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Ruairi O’Brien. Architecture. Light. Spatial Design.
is a design studio reknowned for their innovative high quality individual solutions in architecture, lighting and spatial design. The office takes pride in guiding complex interdiscipliary projects from the first idea through to full on site supervision. Ruairí O’Brien’s philosophy and personal hands on approach to architecture and the design process guarantees the client and the user a unique building, object or space of the highest quality.

Ruairí O’Brien is architect and artist, professor for architecture and visual design at the German University in Cairo and president/co-founder of the Erich Kästner House of Literature.

O’Brien grew up next to where James Joyce’s “Ulysses” begins with its snot green sea.

Following the call, heard by many islanders, of chosen exile, O’Brien studied architecture in London, Edinburgh and New York. In search of the zeitgeist following the German reunification O’Brien visited Dresden in 1991 and decided to set up camp on the banks of the Elbe. Half a lifetime later, O’Brien is still living in the Elbe metropole, although no longer in a tent, needless to say.

He says:

In the Dublin society I grew up in, literature, poetry, newspapers and storytelling accompanied the everyday dealings with each other. Walking through a city where so many writers had lived or that has been included in their stories meant that literature, buildings and urban space fused in my perception of what architecture is or should be, a stage set for human life with all its tragic and comic, a memory bank for coming generations or even a kind of spatial/material poetry.

O’Brien has executed several interdisciplinary art and heritage projects that fuse literature and architectural thought into a physical expression, such as the interactive mobile micromuseum for Erich Kästner, the Slaughterhouse 5 memorial for Kurt Vonnegut, the temporary exhibition for the Capek Brothers and Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain.

O’Brien continues to develop his Light poetry genre, which he initiated with the Bardinale international poetry festival, performing Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” at the “Kleines Haus” in Dresden. He also cooperates with other artists; an example would be his light performance accompanying the Spanish poet Juan Carlos Valle and the jazz musician Günter Heinz for the project “Tócame Y Te Recito” at the Deutsches Hygienemuseum Dresden. 

Ruairí O’Brien – Architect, Lighting Designer, Artist

Born in Dublin / Ireland. Studied architecture and light at universities in London, Edinburgh and New York. O’Brien worked for offices in London, New York, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden from 1989 until 1995.

1995: Founding of “Ruairí O’Brien. Architecture. Light. Spatial Design.”

2010: Founding of “Ruairí O’Brien Lighting Design”.

Ruairí O’Brien is an associate professor and head of the Architecture and Visual Design department at the German University in Cairo. He teaches design studios, theory of architecture and lighting design and is head of the Visual design department.

With his architectural practice, Ruairi O’Brien. Architecture. Light. Spatial Design. (See: www.ruairiobrien-international.com) and his lighting design studio (See: www.ruairiobrien-lightingdesign.com), O’Brien has executed a large and diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary work which includes urban design projects, market squares, innovative and custom-built street lighting, public and private buildings, hospitals, schools, residential buildings, museums, memorials, exhibitions and interiors. O’Brien recently completed an “architectural design guide” and lighting masterplan for the city area of Lichtenrade in Berlin and is currently working on the new lighting concept for the airport of Dresden in Germany.

O’Brien’s teaching contracts gained him international teaching experience at universities in Germany, Czech Republic, Russia and Syria. During his time as a visiting professor at the University of Wismar in Germany (2001-2005) O’Brien helped initiate the international master’s course in Architectural Lighting Design and was responsible for the programs design studios. O’Brien has given lectures, supervised workshops and organized exhibitions on architecture and lighting design in Japan, the Netherlands, Greece, England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Italy, Latvia and in the USA.

A major and recurring theme in O’Brien’s work is LIGHT.

To express the “wonder” of light O’Brien has created a series of light sculptures, executed light „poetry“ performances and lighting installations and worked on theatre and dance projects. In 2004 he founded a light poetry festival under the title “Light and Word” in Dresden, Germany. Light Poetry is a genre that O’Brien has invented to describe the area of work he has developed to express Light as an “instrument” or “vehicle” of poetic expression and communication.

His drawings, light sculptures and paintings have been exhibited in London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Chemnitz and Dresden.

O’Brien’s research interests are an extension of the topics he has developed as a practicing architect and artist with an interdisciplinary approach to art, design and building: Future architecture. Lighting and the built environment. The development of old and new towns. Microarchitecture, the architecture of museums, memory and heritage. Drawing as architectural theory and communication. The art of making architecture. The effect of digitalization on architecture and society

Membership of Professional associations

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) / Saxony Chamber of Architects (AKS) / Federation of International Lighting Designers-Founding member (FILD) / Society of Light and Lighting (SLL) / Deutsche Lichttechnische Gesellschaft – German Society for Lighting Technology (LiTG).

Honorary societies

  • Baukultur e.V. (Federal Foundation for Building Culture in Germany)
  • Honorary Director of the micromuseum for Erich Kaestner and the House for contemporary literature in Dresden.
  • President “Betonzeitschiene” e.V. (City heritage project and micromuseum for the Prefabricated concrete housing industry).