Michael Hayes – Making a market square

There is much talk of the town. By-passed (in more ways than one), the Irish town – and many of its international counterparts – finds itself often overlooked. Years of neglect and misuse have taken there toll, with once central public spaces now providing little more than car parking for a dwindling population. The role the small market town previously played in rural communities has changed dramatically and, as a result, an understanding of the issues they face, an engagement with people and places involved, and a vision for what the might hold is more necessary than ever.

That’s where Free Market comes in – the Irish pavilion at the 16th  International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venice, in 2018. Organised by co-curators Miriam Delaney, Jo Anne Butler, Laurence Lord, Tara Kennedy, Orla Murphy, and Jeffrey Bolhuis, Free Market is a multi-strand project including mapping, publishing, and exhibiting analyse and critique of the urban and architectural spaces that are so vital to the social, political, and cultural life of Irish towns.

Following its nationwide tour – which included stops in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan; Macroom, Co. Cork; Mount Mellick, Co. Laois; and Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – the exhibition will make a final appearance at Architecture + Building Expo. This will be a unique opportunity for attendees to experience the insightful, prescient, and growing body of research on the future of market towns in Ireland which the Free Market team have gathering, collated, and presented throughout the course of the project.

Inspired by this idea of the marketplace as a space of meeting and exchange, exhibitors will be available over the course of the expo to showcase the latest products and technologies, and to examine their potential application and impact in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction. With many of these innovations competing in the annual Architects’ Choice Awards, a culture of presentation, communication, and discussion is a key feature of this year’s show.

Visit to sign up to the Architecture + Building Expo newsletter and find additional material on exhibitors, talks, and how to visit.