McGahon Architects – By Design

Based in Dundalk, Co Louth, McGahon Architects is an award-winning, design-led practice with projects in Meath, Louth, Monaghan and the surrounding counties.

Led by Frank McGahon, the practice is committed to delivering high quality design to clients, right from inception to completion. The firm has long been associated with school design; alongside this, Frank and the team have expertise in a wide range of work from small to large in residential, industrial and commercial sectors.

Full architectural services are provided by the RIAI registered practice like sketch design, detailed design, planning applications, fire safety certificates applications, working drawings, specification, site inspections and opinions on compliance. Other services include 3-d visualisations, house and property advice, valuations and surveys. Awards include Louth Local Authorities Design & Conservation Awards 2006 where the practice scooped the ‘Best New House in a Town or Village’ for 16 Hamilton Lane, Blackrock; in the same year, the practice were also commended in the ‘Best New House in a Town or Village’ category for House at The Ferns, Blackrock, again at the Louth Local Authorities Design & Conservation Awards.

Recently completed projects include a residential project on the sea road in Blackrock, Co Louth. According to Frank, “The existing building had no garden and no privacy at all. One of the obvious attributes of the location was the amazing views so our proposed scheme included the demolition of the existing house and a configuration that would place the living areas on the first floor.” With an elevated balcony on the first floor, there’s now a special space for the car. “There’s lots of glass facing the sea but because the living areas are elevated, the clients now enjoy complete privacy.” The practice currently has a significant number of residential projects on its books. “I particularly enjoy house design, it’s exciting to work on a site that has challenging or unique characteristics. As architects, we provide solutions to various issues or problems that clients may not have thought of. For example, we might design a house that has fantastic views to the north. The challenge to us would then be to create a space that gets the sun but still makes the most of the northern views.”

McGahon Architects was established by Frank’s great grandfather at the start of the 20th century. His grandfather is renowned for designing the two Art Deco cinemas in Navan; he also completed several projects around Dundalk and a number of school buildings in the surrounding counties. Carrying on the tradition, Frank’s father took over in the early 70s. “I used to work in the practice when I was in school. With such a long legacy of design in the family, I was always interested in architecture, although it wasn’t something I was pushed into. After studying in UCD, I qualified in 1989 and worked for a while in London and Dublin before coming back to Dundalk and working in the practice.”


The firm’s long tradition in school design continues today with current work including two extensions to schools in Raheny and Greystones and education projects about to commence in Dublin. Recently completed projects include a school in Clondalkin and De La Salle College in Dundalk, where Frank’s son has recently started secondary school. “The Clondalkin school is an interesting project from a colour viewpoint. Traditionally, school design is based on one or possibly two muted colours despite research showing that kids are engaged by colour; the use of interior colour in a child’s learning environment can actually affect learning outcomes. So in order to make the project more visually appealing, we went with a neutral colour on walls and ceilings and a bright pop of colour on all the doors. The kids love it, it has created a different kind of learning and hopefully, a more creative environment.” Without previous experience, school design can be a difficult area for architects to get into. With so many poor quality prefabs being replaced with new builds, there’s certainly a lot of work in school design. It’s true to say that there are specific things you need to be aware of when you’re designing schools; the brief available from the Department of Education contains a full set of criteria that you must comply with.”

Also on site at the moment is another residential project in Blackrock, Co Louth, a suburban site on a housing estate. “I’ve actually designed six houses in this particular estate, so it can almost be used as my portfolio to show potential clients!” The practice is also working on house extensions in Carlingford.

According to Frank, there is work out there for architects. “I’m cautiously optimistic about the future. Over the past couple of years, we’ve thought that things were on the up and we’ve been proved wrong but I think this time, the signs are good.  I think it’s important to stress that for architecture to recover in this country, it’s vital that people retain the services of registered architects who have the relevant qualifications. We’ve done the seven years, we’re properly trained and we have to make sure we maintain and develop our skills all the time. So it only makes sense that in order to deliver good quality, sustainable buildings, people make sure they’re using a registered architect.”