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Interviews

Joe Fallon – Taking the mystery out of ARCHITECTURE

In conversation with Joe Fallon, Managing Director

Story Highlights
  • “I’ve a LOYAL of BUILDERS.”
  • “I’ve REALLY a GOOD DESIGNERS working for Me.”
  • “ We’ve a LOT of work going on.”

Joe Fallon and his wife Deirdre moved to County Wexford in 2005 to start a family, build a house and further develop Joe’s architectural practice. Their first step was to buy a 200-year-old derelict cottage in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains.

Joe set about reno-vating and rebuilding the house, and included a small office from which to run the business. Having been in operation since 1988, he used all his years’ experience in his own home and continued to build the business and service the architectural market in both Dublin and the more rural settings around Wexford.

In 2014 Joe took on his first full-time employee, and within a year had developed the practice to include 5 full-time staff and a fully-equipped office on the main street in Bunclody, Co. Wexford. Fast forward again to 2018, Joe had returned to his Dublin roots by opening an office in Main Street, Dun-drum to service their primary market in south Dublin and had taken on a few more staff members. As of 2020, Joe Fallon Design consists of 8 full-time employees, made up of architects and chartered architectural technologists, working out of their two offices and must be one of the busiest architectural practices in Leinster.

Through the Dundrum office they serve south Dublin by way of extensions, renovations and the occasional one-off house. So much of the housing stock in Dublin consists of 1950s and 60s semi-detached homes that are in need of modernisation. Their Wexford office covers the more rural parts of Leinster and provides architectural services for one-off rural dwellings, schools, churches and social housing.

Part of the reason for Joe’s relocation to the countryside is to maintain a healthy work-life balance between the busyness of the architectural practice and the importance of family and healthy living. A typical day would start at 8:30 in the office, after having breakfast with the family and dropping the kids to the school bus. Work in the office is usually varied; as a creative person, Joe naturally enjoys the thrill of beginning a new project with a fresh design challenge, however most of the work in an architectural office involves emails and paperwork to keep each project running smoothly.

They have to deal with councils in relation to planning permission and utilities, building regulations and ensuring their projects all comply with the relevant legislation, and sometimes the needs arises for an emergency conference call or site visit to rectify a problem on one of their many live construction sites. Architecture, especially in a medium-sized office such as Joe’s, comprises a variety of tasks and work types.

“Most of it is office-based, but we do venture out of the office on occasion as we need to meet new clients, survey new projects and conduct our site visits. It gives us great variety in our work and helps to reduce the possibility of boredom!” enthuses Joe. “We do have challenges, as the field of architecture requires a working knowledge of so many things.” Indeed, a knowledge of design, spatial planning, town planning and council development plans, building regulations, technical detailing, various construction methods, types of finishes and furnishings the list is almost endless and the architect needs to know enough about all of these to keep a project on track.

There is a huge team of people required to make a successful project happen. “I think the reason that we have been so successful has been that we have done our best to take the stress out of the process of renovating, extending or building your home.

“As a creative industry, there are many challenges that we come across. These become the structure within which we can design. These limits can actually be really helpful, as they create boundaries with which we can work.

The hardest thing is often trying to create without any restrictions.” And as Joe summarises, there are many restrictions: planning and development plan limitations, underground services, consensus with adjoining neighbours, and of course, budget.

“But all these things come together to create something unique every time. Our bread and butter is the extension market, but each one is unique.” Joe Fallon

It is a very stressful time and someone’s home is their castle, so we do our best to respect that.” Joe attributes a lot of this success to his team of young, enthusiastic staff with creative ideas who design without inhibition.

A talented team of other professionals such as engineers, quantity surveyors and town planners help keep the project moving. And of course a strong pool of building contractors, that Joe has built up over the years and have developed a reliable working relationship with some stretching back more than 30 years.

Indeed, the last few years have been particularly fruitful, and has been recognised by way of numerous awards and nominations.

“In 2019 we were nominated as a finalist with five projects in two categories in the Irish Construction Industry Awards, for Architectural Practice of the Year and Small Residential Project of the Year.

And in 2020, shortlisted for the Irish Concrete Awards for Bunclody Market Square redesign.” houses left on it and the rest were rather miserable corporation flats which have now been knocked down and they had the intention of doing the same to this street to acquire the houses and pull them down,’’ he explained.

As for the future?
Covid-19 is no doubt going to impact the architectural industry just as it has done in other areas, but Joe maintains that enquiry levels are high. “A lot of people still need work done to their homes, and even more so now perhaps, with the in-crease in the amount of people working from home and the need to create dedicated spaces in their homes conducive to that.”

“There is also a desperate need for social and affordable housing to give the next generation a hope of owning their own home. We have been involved in the provision of social housing and are hoping to continue our work in that area also.”

No doubt Joe will go from strength to strength, continuing his commitment to improving the build environment and providing homes for his clients that they will enjoy for years to come.

Source
Words: Emer Kelly

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