Designing Ireland, a four-part television documentary series, presented by Dr Sandra O’Connell, editor of Architecture Ireland, and Angela Brady OBE, past President of the RIBA, will be shown on RTE One on Thursday nights throughout November. We spoke to London-based Dubliner, Angela Brady, about her firm’s best-known building in Ireland.
Foyer is a French term meaning hearth or home. The Foyer concept, a social institution first developed in France in the 1940s before spreading to the UK and other European countries, is a protective environment that provides residential accommodation and skills training for homeless young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, creating a stepping stone to personal independence by breaking the link between homelessness and unemployment.
Applicants to a foyer must be drug-free for at least 12 months and seeking or involved in training or employment, and may remain in residence for up to three years. Each resident is allocated a private room with a bed and study area and a bathroom shared with an adjoining room. Rooms are clustered in sixes to form a ‘family’ group with its own kitchen, dining room and laundry area, intended to inculcate life skills and foster sociability.
“The idea is to bring them out of themselves and almost force them to socialise,” says Angela Brady. “They have to come out of their bedrooms to eat, and then they can learn to cook. The sociability of the design is key. When that doesn’t happen, a foyer can fail miserably.” Two flats are also provided for live-in managers.
Brady has been a champion of the foyer concept since entering an international design competition run by the Architecture Foundation on behalf of Shelter, the homeless charity, for Britain’s first foyer, in central Birmingham. That was in 1993. There are now more than 600 foyers throughout the UK. “Although we didn’t win the competition,” she says, “we thought it was such a great idea – architecture with a social conscience – that we approached Cara, an Irish housing association based in London, and said, ‘These foyers are a really good idea. Do you want one?’ And they did.”
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