Type to search

30UNDER30’s Eilish Barry on her commitment to sustainability and the social value of architecture

30UNDER30’s Eilish Barry on her commitment to sustainability and the social value of architecture


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently revealed the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

Eilish Barry, a project leader at Hayball, found her passion for architecture through a pivotal conversation with a family friend who emphasised the profound impact architects have on shaping the built environment. This inspiration has guided her professional journey, predominantly focused on social infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing communities. Eilish’s work showcases a commitment to designing for both social and environmental wellbeing, incorporating considerations such as local materials, communal spaces and support for local labour opportunities. Through these endeavours, she has witnessed the tangible value of good design for communities.

ADR: How did your love for architecture originate?

EB: My love for architecture originated in childhood. A family friend, who was an architect,  explained the significant impact that architects have on shaping the built environment around us. Good or bad design impacts the quality of life for those who inhabit the places that architects create. This pivotal conversation, when I was about four years old, left me captivated by architecture and design ever since.

ADR: Do you have a preference for a particular style of architecture?

EB: My approach to each project is very different, as my designs are heavily influenced by the context – by the people, the site and the needs of a particular place. So, my designs can look very different depending on the local environmental and social needs. I hope in the future that none of my designs look the same.

ADR: If you could work with any architect, designer, artist or other creative – living or dead – who would you work with and why?

EB: I’d love to work with Irish architects, [Sheila] O’Donnell and [John] Tuomey. I studied for my undergraduate degree in Northern Ireland, so they were my go-to precedents. They work in a craft-based approach, through models, sketches and paintings. I took huge inspiration from them at university, using watercolours as sketches or as hand renders of my designs. I am inspired by their commitment to understanding the vernacular. Each project reflects a sense of place through the craft of beautiful buildings, detailing and local materiality. 

ADR: What does sustainability mean for you?

EB: For me, sustainability sits under the umbrella of social value. Social value, in the context of the built environment, is created when buildings, places and infrastructure support environmental, economic and social wellbeing. Sustainability is all about improving the quality of life of people. I am a passionate advocate for every project I’m involved in [by] supporting and enhancing social sustainability, alongside [the] environment. 

ADR: Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far?

EB: I’m incredibly proud of working on a recent research project at Hayball. I pioneered an Australian-first initiative to measure the social value of design. I developed a framework and methodology that could benchmark social outcomes against design features for architects. I partnered with the Australian Social Value Bank to undertake a pilot study to test this framework on a recently completed project. The findings of this project have been shared broadly across the industry and I am so excited to see where it will take me this year. 

ADR: How did it feel to make it into Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30

EB: To be honest, I was really surprised! I had heard of the work of many of the other candidates and was in awe of what they had all achieved before 30. I feel privileged to be named alongside them this year. I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet with my peers across the industry to genuinely connect, learn from each other and create community.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR INC, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership. To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.

Discover the research project Barry mentioned

Learn more about the research metrics and measurable impact of the project


You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *