To be nominated for a single Irish Construction Industry Award is a notable achievement in anyone’s book, which makes the fact that Plus Architecture was nominated for no less than than four awards – winning two in the process – all the more impressive.
“We created the company in 2011 and it took a few years to get the business established but the amount of work that is around currently means that things have really started to get moving, so it’s great that we were put forward for so many awards on the back of the growth we’ve been seeing,” explains Gavin Wheatley, Director. “Award recognition is important because it helps to increase our visibility within the wider industry. We’ve already done a good job of building relationships with various consultants, contractors and developers; so now it’s more a case of becoming better known in sectors and areas of the market where we’re currently less recognised. Becoming ‘an award-winning architect’ will undoubtedly help develop our standing and build brand recognition, which in turn should hopefully further increase the level of trust firms have in us.”
In terms of the four awards that Plus Architecture was shortlisted for, two were within the Retail Project of the Year category (Swan Centre, Rathmines; and Whelehan’s Wines) and although both unfortunately just missed out in the end, the company had more success elsewhere after securing the Residential Project of the Year (Small) Award for its House on Burrow Beach development, while Mr Wheatley himself was named Designer of the Year.
“Award recognition is important because it helps to increase our visibility within the wider industry. We’ve already done a good job of building relationships with various consultants, contractors and developers; so now it’s more a case of becoming better known in sectors and areas of the market where we’re currently less recognised.”
Gavin Wheatley, Director
As for what the various award-nominated projects entailed for Plus Architecture, they all had their own challenges and contained elements that allowed the company to showcase its capabilities. “The Swan Centre redevelopment in Rathmines for Sawbridge Ltd. involved bringing a new commercial frontage to a previously underused side of the shopping centre with a food anchor, café terrace and kiosk shops,” adds Mr Wheatley. “The Swan Centre previously did not engage with its southern elevation so our proposal was to create a new commercial elevation complete with café terrace, new kiosk shops and a higher profile entrance to the centre. By redesigning the internal layout of the shops and creating one large food anchor shop we sought to balance the retail offering within the centre. It’s the third development we have completed on the site for Sawbridge and they’ve been a really good client for us. The entire project took over two years and involved a number of challenges due to its complexity, such as maintaining car park access and pedestrian access while also ensuring deliveries to the retail outlets wasn’t disrupted. However, I would like to think that overcoming such difficulties is one of our core skills as we have the capabilities to take these types of problem on-board and overcome them.
“The second project that we were in the running for within the Retail category was the Whelehan’s Wines redevelopment, which was a conversion of an old pub in Loughlinstown outside Dublin. We were commissioned by Whelehan’s Wines to take the old Silver Tassie pub and refurbish it to create a new destination wine shop and cafe. The existing building was built over a long period of time with the oldest sections in very poor condition, both structurally and from a services point of view. We therefore proposed a scheme to open up the entire ground floor plan and remove the various bars, lounges and snugs to create a modern retail environment. The newer part of the building opening onto the car park has been fully remodelled also to provide a cafe which opens out onto a sunny terrace. While we completely refurbished the building, we did re-use a number of architectural elements from the previous fit-out to maintain some semblance of continuity within the life of the building such as the hardwood bar and a lot of the furniture. These elements were re-decorated and successfully incorporated into the modern space.
“The third project to be shortlisted that won the Residential Award was for a development entailing the refurbishment and extension of a derelict, protected structure to provide a modern family house with aspect out over the dunes of Burrow Beach in Sutton, Dublin. We don’t do a great deal of private residential work so it was a really interesting project to take on. The new extension is contemporary in style and is inspired by the rolling and shifting landscape of the sand dunes at the back of the property. The building now provides a variety of different living spaces that are all adjusted to the way they are facing and the time of the day.”
As for the second award that Plus Architecture secured, Mr Wheatley’s Designer of the Year success, he rather modestly points out that any one of the company’s three designers could have won the award. “We have 18 staff within the practice with the business being divided roughly into three sections depending on workload and deadlines. We decided that I should go for the award this year and it is great to have won, although it’s more a reflection of the strength of our project portfolio than myself individually.”
While the Irish Construction Industry Awards have only just been announced, it is testament to Plus Architecture’s growing confidence that it’s already got its eye on next year’s awards.
“We have just recently completed a significant project down in Ballsbridge, which is a huge mixed-use development of 500,000 sq ft with both retail and commercial space, as well as 89 apartments. It’s been a great project to be involved in and we’ll definitely be putting it forward for an Irish Construction Industry Award next year.
“Our main focus now is to continue working on similarly large schemes, although we will continue to keep our hand in with developments of every size and scale. If the client is right and the projects strikes us as interesting, then we’ll look to take it on. We have maintained steady growth over the past five years and we’re keen for this to continue, as we have the experience and expertise led by the three directors to keep this momentum going forward.”
Everything looks well set for Plus Architecture to continue the level of progression it has been making and it would be a brave man that bets against the company achieving more award success in the future too.