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The Public Perception of Contemporary Domestic Architecture in the Irish Rural Landscape

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Roisin McDonald
Queen's University Belfast | UK
Student Statement
I am a rural dweller, raised in a bungalow within the Irish countryside as well as an architecture student. I love being Irish; I also love architecture.

Ireland seems a place steeped in culture and folklore which evokes ideas of un-spoilt landscapes and thatched cottages. The reality - however difficult to admit -- does not quite complement this imagery. Today in Ireland, the architectural profession is pushing the boundaries of architectural design. However, such advances within the Irish rural landscape seem still few and far between. I quickly became curious as to why generic house types keep reappearing within the landscape and in many cases are preferred by many, if not most, rural inhabitants.

Several encounters within alternative perceptions of architectural design from the viewpoint of the general public lead me to question public perception and how this may impinge on rural domestic development. What is the public perception of contemporary domestic architecture within the Irish rural landscape?

This study sets out to uncover first hand information of the reality of public perception of contemporary domestic architecture within the Irish rural landscape. I gathered information though a written questionnaire, presenting three contemporary dwellings designed by award- winning practices and built within the Irish rural landscape. The fourth dwelling selected was a thatched cottage for method of comparison. The results allow a comprehensive analysis of original data which reveals a number of correlations, (some expected and others unforeseen,) of the public perception which exists today, relative to the case studies chosen.

I believe the relevance of public perception here cannot be underestimated, for it is these people for whom we design, particularly within the realm of contemporary domestic architecture, and therefore it is they who, arguably, will be the most important critics.

This dissertation has given me the opportunity to explore a field of research which reflects who I am and who I aspire to be. The results yielded are real and relevant today; if we are to anticipate a future for the Irish rural landscape, we must acknowledge and learn from them.

Roisin McDonald

This student’s dissertation examines the perceptions of contemporary domestic architecture in the rural environment, and it won the prize for the school's best dissertation. The student’s achievement with this dissertation is threefold:

• The student has learnt how to creatively collect original data and shows an understanding of the difficult process of quantitative and qualitative data analysis

• The student has applied theory to previous interests and to the information collected

• The dissertation has contributed to a larger discussion occurring in the burgeoning research culture of the school about the rural environment.

Like many of the cohort, this student hails from a rural background, gained primary education there and spent a year practicing architecture with a rural-based architecture firm. With this background, the student is becoming increasingly concerned with the development of the rural built environment. This dissertation, which demonstrates a rigorous interrogation of contemporary rural housing, has further deepened an interest in and commitment to the topic.

What is particularly admirable about this work is the student’s willingness and indeed energy to engage with the process of the collection of original data from a wide circle of respondents from many socio-economic backgrounds and ages. Through the development of the survey and its subsequent analysis, the student has shown an ability which will contribute to later architectural practice, particularly in the rural environment, or as a higher-level research student.

This is a significant piece of work for the larger school, and as such, cannot be underestimated for its importance in the growth of research culture here. The student not only built this dissertation from earlier research of a previous student, but also heightened the work through involvement in a vertical week-long project with Stage One students from both the Bachelor and Masters programmes. Likewise, this comprehensive investigation of the perceptions of the rural acts as a foundation for investigation growing amongst students and full-time staff, research which is becoming increasingly applicable in light of new planning legislation and sustainable communities concerns in our region of the country.

Dr. Sarah A. Lappin
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