Ask an Architect Salon

17th March 2020
On Tuesday 11 March, RSUA Women in Architecture held an Ask An Architect Salon at the Sunflower bar, raising funds for Friends of the Cancer Centre.  Over a drink and a slice of pizza, questions from the floor were expertly fielded by our lisarious host, Martina McKnight, for our esteemed panel of 7 Northern Ireland architects.  Their range of expertise crossed domestic and commercial work, urban and rural work, conservation, academic research, a selection of which was on display on the walls.  The conversation ranged from practical advice for home-owners, to philosophical musings on the gendered nature of the city, and many laugh-out-loud funny anecdotes about life as an architect.  There have been several requests to repeat the event, so perhaps we’ll see you there next year!

Say hi to Daisy

13th March 2020
Studio idir and Starling Start recently carried out a piece of community engagement work, hiring a vintage yellow camper van to travel around the two sides of a Belfast interface and talk to local residents about their views on the wall, discussing our ideas with them through models and drawings, and making things with the kids.  We all loved and learned so much from the experience.  More details to follow when the project wraps up.

Thumbs up for Graeme

6th March 2020
In February, we welcomed Graeme Gowdy to the Studio idir team, and he’s busy catering to all our technical detailing and Building Control needs (not to mention campervan driving, see above!) – head on over to the People page to read all about him.

Gulliver’s Voyage!

4th November 2019
Studio Idir had lots of fun indulging our love of literary references in art and architecture by working on this Gulliver’s Travels-themed competition entry to create play space along Belfast’s Maritime Mile. Flying Islands, tiny houses, a captured giant and a ship called Adeventure all feature along the way, as they did in Swift’s Epic Tale.

Congratulations to the deserving winners – we can’t wait to make some noise at the SoundYard when it gets built!

Caroline Dickson Studio Visit

30th October 2019
Studio idir travelled to Derry this week for the inaugural RSUA Women in Architecture practice visit, hosted by Caroline Dickson Architects at the Foyle Civic Trust.  There were 12 of us in total, sitting around a table in the lovely Foyle Civic Trust Cathedral House Building. Caroline was introduced by local architect Peter Tracey, chair of the Foyle Civic Trust. After describing her education and experience, which included a stint at Scott Tallon Walker in Dublin, a year working in a practice in Greece, and some time in Liam McCormick’s office before setting up her own practice in Derry in 1971, Caroline talked us through some project presentation boards that she had displayed along the side of the room. Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer for Donegal County Council, then talked very passionately and shared photos about a project she and Caroline have been worked on, painstakingly preserving the Fahan old church (a national monument), stone by stone, removing trees one by one, inserting discrete structural ties, careful to retain the appearance of a ruin. She said Caroline was always the first to the top of a spire!  We introduced ourselves around the table, and some shared memories and stories of Caroline, such as Mick McCafferty who said he had followed her work for a long time, and ‘accused’ her of introducing him to sailing, now his passion!  RSUA President Joan McCoy said Caroline Dickson was the first architect, never mind female architect, she ever heard of, when her father was working as a plumbing contractor in Derry in her youth.  An honest and open conversation around changes in architectural practice over time, female architects, procurement, architecture in Derry and the value of architects sharing resources and knowledge with each other, followed. Caroline is a quietly remarkable architect with a rich and diverse portfolio of buildings spanning her award-winning career, and she’s still going strong! Many thanks to Caroline and the Foyle Civic Trust for their hospitality.

RSUA Women in Architecture

25th September 2019
Following the desire to provide support and inspiration to female architects and aspiring female architects, and with the startling statistic that only 24% of all registered architects in Northern Ireland are female, our director Aisling Rusk, in collaboration with the RSUA, set up ‘Women in Architecture’. A successful launch evening was held on the 26th June, with over sixty guests attending. The group aims to provide a network for sharing experiences, building connections, and learning from and supporting each other. The first meeting was held on the 23rd August at the RSUA headquarters with twenty members attending, all enthusiastic and excited at the potential for this group. See here for the full news post on the RSUA website, with details of the agenda and future plans for upcoming events and projects.

Developing your plot – granny flats and new-builds in the garden

7th June 2019
By Aisling Rusk (Director), as featured in the Irish News May 2019

As urban living gains in popularity, more and more people are finding ways to build or develop within their area. Many report a shortage of available properties suitable to grow old in, and find good sites hard to come by and expensive. But you could be surprised at what’s possible in the space right under your nose, with a bit of creative thinking applied.

The Granny Flat – intergenerational living is gaining in popularity again. This is the least onerous, cheapest way to obtain planning permission for more accommodation on your site, but there are restrictions. These annexes have to be connected to the main house, sharing facilities, and are not supposed to have separate kitchens. Our clients in Omagh are planning to accommodate their octogenarian parents in a new annex with blackened timber, concrete, glass and a mono-pitch roof to resemble sophisticated out-buildings. Connected by a glazed link to the main house through a shared store and utility room, this will facilitate a symbiotic care arrangement, where grandparents can babysit grandkids and grandparents can be supported yet independent as they age.

Convert out-buildings – sometimes existing out-buildings can be repurposed. We recently gained planning permission to transform and extend the beautiful former coach house of our North Belfast clients Victorian villa into a two-bedroom separate property, sharing the existing property.

New build – aesthetically these can be styled to reflect the original or surrounding houses, or can have an auxiliary, shed like appearance, with timber or metal cladding, corrugated sheets and concrete that is currently very fashionable. That is what we designed for clients in Ballyhackamore who are down-sizing from their large family and seeking a site nearby. We showed them how they could subdivide their garden and build a compact, low-energy, blackened timber house with separate access, soon to commence on-site.

Subdivide – spitting your house into two or more apartments/individual units, can also work well for the right property. It is however, worth noting that individual units must be compartmentalised for acoustics and fire safety, an HMO license may be required, and staircases may need to be replaced to meet the current building regulations, taking up significantly more space.

Access and car parking are key – both the new and existing properties will need to have sufficient car parking spaces, calculated based on the number of bedrooms. Whether you plan to use the same driveway or create a separate access, this will need to meet the current standards, with safe visibility splays in both directions. You can access the relevant guidance at or your architect can advise.

If you would like to explore any of the above ideas, why not arrange for an architect to visit your house and explore its potential with you? More information can be found at and

Downpatrick Feature!

7th May 2019
Our Downpatrick extension has been featured in Image Interiors and Living Magazine, in their May/June issue, available now for some dreamy browsing! An interview with our director Aisling is featured alongside some stunning shots from the very talented Emma Stewart Photography, showing off this shingle clad beauty in its best light. Read here for more info on this project.

Legatirriff House is for sale!

10th April 2019
This house has a contemporary extension, designed by our director, Aisling Rusk. The oak-framed extension was designed as a link between the old cottage and its garden, creating a sunroom for year-round use, and adding a new entrance and utility area.  Inspired by Scandinavian timber architecture and traditional Irish vernacular forms, age-old oak frame construction was used, in a vernacular form that compliments the oak cottage, yet is markedly contemporary with expansive glazing.  A roof of cedar shingles blends in with the adjacent thatch.  The wood-burning stove makes the room cosy even in winter, when the roaring fire reflects off the windows in every direction.  This is a room for contemplation, for enjoying Ireland’s ever-changing weather and shifting seasons, and for gatherings and celebrations big and small.  The utility room is hidden within a discreet wooden enclosure – large doors open to create an enclosed room, or close it away within a wooden box, allowing views through and around to Lough Neigh beyond.  The landscaping by Sweeney Landscape Design brings the wilderness of the great outdoors right into the space in playful and compelling ways. In spring and summer, a sea of wildflowers can be watched dancing away around the rock-shored pond.

See here for more information on our website about this project, or see the listing on PropertyPal and contact Fetherston Clements to view!

Ask an Architect

22nd March 2019
Studio idir is once again proud to be taking part in the Jill Todd Trust’s Ask An Architect Initiative, raising funds for the Friends of the Cancer Centre. For a minimum donation of £40, until the 26th May, you can book a one hour consultation with an architect of your choice, and have a chat about your dream project, while raising money for a fantastic cause. Click here to browse the architects in your area who are lending their time.