John Tuomey
Architecture and writing

12.02.24. internet

There have been over 100 episodes of Material Matters but, for listeners who might be new to all this, the idea is that I speak to a designer, maker, artist, or architect about a material or technique with which they’re intrinsically linked and discover how it changed their lives and careers.

However, once in a while I break my own self-imposed format and interview someone I’ve always wanted to meet. This is one of those episodes.

Architect John Tuomey is the co-founder of multi-award winning practice O’Donnell + Tuomey, with his wife Sheila O’Donnell. The firm has designed the Glucksman Gallery Cork, the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the upcoming V&A East Museum, while in 2015, John and Sheila were awarded the prestigious RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

Towards the end of 2023, he published First Quarter, a gorgeous, lyrical memoir that tells the story of his formative years – from childhood in rural Ireland through to becoming a fully-fledged architect in London and Dublin.

In this episode we talk about: writing First Quarter during lockdown; how an email from his sister started the process; his peripatetic childhood; growing up in rural Ireland; the storytelling aspect of architecture; the brutality of his school years; a pivotal relationship with his father; the up-ending of Ireland’s clergy; being an extrovert introvert; moving to Dublin and London; meeting Sheila at university; working for James Stirling; and the possibilities of a derelict site…

Find out more about O’Donnell + Tuomey

The Lyric Belfast. Photos: Dennis Gilbert