Architect in Profile - Colin D'Alton

Meet Colin D’Alton, the Co-Founder and Director at Gray Design, with 30 years of experience. From the Celtic Tiger era in Dublin to founding his own practice, Colin’s journey is a testament to passion and innovation. Inspired by Frank Gehry, he blends sustainability with creative brilliance.


Colin D'Alton

is the Co-Founder and Director at Gray Design

Please tell us a bit about your career background.

I have been working in various architecture firms over the last 30 years, which includes my own practice for the last 17 years. I worked in Dublin during the Celtic Tiger from 1998 to 2003, where I gained a lot of experience on large commercial projects.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?

Yes, I always enjoyed technical drawing during my education and completed a two-week work experience with an architecture practice, which led me to pursue a career in architecture.

Who has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?

I have always admired Frank Gehry’s work and was lucky enough to attend one of his seminars. The internet is the greatest source of inspiration now, not only for architects but for design in general, as there is such a wealth of inspiration on it.

What has been your most notable project to date?

There is no one project that stands out for me. There are a lot of details on various projects that I have been very proud of, and they are as simple as a modern extension of a listed building to a large office block. Every project has different challenges and, therefore, different solutions.

How do you approach your projects?

Every project is different – if it’s a project for a bespoke dwelling, I get to know the people who will, ultimately, live in the house and try to understand how they enjoy living. What I have learnt is that everybody lives differently, and you, therefore, have to design the dwelling around its users. This also translates into commercial buildings – the key is to design the building around its users.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for designing in sustainability?

One key challenge is the integration of sustainability in the design process.

Most designers and architects still see such tasks as the responsibilities of the environmental consultants rather than part of their design tasks, and the technology is moving so quickly that it is essential that architects continue their CPDs.

What is your favourite building and why?

One of my favourite buildings is the Barcelona Pavilion. For a building to be designed and constructed in the 1920s, it still looks as sharp today against modern designs.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for architects today?

There are many challenges today for architects; one of them would be to convince our clients and developers to carry through with our vision and design and not to fall into the trap of value engineering for a cheaper building, especially as build costs can be so unpredictable.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for architecture students now?

I would say at the minute, it’s probably getting a job; the market is still very volatile, and a lot of firms would be nervous to expand their workforce at a time of uncertainty.

What advice would you give to newly-qualified architects?

The best advice I could give is to get experience. The qualification is one piece of the puzzle, and the next is the experience. If you can’t get paid work, I suggest getting into an office for unpaid experience. I have seen in the past where an architect was on unpaid work experience for the summer, proved themselves to be invaluable and eventually was offered a full-time job at the end of summer.

What can we expect to see from you over the next year?

Hopefully, some more large-scale construction projects that are in the early stages currently.

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