An aerial view of the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Skibbereen.

MTU student scoops design award

A Cork student has won a major design award based on a project to refurbish the former Sisters of Mercy Convent in Skibbereen.

The Munster Technological University (MTU) graduate of Interior Architecture Orla McCarthy has scooped the prestigious Institute of Designers in Ireland Graduate Design Award for Interior Architecture.

Her winning project on the refurbishment and adaption of the former convent proposes an intergenerational space that supports integrated activities for the young and old, celebrates the chapel space with a new museum activity, and provides much needed co-working space for people located in the West Cork town.

Orla, who is originally from Midleton flew in for the event from Edinburgh, where she is now undertaking an MSc in Architectural Conservation. In addition to winning this prestigious award, Orla’s work was shortlisted under several other categories, and won a commendation in the Architecture Category.

Annually, the IDI Graduate Design Awards event shines a spotlight on the best of higher education graduate design work in Ireland. It is the largest and most competitive design competition for graduates in Ireland and attracts entries from all over the country, resulting in stiff competition across all categories.

Graduates from the Department of Architecture in MTU have been frequent award winners at this event over the past decade, starting with Sinead Crowley in 2012 winning the Interiors category, followed by Alex Defratyka winning the Grand Prix in 2019, scooping 5 categories on the way, and now with Orla McCarthy winning in the Interior Architecture Category and also coming out with a commendation in the Architecture Category.

Orla’s entry was entitled The Potentiality of Incompleteness and it was produced in response to Cork County Council’s development plan for Skibbereen and the strategic opportunity to drive regeneration of the area to the northeast of the town.

Orla proposed a design that was focused on pillars important in Skibbereen, such as caregiving, community, collaboration and learning. The proposed intergenerational space would support both young and old, integrated in activities, celebrate the chapel space with a new museum activity and provide much needed co-working space for people located in the West Cork town.

The Potentiality of Incompleteness drew inspiration from the condition of the burnt-out structure, which was devastated by fire in September 2020. Her investigation into the presence of decay and dereliction within the building led Orla to analyse how growth was still present as part of the decaying process.

“I found it interesting how these forms I drew were once whole, but subsequently fell apart into fragmentary pieces. Yet from observing my line drawings, each of these pieces is essentially complete in itself, despite being part of an incomplete whole. I suppose this is where we find potential in incompleteness,” said Orla.