An architects’ conference held in Westport at the weekend has found that Ireland is “facing a crisis in terms of infrastructure and environment” and that failure to provide for future generations will militate against the development of a ‘smart economy’.
According to Paul Keogh, president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI ), at the RIAI’s annual conference, the population is projected to increase to five million by 2020 with 70,000 new school places needed by 2016.
“First-class community infrastructure is required if Ireland is to attract high-quality inward investment – and talent – to locate in Ireland in the future. The State is not planning for this growth, or the infrastructure required to support it. This is to our detriment — the smart economy will not be created in Third World standard facilities we are currently using to educate many of our young.”
Mr Keogh also called on the Government to create a national asset register, stating it is impossible to plan for the future in the absence of an accurate record of the State’s stock of physical infrastructure (housing, schools, leisure, community, and public buildings ).
At the conference, which was attended by more than 150 architects from around the country, and with participation from planners, economists, client bodies, students, and politicians, there was also a call for a new national spatial strategy to provide a vision for the future.
David Rudlin, director of URBED and an advisor to planning authorities around Europe, added: “Cities are growing and changing around towns. Towns must embrace this. They need to remain authentic and leverage what makes them special. The key to this is to be seen as not just a nice place to visit but a nice place to live. People respond to authenticity and will be attracted to towns that have a real identity. Towns should not make themselves something that they are not.”