Back to the Drawing Board with Stuart Blain

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Architect Spotlight: Stuart Blain

Back to the Drawing board is a series of articles where we speak with some of the leading Architects from across Europe. We explore the inspirations, favourite places and work habits of some of Architecture’s leading lights.

For this weeks edition we sat down with Stuart Blain who is Senior Architect at O’Mahony Pike Architects. Stuart graduated from University College Dublin (UCD) in 1990 and by 1993 had been to London and back with a handful of experience and a RIBA level 3 qualification in his back pocket.

Where did your architecture career begin?

I returned to Ireland in 1993 and worked in several small practices before joining Scott Tallon Walker Architects in 1997. There I initially worked on a variety of projects, including the Spencer Dock masterplan and development, I was appointed Associate Director in 2007.

Following the downturn in the Irish economy, I moved on and became involved in a major project in Africa, working on masterplans for new towns designed to provide affordable housing.

I have recently joined O’Mahony Pike Architects as a senior architect, working initially as design coordinator on the Capital Dock project, which features what will be Ireland’s tallest building.

What made you decide you wanted to be an architect?

Playing with Lego as a child, someone said I should be an Architect…it stuck with me. I explored the idea, it continued to appeal, so here I am.

What’s your favourite city and why?

It has to be Chicago – big brave architecture by the greats of the profession, the city exudes the best of American “thinking-big”.

UK and Ireland Lifts
The Windy City is regarded by many as the ‘Birthplace of the Skyscraper ‘ defined by its ambitious “thinking-big” architecture, it  has inspired many contemporary architects worldwide.

What apps/tools/new technology do you think are the most valuable for your work?

The next generation of CAD (Building Information Management, BIM) is transformative technology, it’s as big a step forward in my view, as the step off the drawing board and onto the computer.
Also, the iPad is proving surprisingly useful as a site tool.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

The process of transforming the ideas into solid form – realising the building, working with the builder, resolving the detail, then seeing the final product. There is a satisfaction in seeing your work in “bricks and mortar” that I can’t see many professions enjoying.

What building do you like most in the UK?

It may be a little obvious, but I’m really impressed with The Shard, it’s such an original approach to tall building design, and the top manages to totally avoid clichéd capping details, pyramid or whatever, instead it appears almost unfinished, your eye imagines it continuing upward, it’s a dynamic piece of work.

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The Shard – London’s tallest building and newest lookout point stands at 310m tall.

What advice would you give to architects just starting out?

Run while you still can! You have to really want to do it, as it’s a poorly paid profession, unless you’re at the very top; we do far too much work for too little money, and there’s a huge shift from the creativity of it towards vast quantities of paperwork.

What trends are you seeing?

Significant moves in design towards energy efficiency and sustainability…we are trying to save the planet.

What’s your favourite magazine/blog?

ArchDaily without doubt is one of my favourite industry publications. There are tonnes of really insightful articles and interviews with some of my favourite architects and designers.

What influences your work?

Simply put, the desire to do something of quality.

UK and Ireland Lifts
A pioneering ‘Quality’: Flamingo is a 50 tonne, 16m2 “stabile” sculpture, a style that was pioneered by Alexander Calder in the 50s and 60s.  The Flamingo can be found in front of the The Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago.

What exciting projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on the Capital Dock residential tower, which will be the tallest building in the Republic.
It’s a 23-storey apartment tower of brick and glass marking the entrance to the river on the south bank…it’s a very exciting project!

A massive thanks again to Stuart of OMP Architects for taking the time out to reveal what makes his architectural mind tick.

Last week we caught up Gary Collins of Triglyph Property Consultants in Part 1 of the “Back to the Drawing Board” series.