January is always filled with predictions for the new year. What we’ll wear, what we’ll be listening to and which new bright young thing will be on our radars for the next 12 months. One such bright young thing is Dublin based architect and all-around cool girl Rae Moore, whose work you may recognise from that epic weekend you had at Body and Soul last year, or the jumper you coveted at your last March for Choice. We know, not settings in which you would expect an architect’s work to crop up. But part of the reason that Rae has become such a fixture is that she’s doing something different; bridging the gap between architecture and culture – one brick at a time.
I’d imagined that someone like Rae would need a creative, architecturally pleasing space to work in and that was exactly what I found when I met her in the Tara Building. The unmissable multi-coloured box on Tara Street cites itself as ‘a space for creative energy to be translated into impactful, exciting work’. With its clean white lines, rooftop graffiti and geometric wood-panelling, it’s hard to imagine anyone struggling with a creative block here. “I’m actually here on a scholarship,” Rae says. “I applied for their Creative Incubation scheme, so I’m getting to work here rent-free for a few months. It’s been amazing, as I used to work from home so getting a change of scenery is just great.”
Home was where Rae fostered her first inspirations to go into architecture, especially from a young age: “I was always fascinated with building and constructing things. I was obsessed with Lego, and even things like paper - I was always making things out of it.”
Years of education and experience followed in Dublin, Switzerland and London, which all contributed to Rae's vision as an architect. And where does she find her inspiration now? “It’s such a cliché answer, but I really think you can find inspiration anywhere, it’s just about how you look at things. How something is put together, the way it supports itself, it all can give you an idea that will spark something off later on”.
Rae has been back in Dublin since 2015 and her career has taken off. Projects at Body and Soul and panel discussions at Electric Picnic led to her being named as an Irish Times Magazine’s ‘One to Watch’ for 2018. But one role that people may not know her as is a Design Tutor at UCD. “It’s funny, because when I was applying for colleges, I didn’t get into UCD because I didn’t get the points” she laughed. How does she approach dealing with students now? “I just always try to encourage them to be themselves. It’s such a crazy time in their lives, you don’t know what you want at that age or how to act, and I just think it’s important they know that the more you are yourself, the stronger and better you’ll be”.
Architecture and Advocacy
Which brings us to another big thing that makes Rae stand out – her advocacy for equality. She was also featured in GCN Magazine's ‘Queer Ones to Watch’ list for 2018. Is her sexuality a big factor in how she works? “I don’t really bring it up in a professional setting, but I wanted the students to be aware of it. Just because it’s part of my identity and if it helps them to see that their identity is so important to put out there, then that’s great”.
Did she find herself advocating for the marriage equality referendum? “I was actually still in London at the time, and when I came home to vote, I had missed out on campaigning. When I moved back home, I still had a lot of pent-up energy to put towards a cause that I felt strongly about.”
So Rae turned to the Repeal movement, with a more creative contribution than most. Hands up who’s seen the brilliant ‘Uterus Prime’ jumpers, which mutate the iconic Transformer Optimus Prime into a powerful statement about female strength, floating around? Rae designed the image.
“As someone who’s not particularly great with articulating how I feel through words, the fact that I could design and make something to contribute to a cause that’s really personal to me felt amazing. And to use something like the Uterus Prime is just a great image; to approach it with humour and with a cool vibe, while still showing that we’re strong and really determined that this fight will be carried through to the end, was great for me to work on.”
Design Meets Style
It was interesting that Rae became involved in a cause through fashion. She's undeniably creative and has a design-driven mind, but did this translate to her personal style?
She laughs. “I’m really not a fashion person. I have a style that I’ve stuck to since I was a teenager that I’ve never really strayed away from.” She might say that she's not into clothes, but her approach to curating her style was really evident when we first met. “I actually make it a point to not wear anything with labels. Like, even this shirt I have on now had a small label on the pocket and I ripped it off before I wore it. I just feel like, if I’m going to have something emblazoned across my chest, it should be something that I relate to or that I want to represent me. Like with Uterus Prime, that was a label that told others something about me, because it was a personal belief of mine. But if I just have Nike across my chest…. Well, what does Nike mean? It doesn’t say anything about me and what my values are.”
Even more interesting then, that Rae has an upcoming collaboration with a well-known fashion designer in the works. It’s all well under wraps until its launch next month, but how did Rae become involved?
“They approached me about it. They’re trying to curate people to model their stuff that are really pushing the boundaries of what they’re working on, which I hope is what I’m doing. That’s part of the reason why I think I was chosen for these ‘One to Watch’ lists. I’m really trying to do something different and I think people can see that and relate to it. I want to work on things that resonate with people and that make me happy in the long run.”
So what's next?
"I'm working on a really heartbreakingly beautiful project at the moment, in the UK. We're building a walkway through a beautiful woodland adjacent to a care home for severely disabled people who have sustained life-changing injuries. The walkway will allow visitors to take residents out safely into woods and into nature, out of the building where they spend most of their time. The project was started by a group of friends, for their pal who received a severe head injury in a cycling accident and is now totally paralysed and relatively unable to communicate.He's a very outdoorsy chap, so his mates, who are crowdfunding the project, want to make sure that aspect of his life is still accessible and enjoyable."
And what would be the dream project?
“Not so much a dream as a necessity, but I’d love to work on a housing project in Dublin. The way the Council builds houses now if they do it at all, is just not at a good enough standard and I’d love to change that."
Photo by Alex Foster