Keeping Ireland Modern: St Brendan’s Community School, Birr at 40

Keeping Ireland Modern: St Brendan’s Community School, Birr at 40


QUB Professor Gary Boyd will introduce a symposium on Friday 8th November coinciding with a new exhibition celebrating 40 years of St Brendan’s Community School in Birr. Designed by Peter and Mary Doyle in the 1970s it has been in continuous use since its opening in1980 and is home to a vibrant school community. Recognised internationally as an exemplar of post-war architectural modernism in Ireland the school building also embodies the progressive education and social policies of the 1960s that democratised’ education in Ireland. A recipient of the prestigious ‘Keeping It Modern’ grant, by the Getty Foundation in LA in 2018, the team, led by Professor Gary A. Boyd of Queen’s University Belfast and Aoibheann Ni Mhearáin of John McLaughlin Architects has examined the multiple layers of the school’s history and current social use. The research acknowledges the challenges and vulnerabilities faced by this building along with many buildings of its generation. Together the exhibition and symposium celebrate our 20th century built heritage, revealing their inherent social value and significance, while also considering fundamental questions about their future.


The exhibition shows us the multiple lives of the school. Displaying archival material alongside new research, the exhibition contextualizes the building in its history, place and current use. Through video, photography, models and drawings the work provides a rich portrait of the school, offering us a new understanding of the building’s significance.


This half day symposium focuses on 20th century conservation practice and policy and brings together leading international and national speakers in this field. Beginning with an introduction to the work method and research findings for St Brendan’s Community school, the debate will widen out to address our values in relation to 20th century built heritage and policy. The symposium will also address conservation projects of seminal 20th century buildings and consider the specific issues facing this generation’s building stock. The symposium will be of relevance to architects and conservation professionals with an interest in 20thcentury built heritage.

The symposium was made possible with support from the Getty Foundation through its ‘Keeping It Modern’ initiative and is supported by the Irish Architectural Archive.

With Tea & Coffee

Introduction & Context
Professor Gary A. Boyd, Queen’s University Belfast

Mapping Values: St Brendan’s Community School, Birr,
Conservation Management Plan
Aoibheann Ní Mhearáin & Tara Kennedy, John McLaughlin Architects

Learning to love the C20: Changing attitudes to post-war buildings
Catherine Croft, Director C20 Society

Conservation at the Engineering Building, University of Leicester
Thomas Pearson, Senior Designer & Conservationist, Arup

The Architecture of Ultimology: Considering Value and Obsolescence in some Dublin later C20th buildings.
Dr Ellen Rowley (M.RIAI Hon.), Research Fellow in Architectural History, UCD

Round table Discussion Chaired by John McLaughlin

Coffee 11:30 – 12.00 

KEYNOTE: Continuity and Change. Perspectives for Modern Heritage
Wessel de Jonge, Principle WDJ Architecten, Professor of Heritage & Design TU Delft

Discussion & Concluding Remarks


Opening Thursday 7th November @ 6pm
Open Tuesday – Friday 10am-5pm.
Exhibition runs until January 2020

Friday 8th November, 9am-1pm

Irish Architectural Archive


Ticketing  Book here

A digital resource communicating the work of Architecture at Queen's University Belfast