Donegal Entrant at Chelsea Flower Show -May 2016
Pol Gallagher is a native of Ballymacool, Letterkenny. After completing his leaving cert in St Eunan’s College Letterkenny he got accepted into the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow School of Art. There he studied for 5 years before progressing to Sheffield University for a master’s degree (where he now teaches part time). Pol is the son of Cyril and Dolores Gallagher of Ballymacool and brother to Aisling Gallagher. His auntie Teresa Gallagher is no stranger to making waves in London since forming ICAP Mental Health Charity in 1996, awarded London Donegal Association Person of the Year 2014.
Pol won the overall end of year prize at Sheffield University and got invited to join Grimshaw Architects (under Sir Nick Grimshaw) who famously designed and built ‘the Eden Project Cornwall’. After two years here learning intensively on the design and build work of large projects Pol went on to work for a further few years at Hopkins Architects on the Olympic Velodrome track (which was a finalist in the RIBA sterling prize and voted the Architects Journal ‘building of the year 2012’). Whilst working at Hopkins, Pol himself won an open international design competition to design an entrance for Dublin City University (with fellow Letterkenny architectural assistant Donnchadha Gallagher). Pol left Hopkins to start his own architectural practice in London and named it ‘ZAP Architecture’.
Pol’s firm ‘ZAP Architecture’ has grown to employ 5 architects and works from a very quirky office space in the bell-tower of St. Matthews Church Westminster, a stone’s throw from Big Ben and the River Thames. Since starting ZAP, Pol has delivered over 20 built projects from one-off residential houses to nightclubs, sculptures, event installations and artworks. Some of Pol’s clients now include Vogue, Sushi Samba Restaurant, L’Oreal, Lancôme, Greystones Harbour Marina, the RIBA, Soho House group, San Francisco Highways along with numerous high end residential clients.
The ambition to mix art, design and architecture in such a young architecture office (the office has an average age of 29 years of age) makes ZAP architecture a fresh and energetic choice of designers for interesting and ambitious clients. ZAP are now working closely with Diarmuid Gavin (garden designer) and Harrods to produce a special garden for the ‘Chelsea Flower show’ in May 2016. Pol says ‘working with the likes of Diarmuid Gavin is great to see unbridled design in full flow’. ‘The ambition has always been to create interesting and designed pieces for clients. It is an old cliché that working on more interesting and ‘arty’ projects is less lucrative than doing bog standard ‘design and build’ developer-led work, but at ZAP we believe that design integrity will lead to more successful and ambitious clients’ and fundamentally, better work.
Pol doesn’t forget his Irish routes often travelling across the country drawing important old Irish buildings. His style of drawing these using ‘text’ instead of lines allows him to write the history of each building within the familiar silhouette of the building. Pol has recently opened an online store selling his prints of Irish towns. (details are below) ‘I have drawn over 100 Irish buildings thus far’ says Pol who aims to continue drawing in this unique style to cover most Irish towns. ‘I’m extremely proud to be from Donegal and love the opportunities that being in London has offered me, consequentially bringing me home to design one-off houses in rural Ireland or doing Greystones Harbour Marina in Co. Wicklow. There will always be a cross-over in what I do between Ireland and England and I’d love to have the opportunity to design more in Donegal’. I think the interesting cultural differences I see between both countries is that architects take themselves too seriously in the UK. ‘That little bit of conversational charm and 'down-to-earthiness' is as important for a complex build as a set of technical line drawings. I’m watching a lot of Irish Architects really achieve success in the UK recently and long may that continue’. I spend my weekends playing football with a Donegal team over here called 'Londonegal Celtic' which is comprised of mostly Letterkenny guys who have come here for work. It’s a great social scene and we've all been here over 7 years or so. (Harte's, Bannons, Sharkeys, Mannions, to name but a few) so that keeps us grounded and allows us to keep our accent strong'.