Marc O Riain

Professional in Interior Design.

About Marc O Riain

Marc O Riain is one of Ireland’s most senior Commercial Interior Architecture professions with over €167m of completed projects to date. He has won all the industry awards nationally and one international award as well as running a successful teams at O’Riordan Staehli Architects, Henry J Lyons Architects and RUA Architects in Cork.

 He has been involved in PhD research with the Cork Centre of Architectural Education in the topic of low energy retrofit. As part of the research he was the architectural lead researcher in Zero2020, an energy retrofit prototype based on a section of the 1967 RTC typology based in Cork. The prototype has achieved a performance in line with nZEB expected energy consumption (EPBD). The project won the IDI Design Sustainability Award in 2012. His most recent work on the Architecture Factory has won the IDI design grand prix and is a World Architecture Architizer A+ Finalist. Graduating from NCAD & UL in 1995 he has learned his trade in Galway, Dublin and Cork. 

His work spans the national and international Blue Chip companies, such as Amazon, Ernst & Young, Deloittes, Nortel Networks, Microsoft, TYCO, balanced with his public work on many hospitals, colleges and exhibition buildings. These have included the award winning Cork Maternity Hospital, St Johns Central College, Mansion House Cork, Cliffs of Moher Interpretive Centre, Zero2020 and Architecture Factory to name a few. Marc’s advocacy role has seen him as chairman of Cork Design Week, national IDI Education Board member of the IDI, Academic Councils of NCAD & CIT and founder of the Professional Accreditation for Interior Architects Ireland. Architecture Week.

 Marc is the incoming Prudent of the Institute of Designers in Ireland

  • Winner of Interior Design Award.
  • Specialized in Interior Design.
  • Original Design.
  • Highly Creative, Diligent and Innovative.
  • All Designs
  • Interior
Architecture Factory Cork Institute of Technology

Architecture Factory Cork Institute of Technology

Interior Design


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Interview with Marc O Riain

Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I've been drawing since I was a kid, its always been an escape for me. I went to the top Design College in Ireland at the time (NCAD) and I learnt a lot in Architectural practice since my graduation in 1995. Being an Interior Architect allows me to change the world, at least that how I see it. Big impacts, big responsibility.
Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
My practice, RUA Architects focuses on Public and Commercial interiors and does a lot of Pro Bono work. This project was carried out for the Department of Architecture, where I now work as a lecturer. It is quickly becoming one of the top College for Interiors in the Country at both undergrad and post grad.
What is "design" for you?
Design is change, but not for the sake of change. We need to improve things when we change not just make them look better. To do this we must design from first principles. Thats how I work.
What kinds of works do you like designing most?
Work that affects people and improves their lives. I like public work.
What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
Thats hard, I think my favourite changes all the time. Its hard to like your own designs since you only see the flaws. I really like what Thomas Heatherwick and Joseph Walsh Studio are doing right now. I really think that are pushing the boundaries. I hate starchtecture, its too egotistical.
What was the first thing you designed for a company?
A reception Area, then a toilet. I learned a lot from the toilet!
What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
I work with existing buildings exclusively. I love old industrial heritage, can't get enough of it. We need to start a new dialogue with our existing urban grain before we bulldoze it.
Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
The people. The people are the most overlooked part of a design. The design doesn't work without them, even though architects hate to see them in architectural photography; tells a story-that does.
What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
Optimism, its important to start with optimism, action and vigour.
What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
Frustration at the imperfection. Disappointment at the end of the challenge, and an eagerness to find the next challenge. Probably not the best response.
What makes a design successful?
The ability of the designer to deliver on the concept sketch and a design that is actually responsive to the people who use it.
When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
Clarity, attention to detail, complexity of thought, simplicity of delivery.
From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
Don't get me started, 40% of all Co2 comes from building. I think Architects and designers have a big responsibility. We can deliver energy positive buildings though retrofit. We've done it! So lets stop talking sustainability and lets start doing it. I hate the waffle.....get it done.
How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
Its really bad, minimally modifying products for mass consumption, rather than using design to deliver real and meaningful change to the world and its societies. Design is a prostitute to consumerism. But we do have the ability and the imagination to change.
When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
I don't really exhibit my own work. Other people put it in exhibitions (last November 2013 last).
Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
The buildings talk to me. The whisper in my ear.... remember me....I have memories...they are hear in the peeling paint and rusty steels. Give me life again but don't forget me.
How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
In your face, unconventional, uncut and uncensored. Sometimes I do restrained stuff depending on the context, but even in its context it is pushing an envelope somewhere. If not I hate it. Don't get me wrong, Im not crazy, everything is measured and balanced, there has to be some control.
Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
I live in Kinsale. It has a sense of here-here. Cork my nearest City is immersed in a local unique culture. It hasn't been globalised and homogenised. I surf so I stay close to the energy of the earth, that keeps you grounded. I don't make a lot of money so I'm not stuck up either. My country is a creative country and in the future the world will see us a go to place for great design because we are unique, when the rest have become magnolia.
What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
The more the experience, the less you'll spend, but for god sake check out what they have done before because you'll spend the same amount of money or more on bad design.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
Concept iteration Concept iteration Concept iteration Concept iteration Develop the detail, make it work and then drive it pig headedly through to realisation. Don't get in my way.
What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
i have a beat up old club chair from the 30s, my Bertoia Bird Chair, my Pelligrino bottle, my Macbook and my Danish Rosewood mid century table.
Can you describe a day in your life?
Wake up, walk the dog, drop off the daughter to play school, drive to work teach, critique, design, answer emails, organise design events, think about my PhD, drive home, pick up the daughter from play school, walk the dog, sneaky pint maybe, back home, play, eat, work, maybe a movie then sleep
Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
You don't know everything, so every failure is an opportunity to learn at someone else's expense. Be honest, tell the truth, admit your screw ups, but be ready with the fix if you can. Every job the the award winning job, even if its a toilet! You are only here once, its your choice to be the best, you don't have to be the most talented to be the best at what you do.
From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
Bad pay-your projects are your babies-I'm a perfectionist so I hate when things don't work out. Therefore I fight for my designs which doesn't always make me popular but it does make me respected. The positives are you get to design and improve peoples lives, that should be enough.
Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
5% conceptualisation 95% implementation. I work nearly all the time, not healthy.
What was your most important job experience?
The Cliffs of Moher Experience and the Cork University Maternity Hospital
Who are some of your clients?
Amazon, Deloittes, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, US Embassy, and loads of public sector people in Ireland you wouldn't recognise.
What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
Public Work because you can affect change, and generally nobody else tries to effect change
Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
You can't deliver the projects we do without a team. I am the belligerent creative and I depend on a lot of people to deliver a project.

Extended Interview with Marc O Riain

Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
I've been drawing since I was a kid, its always been an escape for me. I went to the top Design College in Ireland at the time (NCAD) and I learnt a lot in Architectural practice since my graduation in 1995. Being an Interior Architect allows me to change the world, at least that how I see it. Big impacts, big responsibility.
What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
My practice, RUA Architects focuses on Public and Commercial interiors and does a lot of Pro Bono work. This project was carried out for the Department of Architecture, where I now work as a lecturer. It is quickly becoming one of the top College for Interiors in the Country at both undergrad and post grad.
Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
Design is change, but not for the sake of change. We need to improve things when we change not just make them look better. To do this we must design from first principles. Thats how I work.
What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
Work that affects people and improves their lives. I like public work.
What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
Thats hard, I think my favourite changes all the time. Its hard to like your own designs since you only see the flaws. I really like what Thomas Heatherwick and Joseph Walsh Studio are doing right now. I really think that are pushing the boundaries. I hate starchtecture, its too egotistical.
What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
A reception Area, then a toilet. I learned a lot from the toilet!
What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
I work with existing buildings exclusively. I love old industrial heritage, can't get enough of it. We need to start a new dialogue with our existing urban grain before we bulldoze it.
What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
The people. The people are the most overlooked part of a design. The design doesn't work without them, even though architects hate to see them in architectural photography; tells a story-that does.
What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
Optimism, its important to start with optimism, action and vigour.
What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
Frustration at the imperfection. Disappointment at the end of the challenge, and an eagerness to find the next challenge. Probably not the best response.
Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
The ability of the designer to deliver on the concept sketch and a design that is actually responsive to the people who use it.
What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
Clarity, attention to detail, complexity of thought, simplicity of delivery.
What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
Don't get me started, 40% of all Co2 comes from building. I think Architects and designers have a big responsibility. We can deliver energy positive buildings though retrofit. We've done it! So lets stop talking sustainability and lets start doing it. I hate the waffle.....get it done.
How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
Its really bad, minimally modifying products for mass consumption, rather than using design to deliver real and meaningful change to the world and its societies. Design is a prostitute to consumerism. But we do have the ability and the imagination to change.
If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
I don't really exhibit my own work. Other people put it in exhibitions (last November 2013 last).
How do you define design, what is design for you?
The buildings talk to me. The whisper in my ear.... remember me....I have memories...they are hear in the peeling paint and rusty steels. Give me life again but don't forget me.
Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
In your face, unconventional, uncut and uncensored. Sometimes I do restrained stuff depending on the context, but even in its context it is pushing an envelope somewhere. If not I hate it. Don't get me wrong, Im not crazy, everything is measured and balanced, there has to be some control.
What helped you to become a great designer?
I live in Kinsale. It has a sense of here-here. Cork my nearest City is immersed in a local unique culture. It hasn't been globalised and homogenised. I surf so I stay close to the energy of the earth, that keeps you grounded. I don't make a lot of money so I'm not stuck up either. My country is a creative country and in the future the world will see us a go to place for great design because we are unique, when the rest have become magnolia.
How do you think designers should present their work?
The more the experience, the less you'll spend, but for god sake check out what they have done before because you'll spend the same amount of money or more on bad design.
What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
Concept iteration Concept iteration Concept iteration Concept iteration Develop the detail, make it work and then drive it pig headedly through to realisation. Don't get in my way.
What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
i have a beat up old club chair from the 30s, my Bertoia Bird Chair, my Pelligrino bottle, my Macbook and my Danish Rosewood mid century table.
What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
Wake up, walk the dog, drop off the daughter to play school, drive to work teach, critique, design, answer emails, organise design events, think about my PhD, drive home, pick up the daughter from play school, walk the dog, sneaky pint maybe, back home, play, eat, work, maybe a movie then sleep
How does design help create a better society?
You don't know everything, so every failure is an opportunity to learn at someone else's expense. Be honest, tell the truth, admit your screw ups, but be ready with the fix if you can. Every job the the award winning job, even if its a toilet! You are only here once, its your choice to be the best, you don't have to be the most talented to be the best at what you do.
What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
Bad pay-your projects are your babies-I'm a perfectionist so I hate when things don't work out. Therefore I fight for my designs which doesn't always make me popular but it does make me respected. The positives are you get to design and improve peoples lives, that should be enough.
Where do you think the design field is headed next?
A Rotring 0.5mm pen, layout paper. The rest is visualisation and communication not design
How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
5% conceptualisation 95% implementation. I work nearly all the time, not healthy.
Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
The Cliffs of Moher Experience and the Cork University Maternity Hospital
What is the role of technology when you design?
Amazon, Deloittes, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, US Embassy, and loads of public sector people in Ireland you wouldn't recognise.
What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
Public Work because you can affect change, and generally nobody else tries to effect change
What do you wish people to ask about your design?
You can't deliver the projects we do without a team. I am the belligerent creative and I depend on a lot of people to deliver a project.

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