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Westport architect nominated for prestigious award


Oisín McGovern

A Westport native has seen off competition from over 150 entrants to be nominated for the Public Choice Award category of the Royal Architects Association of Ireland Irish Architecture Awards 2020.
Michael Horan of Axo Architects, who was nominated for a Kylemore Abbey project, is one of only 30 nominees in the country, only two of which are in Connacht.
The project, which was completed last year, saw his company carry out works on a disused part of the historic abbey in order to enhance the visitor experience.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Michael said: “Any time you’re recognised by your peers it’s always a lovely gesture, so it was great to get the nomination.”
Kylemore Abbey was originally built by British MP Mitchell Henry in the late 1800s before being bought by Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium after World War I.
“People love old buildings, and there’s a lot of history attached to Kylemore Abbey,” Michael said. “We were asking, ‘How can we tell that story to visitors and give them a better understanding of the history of the building?’.
“We gutted five or six old rooms that had been destroyed by fire in the 1950s. Working with an interpretive design company from Edinburgh called Bright, we installed interactive displays and information boards which tell the story of the abbey.”
The interactive element of the newly designed rooms features portraits of historical figures who speak to each other when you approach them.
The abbey, which has been owned by the Benedictine Nuns since 1920, attracts 500,000 visitors in a typical year. Michael says that this made work on the project difficult at times.
“We were working right in the middle of the estate while visitors were around, so that made it difficult to get lorries and machinery in and out of the facility. But we’re very happy with it.”
Axo Architects are currently working on similar projects across Ireland, including The Céide Fields visitor centre as well as sites on Inis Mór and the Blasket Islands.

To vote for the project to win the ‘2020 RIAI Public Choice Award’ simply visit the Public Choice Award section of the Royal Architects Association of Ireland website,, and vote for ‘Kylemore Abbey Interpretation Project’.