Roisin McCann

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We had the pleasure of catching up with Roisin McCann who recently has started their own architectural practice and what that journey has been like.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to set up your business?

Hi! I’m Roisin McCann; a registered architect, mum of 3 girls, and I have recently started my own architectural practice, along with my brother Martin.

Prior to starting out on my own, I was a design director in an architects practice, managing +20 people, working on hotels, one-off houses, housing developments & commercial buildings.  

Setting up in my own business was almost a natural progression.  Being raised in a family with entrepreneurial parents, and consequently, siblings, my brother (an architectural designer) and I began to ponder our future…a couple of years later, and here we are!

What/who influences/motivates you?

On a personal level, my mum is the person who tells me I can do anything, has my back, believes in me, is my sounding board; pushes me forward with encouragement, and tells me if I step out of line!

From a professional, creative side, the need to be creative, to design beautiful things makes me switch on my computer in the mornings.  I absorb ideas from everywhere – social media constantly bombards me with ideas, details, colours, materials; I could get lost for hours on Pinterest just looking at staircases!

However, it is the site, and more importantly, our clients who drive me.  The clients who know what they want, but have an open mind; the ones that fully engage in the design process; the ones that want to push boundaries, are what motivates me to hone, develop and rationalise my designs.

What has been your biggest hurdle and your proudest moment or accomplishment with your business?

In some ways, our biggest hurdle is also our greatest strength.  My brother and I have come to this point from very different pathways: me, from the design, planning and management side; Martin, from the technical, detailed side.  I am the big picture person, in personal and professional life; with Martin, it’s all about the detail. This has, in the past, caused some sibling tension! However, realising this, acknowledging this, and getting a business consultant in for a short period of time, has allowed us to understand each other better, and use this to our advantage! It gives our buildings the edge – because we look for different things, clients get the whole package!

Our biggest accomplishment has been Martins House winning ‘Energy Efficient House of the Year UK’.  His entire fuel costs for the year are approx. £600 – and he makes £800 from the renewable energies in his house – so he actually makes money from his house! Martin is a certified Passive House designer: in an era where energy efficiency and running costs are paramount, this gives us an important advantage over our competitors.

Who is your design hero?

Roisin Heneghan (Heneghan Peng Architects), an Irish architect, is brilliant!  Her buildings are 'from' the site; related to the site & inspired by the site. She is an internationally acclaimed architect, winning many awards and competitions, which shows that somebody local can achieve!

As recent Grand Design episodes, and RIBA awards, have shown, we in Northern Ireland are leading the way in design.  There are many practices locally that have shown that design is a serious matter; brought design to the fore; shown that ‘building a house’ is not the same as ‘designing your home’, and shown clients that, they too, can have a beautiful contemporary home.  We have seen a change in mind-set; whereby more people believe that a contemporary house is desirable. These local architects have paved the way for fantastic architecture; making good architecture achievable to the population as a whole.

What are your future ambitions for your business?

We are a relatively new design-led practice with vast experience pre-Marshall McCann Architects, working on many awarding projects. As a young practice, we are hungry and have capacity; we are friendly, happy go lucky and enjoy our work.  At this stage, we are building a business rather than our bank balance; we will have time for that in the future. We had been concentrating on one-off private houses and are at the stage now where we have started to take on some small development work. We want to grow and develop our practice with quality clients; to concentrate on quality over quantity.

We aspire to designing fabulous buildings, for design-conscious clients.  We aim to design and build our own award-winning studio, showcasing what we can do - blending contemporary design, energy efficient values, and elegant materials in innovative ways.

Could you give some advice for any young, emerging design entrepreneurs?

Being an entrepreneur is different from ‘just’ designing.  People will not ‘find’ your designs and products. You need to get out there and talk to people, ask them to buy from you, and ultimately sell your business.  Be specific, though. 'Decide' what type of work you want to do, who you want your clients to be...and pave your own path, in the direction you want to go!