New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:
What was your motivation to enter the cultural heritage field? Was it your first option?
After working for two different architecture companies that focused on new buildings, I decided that I wanted to work with existing structures.
How was/is your transition from studying to working?
It was very difficult to transition from education to working. After attending university for 5 years, I felt unprepared for the realities of professional architectural practice. I
enjoyed studying architecture, but my programme focused on iterative conceptual new-build design rather than the practicalities of legislation, contract administration, time management, site analysis and conservation of built heritage.
I realised during my studies that I wanted to specialise in having a positive impact on existing structures. Upon finishing the MArch, I joined various organisations so that I could learn best practice approaches to cultural heritage, to include ICOMOS Ireland (International Council on Monuments and Sites) and The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
Active participation with these societies has been very helpful in building my understanding of cultural heritage on a national and international level. I am currently working full-time as an Architect and I am also the ICOMOS Ireland Emerging Professional Working Group International Liaison and a Corresponding Member of the S.P.A.B Ireland Committee.
In 2022, I was awarded a place on the S.P.A.B Scholarship and this has been fundamental in my learning. This programme gave access to over 150 live sites and 190 professionals working in conservation in Britain and Ireland. I had the opportunity to learn about best practice repairs first-hand to a spectrum of structures (from Roman ruins to 20th Century brutalism), crafts skills and philosophical approaches.
How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage? And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?
I have worked for two different architectural companies in the private sector that specialise in conservation.
I was unsure where to apply for my first job after the MArch, but after contacting some Irish cultural heritage societies and researching, I found a job with Shaffrey Architects in Dublin. I worked for this practice for 5 years, until I was awarded a place on the S.P.A.B Scholarship.
Since completing the Scholarship, I have moved to England to work as an architect for another practice that specialises in working with built heritage. Given the specialist nature of conservation, I have found it easy to look for jobs through the IHBC portal and word of mouth.
It is a lovely sector to work in as there are many passionate people keen to protect our shared heritage for current and future generations.
What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?
• Design experience
• Understanding how existing buildings work
• Construction site experience
• Managing people & multi-disciplinary teamwork
• Computer efficiency
Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?
My education did not provide enough understanding of reality, to include working with people in a business environment, Irish/ international legislation, understanding how to read existing buildings and how new and existing materials physically work.
How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?
I think that young professionals can be attracted to working in heritage through promotion of the positive impact that culture can bring to communities on a local to international level.
I also think that publicising the link between environmental sustainability and cultural heritage will greatly assist in furthering new intake in this field.
How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?
Conservation of cultural heritage is inextricably linked to environmental sustainability. I wish that the future sees a greater recognition and support of this intersection. As an architect working in the construction industry, I hope that this sector drastically moves from typically favouring demolition for new-build, to actively reusing existing buildings in a sympathetic manner.
It is also important that we have a greater appreciation for craft skill and local vernacular materials. It is imperative that we move from a global construction market back to locally sourced materials that are naturally adapted to their environment, such as earth, thatch and stone.
It is sad to think that the construction industry is accountable for so much carbon emissions and in Ireland we rarely see the true effect of our materials imported for new-builds.
If we used more local materials then we would physically see the impact of their extraction and processing and this would help us to better cherish our lovely vernacular cottages and castles that still stand after hundreds of years.