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Architecture is built on stories. Chapter 6 of our lunchtime series of conversations on books about architecture deals with biography and the lived-experiences of lives lived in the company of buildings. Join us as architect John Tuomey (First Quarter) and Adrian Duncan (Little Republics) read from their critically acclaimed books, share their stories with buildings and join Miriam Delaney in conversation at the penultimate Books Downstairs.

John Tuomey, FRIAI, FRIBA, Hon FAIA, Hon RSUA graduated from University College Dublin in 1976. He moved to London to work with James Stirling on the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie, from competition to detail design. Returning to Dublin in 1981 to work at the Office of Public Works, he co-founded O’Donnell + Tuomey in 1988. He was the first recipient of the UCD Masters in Architecture (based on reflective design practice) in 2004. He was managing director of Group 91, an architects’ collaborative who designed the masterplan for the regeneration of Temple Bar as Dublin’s cultural quarter. John taught at University College Dublin for 40 years, where he was the inaugural Professor of Architectural Design until 2019. He has taught and lectured at schools of Architecture in Europe, Japan and the USA, including the AA, Cambridge, Princeton and Harvard GSD. He is author of Architecture, Craft and Culture. Space for Architecture and More Space for Architecture were co-authored with Sheila O’Donnell. He is an Honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a member of Aosdána. In 2015 he was joint recipient with Sheila O’Donnell of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Brunner Prize, both awarded in recognition of a lifetime’s work.

Adrian Duncan is an Irish writer and filmmaker. His latest novel The Geometer Lobachevsky was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize, 2023. His next novel, The Gorgeous Inertia of the Earth will appear in 2025 with Tuskar Rock Press. His films have screened at IFFR, Karlovy Vary IFF, HotDocs, and IDFA, among others. He recently received a Reel Art award from the Arts Council to make a film about fascist-era architecture in Italy. He is an editor with PVA Books.

Miriam Delaney (chair) is an architect, lecturer and PhD candidate at the School of Architecture, Building and Environment, TUDublin. Miriam was one of the Free Market team which represented Ireland at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, and continues her involvement in town regeneration through research and practice.


First Quarter by John Tuomey, published by Lilliput Press

In his reflective and enriching memoir, John Tuomey navigates the places and memories of his life over the scope of twenty-five years. First recognised for the urban regeneration of Dublin’s Temple Bar, which included the construction of the Irish Film Institute, the National Photographic Archive and Gallery of Photography, his life in architecture led him to design social and cultural spaces such as the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, the Glucksman Gallery in UCC and the Victoria & Albert East Museum in London. Imbued with many inter-textual references to poetry, drama and literature and written in limpid prose, this memoir is inherently literary in nature. Tuomey looks back to his early life where he was born in Tralee and lived in different counties around Ireland, from small towns to country landscapes, from schooldays in Dundalk to student activism at University College Dublin. He traces the pathways that led to his formation as an architect, reflecting on the many cultural and social influences on his life. He excels in capturing the social landscape of Dublin in the 1980s and pays particular attention to the many buildings and social hubs of the inner city. His transient years of moving from Dublin to London, and subsequently working in places like Nairobi and Milan, chronicle the international influences on his outlook. The key relationships in his life, including meeting his future wife, Sheila – a fellow student of architecture in UCD – and his pivotal employment by James Stirling in 1976, form the backbone of his personal and professional life. Tuomey’s expertise in his field is unsurpassed, with meticulous detail given to the finer aspects of design and architecture. His thoughts on the challenges facing the encroaching erasure of city life in Dublin are essential reading for anyone with an interest in the future of building in the city.

Little Republics: The Story of Bungalow Bliss by Adrian Duncan, published by Lilliput Press

Bungalow Bliss, first published in 1971, was a book of house designs that buyers could use to build a home for themselves affordably. It first appeared two years before Ireland was to join the EEC as a self-published catalogue by Jack Fitzsimons from his Kells Art Studios in County Meath. He and his wife designed and collated it and printed it locally.

Fitzsimons sold these books out of his car to newsagents, petrol garages and bookshops.

Over the course of thirty years, Fitzsimons sold over a quarter of a million copies of his catalogue. The first edition contained twenty designs – the final edition contained two hundred and sixty.

This guidebook of how to build your own home radically transformed housing in Ireland. Now, for the first time, author and structural engineer Adrian Duncan looks at the cultural impact that Bungalow Bliss and the accessible bungalow design had on the housing market, the Irish landscape, and on the individual families who made these bungalows their homes.

Books Downstairs #6 John Tuomey and Adrian Duncan
Image: Little Republics spread - design credit Daly and Lyon, publishers Lilliput Press

General Info

Event Type(s) Talks & Debates
Admission / Cost FREE
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