What does Arts in Education practice look like? Read about the processes and partnerships behind current projects happening around Ireland.

National Architects in Schools Initiative

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

National Architects in Schools Initiative

The project, part of the Irish Architecture Foundation’s National Architects in School Initiative (NAISI), involved an Architect working with a Transition Year group of 25 mixed students and a Design and Technology teacher.

Students from Colaiste Cholim, undertook a wealth or tours and visits investigating many facets of architecture in their town of Ballincollig and the wider city of Cork. Starting from this perspective of how architecture relates to community, the students narrowed the focus for the design project, developing their own personal room for the garden of a semi detached house. As a fitting end to a project the students held an exhibition of their work in the local shopping centre of Ballincollig.

Engagement process:

The students began with a life drawing exercise to develop their observation skills. From here they were encouraged to develop their own opinions on architecture through research and discussion of the work of inspiring architects. There then followed a series of exploratory tours:

  • The detailed surveying and drawing of a traditional shop front in Ballincollig.
  • A visit to the Lewis Glucksman Gallery by architects O’Donnell and Toumey, in UCC.
  • A visit of the art and architecture exhibition ‘Folly’.
  • A tour architecture students works in the studios of of the Cork Centre for Architectural Education in CIT.

Development Process:

Having gleaned ideas, insights and an understanding of the diversity inherent in architecture, the student were set the task of designing a personal room in the back of a semi-detached sub-urban house. Designs based on a variety of personal interests emerged including an art studio, a cinema, a dance room and a chill out room. Using card, foam board and balsa wood the student made scale model of their designs for exhibition at the local shopping centre in Ballincollig, Cork.

Most useful activities:

  • Visit to studios at Cork Centre for Architectural Education.
  • Surveying and drawing in detail a local shop front.
  • Exhibition in the local shopping centre.
  • Design a personal room for the back garden of a semi-detached house.
  • Presentation and Reflection

Jerry Buttimer TD opened an Architecture Exhibition by students of Coláiste Choilm, of work produced during the IAF’s National Architects in Schools Initiative, at Ballincollig Shopping Centre. Each studetn presented their final project to a public audience and discussed individual projects with the TD and visitors including IAF Education Curator.

From the students:

I learned about design process + daily job and how jobs come about. I enjoyed making models and thinking of ideas for what to do for the project.
Student, 15
We’d done set projects before but this time we were able to use our own ideas and solve problems along the way. Felt more like a real designer!
Student, 16

From the Teacher:

Having taught a transition year construction module for a number of years, aspiring to develop an awareness and appreciation of the student’s environment, particularly their built environment, I heard of the Architecture in Schools initiative through the Cork Education Centre and decided to apply. My motivation initially was personal, as I have a great interest in architecture and was very interested in working with an architect. I also believed that if I could develop my own skills and knowledge it would ultimately benefit my students. I applied and was very fortunate to be paired with architect Seán Antóin Ó Muirí. We got on very well, both personally and professionally. This, in my opinion, was key to the success of the initiative. This is our second year working together and I have learned a great deal working with Seán.

Typically, we adopt a practical approach to student learning. The students learn through observation, sketching, discussion, research, presentation, and problem solving amongst other techniques. The students visit buildings of architectural significance locally, where they observe, record, present and discuss their experiences. They also watch videos, research architects and their work, and present their observations to their classmates. Another important part of their development is the visit to the Cork School of Architecture. This presents the students with a unique opportunity to view and discuss the work and course with college students and experience what life as a student of architecture is like. Also, the students are presented with a number of design challenges devised by Seán, from which they develop their own unique responses. These are varied in complexity, and time required for completion, and always have specific objectives.

I have learned significantly from my involvement in this initiative and particularly working with Seán. As a teacher with more than twenty years experience, I found I have become very focussed on “the end game”, which is the examination and marks in the Junior Cert and marks and points in the Leaving Cert for my students. I try to incorporate different teaching and learning experiences. However I am restricted in so far as the course must be covered, projects must be completed and time is limited.

Seán has an entirely different approach. He focuses very much on the process and allows the student the freedom to pursue their ideas. He guides, encourages and advises each student, and allows them to pursue their own ideas even if he disagrees with them. They are allowed the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. The students are also encouraged to find out things for themselves, for example, if they require the size for a door, they measure the door in the room. This leads to collaboration between students and an excellent learning environment.

The students are enthusiastic and have learned a great deal. Their increased awareness of architecture is great. However the skills and confidence they have developed as a consequence of participating in this course is the real benefit of incorporating this initiative in a transition year program.

Danny Moynihan, Teacher

From the Architect:

I was motivated to particpate in the architects in schools programe because I am simply interested in architecture so I am always interested in getting other people’s perspectives and thoughts on the subject.
I took a lot of heart from the conceptual thinking that some of the students displayed in realising their projects, this is always very encouraging. The project was the first time I had taught architecture at secondary school level this was a new and good experience. There is a lot of energy to be sourced from working with other people, as I work on my own this was good to tap into this energy twice a week. I was blown away by some of the designs produced by some of the students, because the class was so big (25 students) it was very hard to give much time to any one student, so to see some of the designs produced with very little direction was very inspiring.
The students’ work is of a standard you’d expect from third level student projects, they demonstrated exceptional ability and commitment to the project. Support from the teacher, Danny Moynihan who has an incredible passion and interest in architecture also made it this project a great experience.

Seán Antóin Ó Muirí, Architect.



Seán Antóin Ó Muirí

Born in Cork, 1983. Seán Antóin Ó Muirí studied at the Dublin School of Architecture, DIT and was an Erasmus Student at École National Supérieur d'Architecture Montpellier, France. He studied under visiting Professors Hitoshi Abe at ÉNSAM & Glenn Murcutt at the DSA. Seán previously worked with Shay Cleary Architects, O'Donnell + Tuomey Architects, & Cino Zucchi Architetti (Milano). He has been Lecture Series Co-ordinator / Secretary of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, Southern Region since 2010. He is a Passivhaus Institut Certified Designer with Passive House Academy, Darmstadt, Germany. Seán received the Gaisce Gold Medal, President's Award, from President of Ireland Mary McAleese, 2005.


Danny Moynihan

Danny Moynihan is a teacher at Scoil Choilm, Ballincollig, Co. Cork.

(Curator, agency, etc):

Irish Architecture Foundation

The Irish Architecture Foundation launched the National Architects in Schools Initiative in April 2013 to provide students with first-hand experience of the design process under the guidance of architects. By connecting local architects directly with schools the initiative aims to bring architecture to life for Transition Year students through hands-on projects. This groundbreaking initiative, which supports the curriculum and emphasises the importance of design thinking and innovation, is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, the Arts Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Government Policy on Architecture implementation programme.

Debbie Donnelly


Seán Antóin Ó Muirí

Danny Moynihan


Danny Moynihan



School Level


Participant Group

Scoil Choilm, Ballingcollig

No. Participants





15-16/ Transition Year


Sept - Nov 2014


Leading Agency

Other Partners and/or Funders

Education Support Centres in Ireland (ESCI), The Arts Council of Ireland, The Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht

Key themes/ lines of enquiry


Curriculum Strands

Design, Technology, Art

Research or relevant publications

IAF Publications;
My Architecture Design Journal
(Student Journal and Teachers’ Handbook)
published 2013;
Place Shapers, pub. 2012;
A Space for Learning, pub. 2010

Seán guides, encourages and advises each student, and allows them to pursue their own ideas even if he disagrees with them. They are allowed the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.

Danny Moynihan, Teacher

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation

(c) Danny Moynihan, courtesy Irish Architecture Foundation