Orla Kelly

Orla Kelly

Practice: michael baigent orla kelly
Established: 1995
City: London
Country: United Kingdom
[email protected]

Orla graduated from University College Dublin (having studied architecture there for three years). She worked at Dewhurst Macfarlane and Price & Myers, before founding mbok with Michael Baigent. Both directors enjoy actively working on projects, and the informal spirit of the office encourages the cross-fertilisation of ideas and experience among all the engineering staff. We also like to work collaboratively with other members of the design team and have a workload ranging from the very conventional to the structurally adventurous. Of particular interest are projects with a high design input, or those involving the use of unusual materials, especially structural glass. Orla manages teams working on medium and smaller projects in the office, and has engineered several RIBA award-winning buildings over her career. She also acts as technical tutor to various architectural institutions; this year to the diploma units in the Royal College of Art.

michael baigent orla kelly

The glulam timber frame during construction
Project hide info

Mounts Bay School - with Phineas Manasseh Architects.

A multi-function building for the school, incorporating a double-height performance space surrounded by ancillary flexible-use spaces on two levels.The building was constructed using large sections of glulam structural timber as beams, columns, walls and balustrades - forming the basic structural frame. The walls and floors were constructed using newspaper-insulated Masonite walls, with a patterned Trespa rain screen externally. Double-height doors extend the performance space to include the large external canopy.

The glulam timber frame during construction
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Do you think our profession is diverse enough? With respect to gender diversity in the structural engineering profession, no. While I have never experienced a gender barrier in my own career, women are definitely under-represented. The fact that in 2009 the Presidents of the Institutions of Structural and of Civil Engineers were women will certainly have raised the profile of women within the profession, but there is still a very traditional, though erroneous, public perception of structural engineering as an essentially male pursuit.
Who are your role models who inspire you? While Ove Arup and Peter Rice were obvious though distant role models for me in my area of the profession, I gained a lot from working closely at different stages of my career with both Tim Macfarlane and Sam Price - two inspiring engineers who taught me to address a design challenge from first principles and who always retain a sense of joy in their working lives.
What do you find most rewarding in your area of work? The most rewarding aspect would have to be the very collaborative nature of the design and construction process, and the fact that an engineer's input is so critical to its success. In fact, the engineering contribution is often the aspect that makes the design 'real' for the first time.