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Alto Vetro Wins RIAI’s Silver Medal for Housing

Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Alto Vetro apartment building at Dublin’s Grand Canal Quay, has been awarded the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s (RIAI) Silver Medal for Housing (2007-2008). The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, presented Shay Cleary Architects with the award at a ceremony in Dublin Castle during the National Housing Conference on 12 September. The Silver Medal for Housing promotes the best housing in a two-year period and is awarded three years after the completion so that the building can be evaluated in a mature setting. 

The Silver Medal winner, Alto Vetro, is a 16 storey glazed tower, comprising of 24 two-bedroom and two three-bedroom privately-let apartments, as well as two pavilions and two retail units. The awards jury praised Alto Vetro for being “pitch-perfect in its relation of form to site: At an important junction of a busy car-corridor and a growing pedestrian route, its slim elegance is a significant new urban marker, confidence and proportion reminiscent not of its modernist but its Italian hill-town antecedents. Its height is apposite against the large sheet of water of the Grand Canal Harbour and adjoining tall structures, old and new. The small urban space it generates along the Quayside is animated by its café on the ground floor. Its elevations counterpoint irregularly-spaced minimalist balconies against the grid of its vertical stripes – simple, yet not easily comprehended and complex as a result.”

Photo of Paul Keogh President of RIAI, Phil Hogan TD, Shay Cleary Silver Medal Winner, Niall Kavanagh Client

Photo of Paul Keogh President of RIAI, Phil Hogan TD, Shay Cleary Silver Medal Winner, Niall Kavanagh, Client

Two further projects – Memorial Court in Kilmainham, Dublin (Architects Division, Dublin City Council) and York Street in Dublin (Seán Harrington Architects) – received ‘Highly Commended’ awards from Minister Hogan. RIAI President, Paul Keogh, said at the Housing Silver Medal ceremony that the highly commended schemes and the Alto Vetro building represent different high-quality responses to meeting the needs of a range of demographic groups living in a city context.

Memorial Court in Kilmainham, Dublin has been described by the jury “a paradigm shift” for Dublin City Council housing: “Its restrained palette of whites and greys is counterpointed by its rhythmic and clever massing and modelling of balconies and stairways. Long-life detailing, community involvement and careful housing management ensure it shows little or no signs of wear.” The project of one- and two-bedroom apartments is centred on a sunny, handsomely-proportioned garden in Islandbridge.

Located just a short distance from Dublin‘s Grafton Street, the York Street scheme has been praised by the jury as a “high-water mark of social housing”.  “Situated on a busy corner, it forms a perimeter block. The architecture is rigorous and controlled externally to form reliable urban facades but relaxed and sufficiently mottled internally not to be upset by its users.   The courtyard inside is a luxuriant garden with a childrens’ activity area and sheltered sunny space off the community room. The scheme overall articulates its sustainable systems – grey-water tanks, winter-garden balconies, and cranked solar collectors, in the courtyard.”

The awards jury concluded that all three shortlisted schemes are of a “high order – thoughtfully mediating between the dwelling unit and its social and physical setting”. “Each offers a proposition about the individual in relation to the community, each addressing in this way the core problem of how housing is to become environmentally and socially sustainable.” The jury debated this balance of innovation, sustainability and value in the shortlisted schemes. 

The Jury for the RIAI Silver Medal for Housing (2007/8) was Eddie Conroy (Chair), John McLaughlin, Aidan O'Connor, John O'Mahony and Shane O'Toole.

 Alto Vetro Wins RIAI’s Silver Medal for Housing 2007-2008

Memorial Court Highly Commended Silver Medal for Housing 2007-2008

York Street Highly Commended Silver Medal for housing 2007-2008


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