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Credit: Shauna O'Neill


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IAF builds on legacy of legendary architect Frank Gibney

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4 min read

IAF builds on legacy of legendary architect Frank Gibney

4 min read

13/12/21

IAF builds on legacy of legendary architect Frank Gibney

A new climate action collaboration led by the Irish Architecture Foundation seeks to build on the legacy of the architect who improved the quality of rural life in the midlands.

The legacy of Frank Gibney, the architect behind a number of Bord na Móna workers’ villages in the midlands, was celebrated at a community event on Saturday 11 December in Cloontuskert, County Roscommon. The celebration launched a new project, Workers’ Villages, spearheaded by the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF) and environment organisation Global Action Plan. It will see architect-led teams of designers and researchers examine Gibney’s legacy and vision. The project will also explore how his principles can be applied to the changing environment, particularly as Bord na Móna moves away from the use of peat for energy production.

This project is part of the Irish Architecture Foundation’s Reimagine programme. Reimagine works with communities across Ireland to co-create and co-design solutions to problems or opportunities they’ve identified in their locality. Reimagine is made possible by Creative Ireland’s National Creativity Fund and additional funding through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. 

IAF’s Workers’ Villages project is one of 15 projects from all around the country that are being funded by Creative Ireland through its €2 million Creative Climate Action fund. These projects look at how best to use creative methods to build real change within communities to fight climate change.

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The project launch in Cloontuskert Community Orchard, County Roscommon, showcased music, mulled wine and Christmas cheer as architects Evelyn D’Arcy and David Jameson displayed archival images and maps and invited residents to share their memories, thoughts and visions for the village. Film-maker Padraig Cunningham from Pure Designs in Boyle was also on hand, gathering stories of village life. 

Speaking ahead of the launch, Shauna O’Neill, Chairperson of the Cloontuskert Development and Tidy Towns Association, stated: Cloontuskert’s selection for the Workers’ Villages project is testament to the collective vision shared by the many families who travelled from all over our island to make Cloontuskert their home in the early 1950s. From this, life was given to many future generations, making the community of Cloontuskert what it is today. We are so excited for the journey that Workers’ Villages will bring for Cloontuskert, including giving our community an important voice in sharing our memories, thoughts, and visions for the future. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone involved in this project.”

Tania Banotti, Director of Creative Ireland, stated: We are very excited to be supporting this project, which speaks to the heart of Just Transition. Frank Gibney was an architect with a progressive vision for a modern rural Ireland. By looking to him, and to the communities he formed through his designs, we can ensure those whose labour served us all have a voice in the changing rural landscape, and perhaps even find an innovative blueprint for sustainable rural development.”

Also speaking was Nathalie Weadick, Director of the IAF, who said: “Right now, communities around the midlands are coming to grips with the impact of Ireland’s move away from peat harvesting. They are affected not just by job loss but also a loss of identity and of the community that was created through the work. As we grapple with the real challenges of climate change and the biodiversity crisis, we risk leaving behind the workers and their communities who once brought light into our homes and created power sovereignty for our young country. With funding from Creative Ireland’s Climate Action Fund, communities at the centre of this change are looking to the legacy of one architect, Frank Gibney, for inspiration for the future of their villages. 

“The housing schemes by Frank Gibney were radically new ways of delivering much needed housing in rural Ireland, and are remarkable for their long-lasting use, distinct designs, incorporation of public space, density, walkability, and liveability – veritable beacons of sustainable planning and urban design.” 

 In 2022, Workers’ Villages will start working with residents of Lanesborough, County Longford and Kilcormac, County Offaly. 

To stay up to date on this project, visit www.reimagineplace.ie  

Read more about the Creative Climate Action projects here.

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