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Competition: Ireland House, Tokyo

The Irish government has launched an international contest for a new €16 million integrated embassy – dubbed Ireland House – in Tokyo (Deadline: 7 April)

Administered by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the anonymous competition seeks proposals for a landmark structure ‘that captures the spirit of Ireland’ and its relationship with Japan.

The 3,000m² project, planned to start on site in 2021, will deliver a new embassy, ambassador’s residence, and venue for state agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland on a prominent site in central Tokyo. Judges include Sou Fujimoto and Irish furniture designer Joseph Walsh.

Contest site: Ireland House, Tokyo

Contest site: Ireland House, Tokyo

Contest site: Ireland House, Tokyo

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs and trade, said: ‘Japan and Ireland are strong international partners. As we celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2017, the government decided that it was the right time to make a strong statement of our commitment to that relationship with one of the world’s most advanced economies with a rich cultural heritage.

‘This project also forms part of the Global Ireland initiative, which aims to double our impact globally between now and 2025. I am delighted that, with a site secured, we are now moving to the next phase and I look forward to the development of a really strong design for what will be a flagship platform for the promotion of Ireland for decades to come.’

RIAI chief executive Kathryn Meghen said: ‘The RIAI is delighted to partner with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on this competition to design Ireland House in Tokyo and welcomes the investment by government in architecture-led design.

Contest site, Tokyo

Contest site, Tokyo

Contest site, Tokyo

‘This competition is an opportunity to promote a strong international identity of Ireland as a nation that values quality design in the built environment and the public realm.’

The integrated Ireland House project in Tokyo is part of ambitious plans – dubbed ‘Global Ireland’ – to open 26 new embassies or consulates by 2025. The programme aims to double Ireland’s impact on the world stage by 2025 while boosting development aid and forging new connections with the country’s 70-million-strong diaspora.

The Tokyo scheme will be the flagship for the department’s new Ireland House concept which aims to ‘promote a strong, coherent, and consistent presentation of Ireland on the international stage’. Following the completion of the Tokyo scheme, the Ireland House concept is expected to be rolled out to other Irish diplomatic posts around the world.

Alongside Fujimoto and Walsh, other jurors include former Irish ambassador to Japan Anne Barrington, Karen McEvoy of Bucholz McEvoy Architects, and Ireland’s state architect Ciaran O’Connor. Stage one submissions must include two A1-sized display boards featuring an initial concept along with a written report on five A4 pages.

Between five and seven architect-led teams will be selected for the competition’s second phase and will each receive a €10,000 honorarium to develop more details proposals. An overall winner will be announced in late 2019.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is midday, 17 April

Contact details

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
80 St Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2


View the contract notice and visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Kathryn Meghen

The RIAI chief executive discusses her ambitions for the competition

Kathryn Meghen

Kathryn Meghen

Kathryn Meghen

Why are your holding an international contest for a new Ireland House in Tokyo?

Open international architectural competitions are recognised as an effective and successful process to identify new high-quality design solutions for clients. The process enables a wide range of architect-led teams to develop designs for assessment by an expert jury.

Ireland, as an island nation, has always been marked by the continuous flow of people and ideas. We are globally connected. In recent decades, Irish architects have been very successful in winning competitions and commissions abroad. Likewise, international architects have contributed to the built environment here in Ireland.

The brief is therefore seeking the best realisation of the vision statement for the new Ireland House in Tokyo. We are looking for an ‘exemplary architectural design for Ireland House Tokyo that captures the spirit of Ireland.’ The vision statement also states that ‘we value our international outlook that is predicated on a commitment to justice, to fairness and equality, to human rights and democratic norms’ – an open architectural competition supports this outlook.

What is your vision for the new integrated embassy building?

The ‘Ireland House’ concept brings diplomats and state agency personnel together under one roof, working in support of Ireland’s interests and ensuring strong synergies and value for money. As mentioned in the vision statement, ‘it will be an embassy, it will be a cultural centre, it will be a community meeting place, it will be a showroom and source of knowledge. It will be a vibrant place and it will be a welcoming place.’

Contest site, Tokyo

Contest site, Tokyo

Contest site, Tokyo

The Irish government is committed to formally developing and expanding the Ireland House model globally. It forms part of the Irish government’s expansion programme of Ireland’s overseas representation, which has been set out in the document ‘Global Ireland 2025‘.

Unbuilt sites are rare in central Tokyo and the Irish government was fortunate to purchase a site which is strategically located between the Otemachi-Marunouchi district, which is the business centre of Tokyo, and the Shinjuku-west district, where the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is located. Adjacent to the site is also Yotsuya station which is one of the largest train stations in Tokyo and has several railway lines. The site is 1,085.36m2 and the completed building is expected to be approximately 3,000m2.

A detailed competition brief is available to competitors and sets out the client requirements as well as some key planning and regulation requirements in Japan, including designing for the particular climatic and seismic challenges of the urban environment in Tokyo.

The competition regulations also list 10 criteria on which the designs will be judged these include: ‘an exemplary architectural design for Ireland House Tokyo that captures the spirit of Ireland as set out in the competition vision’; ‘a sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly design consistent with best international standards’ and ‘an effective and innovative working environment for staff using the latest Information Technology that promotes collaborative teamwork across all the entities within Ireland House.’

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is for the design and delivery of the Ireland House in Tokyo. Smaller, emerging practices are invited to enter the competition but all competitors have to demonstrate that they have the capacity to deliver the project. Following Stage 1 and shortlisting, there will be a capacity review before Stage 2 commences and a practice may be asked to team up with another practice to ensure that they have adequate resources. At Stage 2, competitors will also be asked to team up with professionals licensed to operate in Japan with premises in Tokyo.

Contest site, Tokyo

Contest site, Tokyo

Contest site, Tokyo

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

The RIAI is also currently running an architectural competition for a commemorative bridge for the Irish War Memorial Gardens, which were designed by Edward Lutyens. The original pedestrian bridge designed by Lutyens was never completed and we are excited to run this competition with the Office of Public Works in Ireland. We are delighted to have seen a lot of interest from government and local authorities in Ireland in architectural competitions, including for housing and urban realm projects, and hope to be announcing more competitions in 2019 and 2020.

Are there any other recent integrated embassy projects you have been impressed by?

An innovative approach to Embassy design was shown by the five Nordic Countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden - in their shared Embassy in Berlin. Although completed 20 years ago in 1999, the idea is still relevant and shows how resources can be pooled together to maximise impact. The architects were Alfred Berger and Tiina Parkkinen.

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