LiminalIrish design at the threshold




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Damien Murtagh studied at the Hull School of Architecture in the UK. Following graduation he worked in Italy under Carlo Scarpa’s protégé, Toni Follina for a period of two years. He returned to Ireland to set up Damien Murtagh, Architecture + Design. In 2012, Damien moved to the UK where he began to advance an idea for a new scaled architectural model building system that would challenge traditional ‘cut and glue’ model making. Damien launched ‘Arckit’ in May 2014. To date it has received major recognition, winning several prestigious international awards including The Red Dot Award.

Damien Murtagh heeft gestudeerd aan de Hull School of Architecture in het Verenigd Koninkrijk. Na zijn afstuderen heeft hij gedurende twee jaar in Italië gewerkt onder Toni Follina, de beschermeling van Carlo Scarpa. Hij is teruggekeerd naar Ierland om Damien Murtagh, Architecture + Design op te richten. In 2012 verhuisde Damien naar het Verenigd Koninkrijk, waar hij begon met het ontwikkelen van een idee voor een nieuw schaalbaar bouwsysteem voor architectuurmodellen dat traditioneel modelleerwerk door middel van ‘knippen en plakken’ zou uitdagen. Damien lanceerde ‘Arckit’ in mei 2014. Het heeft grote erkenning ontvangen en meerdere prestigieuze internationale prijzen gewonnen, waaronder de Red Dot Award.






Plastic components


Damien Murtagh
of Arckit

I’d been working as an architect in Ireland when the recession hit. Then, suddenly I was working at home. I was designing what I thought could be a better modular building system, and at the same time I was making scale models of all the components that we would make the buildings from. I realised that there was nothing like that out there for architects to work with. There’s Lego and Meccano, but nothing to compete with foam board. I kept thinking I’d find it, but it wasn’t there.

Maybe the digital era is why it didn’t happen before, models were being made less frequently, but at the end of the day, a computer is still a flat screen. In my experience with clients, a tangible model far outweighs the impact any drawing or image could ever have. There is no comparison to holding and manouvering a physical model in order to explore a building’s form and detail. Now, with Arckit, you can also make changes, move windows, doors etc and this encourages client participation as never before… As I was working on it, I thought, gosh, if I can get this right, it’s not just going to make life easier for architects, but everyone can work with it.

At just eighteen months old, we’re crossing all sectors: professionals, students, hobbyists, and the education sector and in particular schools with STEM initiatives, are embracing Arckit as a new hands on tool for teaching. Arckit is considered more as a precision design tool rather than a toy, a form of graduation from toy building blocks. It has been rolled out throughout the US with Barnes and Noble.

Next up, we are developing the Arckit infiniti 3D store on Shapeways which we hope to launch within the year. Here you will be able to purchase bespoke components that don’t come with the standard kit, for example curved walls and archways. We’ll be adding to the store on a continual basis and getting advice from our users as to what they’d like to see. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

During the recession when many architects lost their jobs, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), encouraged its members to apply their skills to other areas. I think the fruits of this are very evident now by the real tangible buzz surrounding the whole ‘start up’ community in Dublin and all over the country. It’s very positive to feel this atmosphere once again in the country.