The alignment of a manner of architectural practice and its architecture
: Rural houses in the north of Ireland by McGonigle McGrath architects

  • Kieran McGonigle

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research is concerned with the identification of the latent and unique contribution to knowledge embedded in the architectural practice of McGonigle McGrath Architects - Kieran McGonigle being the principal of that practice and the author of this thesis.

Architectural design evolves through the manner and means of its production (associational, representational, contextual, contingent) rather more than being a consequence of a theoretic framing; this research avails of techniques of design practice to surface tacit knowledge through research into these manners and means of design production; as such the format of the thesis necessarily includes text, drawings, models and photography.

The research was structured around biannual presentations over four years at the practice research symposia under the auspices of RMIT at their Barcelona campus, at which the latest individual research and practice outputs were peer-reviewed and discussed in open forum under the guidance of a panel of international experts. The symbiotic evolution over this period of both the research (leading to this thesis), and the work of the practice, is of itself a significant aspect and consequence of the research.

The design output of the practice is substantial; a portfolio of single family houses, highly site specific to the north of Ireland. The work of the practice has received many design awards, including 11 RIBA Awards amongst many RSUA and AAI Awards. In 2019 the practice won the RIBA House of the Year Award for the best house in the UK.

The research investigates personal histories, explicit and implicit interests, influences and influencers, existent dwelling typologies, a particular relationship of landscape and mapping, relationship to topography, concepts of scenography, forms of representation, construction and interiority, responses to found rural features, and certain compositional and representational characteristics shared within modern painting and photography.

The research also articulates a manner of practice - patterns of behaviour within a particular social and professional context including the choreography of relationships with staff, clients and constructors and the subsequent curation of the body of work. Finally the research articulates the common ground within the symbiotic relationship of the architecture itself and the manner of its production.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 July 2026.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMichael McGarry (Supervisor), Colm Moore (Supervisor) & Greg Keeffe (Supervisor)


  • Architecture
  • practice
  • practice-as-research
  • rural-housing
  • house
  • houses

Cite this