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Polished conversation: Clancy Moore, Ireland

Clancy Moore evoke a quiet poetics of architecture, solid and thorough and brimming with whispering references

Clancy Moore won the Peter Davey Prize in the AR Emerging Architecture awards 2019. View the shortlist here

 ‘We have a phrase we use a lot about architecture – that if you chip away at it, it should stay the same’, say Clancy Moore. That the clod that has come away should expose only more earth; that the building should be true, should sustain the life it harbours; that the work itself is steeped in the conditions of its construction. Such a thing is an entire ethos: a quiet poetics of architecture. 

Clancy moore portobello house drawings architectural review

Clancy moore portobello house drawings architectural review

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Andrew Clancy and Colm Moore founded their studio ‘sometime between 2007 and 2009’, building their practice on a shared conversation. Conversation is given great weight in the work, as a means – those relationships with clients and makers having ‘trust as the only currency’ – and also as tension, as reference, as a site of knowledge. The work itself is dense with it; ‘great thought in small things’, as Clancy wrote in AR June 2019, when assessing the possibility of a canon in Irish architecture. And many such small things they are; surviving both a recession and Ireland’s throttling culture of procurement off the back of projects elsewhere unwanted, they have clambered on through small gains over house extensions. ‘A great deal of our country’s collective architectural endeavour with all of its social and civic richness is bizarrely constructed in the rear gardens of suburban houses’, they explain.  

Two houses shine particularly bright. Portobello House (AR June 2019), completed in 2018, stands as a silvered dream of a warehouse conversion, their choreography of the space quoted as ‘not one which is static, but resting’. The Quarry House (AR July 2014) meanwhile is a fine shadow, levering over uneven ground to spread out a single-storey settlement of dwellings that can be combined into a multi-generational home. 

Arklow wastewater clancy moore architectural review emerging

Arklow wastewater clancy moore architectural review emerging

Arklow wastewater clancy moore architectural review emerging 02

Arklow wastewater clancy moore architectural review emerging 02

Now out to tender, the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant will be a major piece of civic infrastructure, its design built around the sensitivity of its site in a prominent part of town. Both images: Clancy Moore

Their first large public work, won in open competition, will be a wastewater treatment plant for Arklow, Ireland. Designed in collaboration with Arup and Bryne Looby for Irish Water, plant operations are massed into separate structures intercut with yards. Facades act as infrastructural armatures, holding, sealing and sheltering as the design ‘makes civic face in keeping’ with the industry and history of the site.

Both teachers – Clancy at Kingston in London and Moore at Queen’s Belfast – their eyes are set not only on their own future but that of those even younger. They are now working to lead a movement to open state procurement policies for Ireland’s architecture, to lay the ground so others will not have to walk the same difficult road. Conversation here becomes collectivity; as they speak of architecture, they speak also of all things. ‘There is no ideal project, only compromised ones’, they say. ‘There is no onward life for a building only concerned with its autonomous purity.’

This piece is featured in the AR November issue on the Foreign + Emerging Architecture – click here to purchase your copy today

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