Modern Architecture in Northern Ireland

Architects and clients often see the Planning Department as a hurdle to their design aspirations, a barrier through which they must negotiate access rather than a quality check on poor design. However, the Department clearly states in its guiding principles that “good design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process and will be encouraged everywhere… design policies and guidance will focus on encouraging good design and avoid stifling responsible innovation, originality or innovation.”

The Planning Department commitment to high quality design whether traditional or modern is reinforced in the addendum to Planning Policy Statement 7 dealing with extensions to existing dwellings.

“The overall aim is to encourage high quality design solutions irrespective of whether the approach followed seeks to mirror the style of the existing property or adopts a contemporary modern design approach.”

Even the much published Planning Policy Statement 21 dealing with development in the countryside acknowledges “…that there will also be opportunities for contemporary or innovative design which results in the provision of high quality more environmentally friendly buildings…”

In my professional opinion it is unfair to suggest that the planning department is against modern designs, just as it would be inaccurate to think they only support buildings of a traditional appearance. The planning service has clearly indicated that they will support both modern and traditional architectural styles assuming that it is of good design. It is the responsibility of architects to produce higher quality modern designs, designs which acknowledge not just the time in which we live but also the locality. Producing modern Northern Irish architecture, by recognising the quality in our vernacular buildings and local building traditions, should not be a restriction to local architects but a challenge they are eager to accept.

As a young office we are continually trying to push the standards of environmentally sound modern design and have had considerable success with the approval of unique and unusual designs. The enclosed image is of a dwelling approved on the North Antrim Coast in an area of outstanding natural beauty, this is a highly prominent sea view site; however, the design was supported by the local planning department due to their involvement in the design process and the obvious quality of the design. A site of such visual importance and local significance having a modern dwelling of this quality should put an end finally to the misconception that the planning department does not support modern design; but rather the planning department does not support bad design.

If you would like to talk to us about a site or project, just give us a shout.