screens and the changes in level are held onto in that piece.”

Michael Pike “There is a definite relationship to our work. We’re working on quite a number of housing projects, apartment buildings, so I suppose this had an immediate relationship to that, and we have been looking at this work over a long period of time. So there were definitely aspects about that, about that deep threshold space, about the relationship between the apartment and the city that had a very direct resonance and it’s still something we’re working through in the projects we’re doing at the moment.”

Funded by the Arts Council, Close Encounter: Meetings with Remarkable Buildings enabled sixteen Irish architects who were invited to participate at the 2018 Biennale, to develop skills in presenting and communicating their work to a public audience in Venice.

The resulting tour produced by the IAF, gave audiences an opportunity to engage with a unique exhibition of architecture while contributing to the legacy of the mentoring initiative for architectural practice, curation and culture in Ireland. These films were made by Alice Clancy and produced by the IAF.