Ormeau Baths Gallery

Ormeau Baths Gallery hosts four exhibitions exploring architecture of past, present and future

This month, Belfast’s Ormeau Baths Gallery is host to no fewer than four joint exhibitions, all with a connection to architecture, each occupying a separate gallery.

The first of these is an installation curated by Tom dePaor, Peter Maybury, Alice Casey and Cian Deegan, named ‘Of de Blacam and Meagher’. This exhibition, situated on the upper floor of the gallery,  focuses on documents donated by the esteemed architects de Blacam and Meagher to the Irish Architectural Archive.

Reproductions of these documents (containing volumes of drawings and photographic reproductions from the de Blacam and Meagher archive) as well as contemporary commentaries on the works have been printed out and fill the gallery space in giant piles.

The intention of this is that the exhibition should serve not just a visually impressive recognition of the great quality and quantity of the company's work, but also as a reading room. Members of the public who visit the gallery are invited to work their way through these archives.

There are a number of chairs provided, sitting adjacent to a large window that allows great rays of light in to illuminate the space. Weather dependent, of course. The joy of this exhibition comes largely from its interactive and celebratory nature. And surely only a piece of work of this scale could do justice to ‘the godfathers of contemporary Irish architecture’ (Architects Today).

In a separate space a film documents the exhibition's trip to Venice, where it represented Ireland at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition.

The next exhibition is, ‘A Space for Learning’. It is a groundbreaking exhibition showcasing ten winning designs from a competition organized by the Irish Architecture Foundation to revolutionise school design. The end result was created by 1500 students who worked with 120 architects in 90 schools across Ireland.

Displayed are a series of designs for exciting, new ‘educational spaces’, created by the aforementioned transition year students. The results are quite breathtaking and extremely forward thinking. The designs use space innovatively, as does the gallery in setting up the exhibition with flatscreen monitors and video displays of the students ideas.

The final two exhibitions are named ‘Made’ and ‘Sruth’, respectively, carrying on the theme of creating meaning through use of space.

'Made' is the creation of five young architectural firms. Rather than the idea of architecture as image, it is preoccupied with the concept and techniques behind the building.The exhibition is a display of their work in progress.

At first, these seem unfinished. Considering the modus operandi of the group, however, it makes perfect sense. The focus is on the creation of the building, the people and the processes behind the structure.

‘Sruth’ is something entirely different. Coming from the Irish word for ‘stream’ or ‘flow’, this exhibition is in some ways a more traditional architectural display – a solitary structure intended as a toplit classroom.

The references to flowing feel appropriate enough, conjuring up images of children moving from classroom to classroom, but there is also the suggestion of stability, that the piece is rooted in collective memory and experience.

It is perhaps not as immediately accessible as some of the other displays, but ‘Sruth’ certainly invites discussion and proves a very interesting installation.

Each of these exhibitions should be considered a triumph, and credit has to be given to Ormeau Baths itself for having the space and layout to accommodate such a show. In another gallery, a joint exhibition of this scale could feel cluttered and clashing. Instead, OBG gives each display room to breathe, providing a different experience in each room.

Something satisfyingly appropriate for an architecture exhibition.

Of de Blacam and Meagher runs from September 8 – October 29. A Space for Learning runs from September 8 – October 1. Sruth runs from October 8 – 29. Made runs from October 7 – 29 at Ormeau Baths Gallery.