Upfront: Architect Dermot Bannon Talks Ergonomic Spaces, Ocean Swimming, and the Tyranny of Instagram

Dermot Bannon (49) is an architect and television presenter. He lives in Drumcondra with his wife Louise and their children – Sarah (17), James (13) and Tom (9).

How were you a little boy?

I was a nerdy messer. I was talkative at school and it was sometimes misinterpreted. I wasn’t a troublemaker, but my mouth got me in trouble because I talked all the time.

What activities did you do?

I’ve played with Lego a lot and even competed with it at Arnotts. I lived next to Malahide Castle and cycled everywhere. I spent most of my youth riding what I thought was a BMX bike, but it turned out not to be a BMX at all. And I loved swimming in the sea. I always swim.

Tell us about your swimming at sea.

You have to do something for yourself. I go there once a week. The other day I was in it for 15 minutes. It was cold. The only reason I stayed so long was because two guys got in before me and I didn’t want to get out before them. My hands had gone numb but that was my stupid pride. I hadn’t realized how proud I was.

Were you a reader as a child?

Yes, I loved the Hardy Boys books, and I would have loved Harry Potter if it existed because I read all of those as an adult. They are good.

You will be 50 this year. Big projects?

The whole country has opened up and I feel like I should have a plan. I would like to have an old-fashioned disco: go to a pub and hire the floor with a DJ and pints.

How do you feel about getting old?

I’m on the cusp of that age where you still feel young enough to do most things. You’re not at that stage where you can start using your age as an excuse.

Choose three words to describe yourself

Spread out, fun (I hope) and honest – I’m known for that on TV. I don’t beat around the bush.

Why are you an architect?

Most people think architects are obsessed with buildings, but I’ve always been obsessed with people and how they use things. My greatest love is shaping spaces for people and watching them interact within them. When we went to see my grandmother in Wexford, I was obsessed with this space outside the church, at the door posts where people gathered after mass.

What motivates you ?

It changes all the time. It could be starting a business or trying to build a career in television. Once it went to nightclubs. But for now it’s design. I want to be a better architect. I like to learn design. I feel like an eternal student.

As a youth, you lived in Cairo – and noticed similarities to the way of life in that Egyptian city and Ireland during the pandemic. How? ‘Or’ What?

We went there when I was seven and stayed there for two years. Life was on the streets. People were doing everything in the street. But that hadn’t happened in Ireland yet because there was no pandemic. Yes, they had time, but most of the time they were trying to shelter from the heat. It comes down to how people use spaces.

When it comes to design, what does your pet hate and love?

I hate people who try too hard with their home and obsess over style, getting it ready for Instagram. I like the light, a beautiful view. It doesn’t have to be a big sight. And I like natural materials, like stone and wood.

Tell us about an episode of “Room to Improve” that had the most impact on you.

There was a family with three children including an autistic son. I did a bit of traveling to learn about life with autism. I worked on it for three years and visited the boy’s school to see what worked for him. I had to find out what regulated it, so the house became a tool to help it. We put in a multi-sensory room, individual living spaces including a space for the mother where she could also keep an eye on her son.

Has parenthood changed you?

Yes, it changes everyone. It’s just being responsible. At first it was sleepless nights – but now I’m worried. You really shape these humans and that’s a big responsibility. It takes a while for the penny to drop. It’s only when they repeat things to you that you think, “Oh my God, did I say that?”

‘Room to Improve’ is on RTÉ One on Sundays at 9.30pm, and is also available on the RTÉ Player

About Byron G. Fazio

Check Also

Hearst Castle reopens with a new tour focusing on its architect, Julia Morgan

Since May 11, coaches packed with tourists once again make the dizzying ascent to La …