Ruairí O’Brien

CREATIVE thinking needs SPACE to act within.

Ruairí O’Brien – Art Works is the title of this website. The title is made up from a name, my own, the word art and the word works. 

The word „art“ is a word that is both humble and majestic, difficult to define, small and large, constantly changing in its form and never ending in its influence. The word „works“ implies tasks undertaken or projects and works in progress. It also means that art works, full stop. 

In my opinion working can also take on the form of playing. This is a subject that ancient thinkers often touched on, the idea that the highest level of existence can be reached through the act of playing pleases me. In this sense the act of playfulness should influence our everyday tasks as much as possible where possible. 

Each project or work published on this site tells a story. My „art works“ can be seen as being „places“ where I have been. I enjoy the freedom of movement between the arts, I allow, subjects and projects, methods and skills, to influence, inspire and to feed off each other. Is this transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary? Or perhaps it is just how life should be perceived and lived!

Short CV:

Ruairí O’Brien is architect and artist, professor for architecture and visual design at the German University in Cairo and president/co-founder of the Erich Kästner House of Literature.

O’Brien grew up next to where James Joyce’s “Ulysses” begins with its snot green sea.

Following the call, heard by many islanders, of chosen exile, O’Brien studied architecture in London, Edinburgh and New York. In search of the zeitgeist following the German reunification O’Brien visited Dresden in 1991 and decided to set up camp on the banks of the Elbe. Half a lifetime later, O’Brien is still living in the Elbe metropole, although no longer in a tent, needless to say.  

He says: 

“In the Dublin society I grew up in, literature, poetry, newspapers and storytelling accompanied the everyday dealings with each other. Walking through a city where so many writers had lived or that has been included in their stories meant that literature, buildings and urban space fused in my perception of what architecture is or should be, a stage set for human life with all its tragic and comic, a memory bank for coming generations or even a kind of spatial/material poetry.”

O’Brien has executed several interdisciplinary art and heritage projects that fuse literature and architectural thought into a physical expression, such as the interactive mobile micromuseum for Erich Kästner, the Slaughterhouse 5 memorial for Kurt Vonnegut, the temporary exhibition for the Capek Brothers and Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain. 

O’Brien continues to develop his Light poetry genre, which he initiated with the Bardinale international poetry festival, performing Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” at the “Kleines Haus” in Dresden. He also cooperates with other artists; an example would be his light performance accompanying the Spanish poet Juan Carlos Valle and the jazz musician Günter Heinz for the project “Tócame Y Te Recito” at the Deutsches Hygienemuseum Dresden. 

Ruairí O’Brien – Architect, Lighting Designer, Artist

Born in Dublin / Ireland. Studied architecture and light at universities in London, Edinburgh and New York. O’Brien worked for offices in London, New York, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden from 1989 until 1995. 

1995: Founding of “Ruairí O’Brien. Architecture. Light. Spatial Design.” 

2010: Founding of „Ruairí O’Brien Lighting Design”. 

Ruairí O’Brien is an associate professor and head of the Architecture and Visual Design department at the German University in Cairo. He teaches design studios and lighting design.

With his architectural practice, Ruairi O’Brien. Architecture. Light. Spatial Design. (See: and his lighting design studio (See:, O’Brien has executed a large and diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary work which includes urban design projects, market squares, innovative and custom-built street lighting, public and private buildings, hospitals, schools, residential buildings, museums, memorials, exhibitions and interiors. O’Brien recently completed an “architectural design guide” and lighting masterplan for the city area of Lichtenrade in Berlin and is currently working on the new lighting concept for the airport of Dresden in Germany.

O’Brien’s teaching contracts gained him international teaching experience at universities in Germany, Czech Republic, Russia and Syria. During his time as a visiting professor at the University of Wismar in Germany (2001-2005) O’Brien helped initiate the international master’s course in Architectural Lighting Design and was responsible for the programs design studios. O’Brien has given lectures, supervised workshops and organized exhibitions on architecture and lighting design in Japan, the Netherlands, Greece, England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Italy, Latvia and in the USA. 

A major and recurring theme in O’Brien’s work is LIGHT.

To express the “wonder” of light O’Brien has created a series of light sculptures, executed light „poetry“ performances and lighting installations and worked on theatre and dance projects. In 2004 he founded a light poetry festival under the title “Light and Word” in Dresden, Germany. Light Poetry is a genre that O’Brien has invented to describe the area of work he has developed to express Light as an “instrument” or “vehicle” of poetic expression and communication.

His drawings, light sculptures and paintings have been exhibited in London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Chemnitz and Dresden. 

O’Brien’s research interests are an extension of the topics he has developed as a practicing architect and artist with an interdisciplinary approach to art, design and building: Future architecture. Lighting and the built environment. The development of old and new towns. Microarchitecture. The architecture of museums, memory and heritage. Drawing as architectural theory and communication. The effect of digitalization on architecture and society

Membership of Professional associations

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) / Saxony Chamber of Architects (AKS) / Federation of International Lighting Designers-Founding member (FILD) / Society of Light and Lighting (SLL) / Deutsche Lichttechnische Gesellschaft – German Society for Lighting Technology (LiTG).

Honorary societies

Baukultur e.V. (Federal Foundation for Building Culture in Germany)

 Honorary Director of the micromuseum for Erich Kaestner and the House for contemporary literature in Dresden. 

President “Betonzeitschiene” e.V. (City heritage project and micromuseum for the Prefabricated concrete housing industry).

Architecture and Urban planning  (selection):

Lighting masterplan – Lichtenrade, Berlin – 2018 Architecture/ Urban design handbook – Lichtenrade, Berlin – 2017

Market Square Freiberg – Lighting masts, fountains, seating and town hall illumination. – 2009

Affordable housing – House EVOLUCIO Dresden – 2007

Hologram facade/ City tourist and exhibtion centre, Jena – 2006

Betonzeitschiene – micromuseum for concrete housing and the destruction and rebirth of the city of Dresden – 2004

Zeithain, Prisoners of war memorial and micromuseum – 2003

Erich Kaestner Museum – micromuseum – Dresden – 1989


2016 – Lighting Installation, in the Chapel of the North Cemetry, Dresden, Germany

2016 – Light Poetry Performance with

 Spanish Poet Juan Carlos Valle, Componist and musician Günter Heinz,

Speaker Vanessa Valle, Improvisation music festival, Hygiene Museum Dresden, Germany

2015 – Lighting Installation, in the Garrisons church for the ORNÖ art festival, Dresden, Germany

2012 – „Slaughterhouse 5, a lighting story telling mural“ installed in the authentic basement where the

writer Kurt Vonnegut experienced the destruction of Dresden, Germany

2012 – „Light-masterplan Poetika II“, Urban Light Poetry Walk, Luminale in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

2012 – „Light-masterplan Poetika I“, Urban Light Poetry Walk, Luminale in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

2009 – Leipzig Festival of Lights, Light sculpture „89“, 20 years „Friedlichen Revolution“, (Peaceful Revolution), Leipzig, Germany

2009 – „Arcades Project“ Light poetry Performance as homage to the writer Walter Benjamin and his work

„The Arcades Projekt“ for „Bardinale Flows“ with the componist and musician Günter Heinz and Video- und Media artist

Konstantinos Antonios Goutos, Culture Center „Blauen Fabrik“, Dresden, Germany

2009 – „8 windows 9 doors“ – Light sculpture, 20 years „Friedlichen Revolution“ (Peaceful Revolution) in the Memorial „Bautzner Strasse“, Dresden, Germany.

2008 – „microlightsculpture 09 – „Fire“ – Light sculpture dedicated to the poet Elke Erb for „Bardinale flows“ in Dresden, Germany

2008 – „Himmelsfenster“ – „Window to the sky“ Light sculpture dedicated to the artist Lucas Cranach in Kronach, Bayern, Germany

2006 – „DAY + NIGHT“ Light Poetry Performance on city wasteland as homage to the Irish writer Samuel Beckett for the International Poetry festival Bardinale mit Light and Word, Dresden, Germany

2005 – „Städte am Meer“, „Cities on Water“ Light Poetry Performance for the International Poetry festival Bardinale, Staatsschauspiel/ kleines Haus Dresden with Ronald Lippok (sound) and Thomas Kunst (Text), Dresden, Germany

2005 – „Eating the Light“ – Light sculpture in the „Lingner Castle“ in Dresden, Germany

2004 – Founder and curator of the international light poetry festival „Light and Word“ as part of the International poetry festival „Bardinale“ in Dresden, Germany

2004 – „Eis + Finsternis“, „Ice and Darkness“, Light poetry performace and theater production dedicated to the writer Christoph Ransmayr, „Bardinale with Light an Word“, Culture center „Scheune“ Dresden, Germany

2003 – „Unsichtbare Städte“ „Invisible Cities“, Light Poetry Performance as homage to the work of Italo Calvino, street performance on the Augustus Bridge and in the Culture centre Scheune, Bardinale, Dresden, Germany

2002 – Urban Land Art Project „Betonzeitschiene“, Concrete Time Lines“, Architecture installation on city wasteland, Participation project, Johannstadt, Dresden, Germany

2002 – „microlightsculpture 02“ – Light sculpture dedicated to the Danisch Poet Inger Christensen, Dresden, Germany

2002 – The „GiftGarden“ – Interactive „Gesellschaftskunstwerk“ Participation art work and installation dedicated to „nature, humankind and the anthropocene“

2002 – „microlightsculpture 01“ – Lichtskulptur zum Schweriner Kultursommer, Schwerin/ Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

2000 – „Baustelle Deutschland“, „Building site Germany“ interactive participation art work and installation, now part of the permanent exhibition and collection in the „Zeitgeschichtlichen Forum Leipzig“, Forum of Contemporary History, Leipzig, Germany

1998 – „Interactive Rooms 3+4“ – Architecture-Theater-Dance-Projekt in „Projekttheater“ Dresden, Germany

EXHIBITIONS: Paintings and Drawings

2019 – Cairo Triptych – Ruairi O’Brien „Pockets of Darkness“ – Oil paintings Group exhibition with Peter Blodau „Layers of Light“ – Drawings and Christian Dootz „Sounds of Color“ – Photography – Arcade Gallery Maadi – Cairo

2016/ 2017 – „SommerSchau“: Concept, curation and participation in the series of art and photography exhibtions under the title „Summer Show“ in the „House of Architects“, Dresden, Germany

2016 – Winterschau“ – Zwei Handschriften, verwickelt“, paintings and drawings, Ruairí O’Brien & Niels-Christian Fritsche, „House of Architects“, Dresden, Germany

2015 – Licht / Light, Works on paper, Objekts and Light art, Galerie Oben, Chemnitz, Germany

2015 – Light and Darkness, Works on Paper, Objekts and Light art for the International poetry festival Bardinale „Africa“, Literature House Dresden, Germany

2015 – „SommerSchau“, „Summer Show“ in the House of architects, Dresden.

2015 – Duality, Light Sculpture for the exhibition „28 Tage Dunkel“ in the Gallery „Tapetenwerk“ Leipzig, Germany

2012/ 2012/ 2013/ 2014, „SommerSchau“, „Summer Show“ in the House of architects, Dresden, Germany

2007 – microTESTATMENT, interdisciplinary exhibition, Drawings, Paintings, Light art, architecture, Gallery and Culture center Blaue Fabrik, Dresden, Germany

2003 – Light and Space II, Paintings – Spatial Workshop, City Library, Dresden, Germany

1999 – Light and Space I, Paintings – Spatial Workshop, Townhall and City Cultural Centre, Dresden, Germany

1997 – The sweetness of foreign, Painting, Kunsthalle Dresden, Germany

1997 – The sweetness of foreign, Painting, Literaturwerkstatt Berlin, Germany

1987 – 3 Pencil and ink drawings, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, London, England

Awards and Prizes:

First Prize:  MDR Bridge – City of Leipzig – Architectural Lighting design concept for a pedestrian and bycyle bridge in Leipzig 2015

Second prize: „Urban Art“ Lighting installation „Gladbacher      Tor“, for the town of Viersen 2012

Special recognition: Seasonal/Winter Urban Lighting concept for the inner city area, Leipzig 2011

Second Prize: Urban Art and Communication Concept for the „Revolution way“. A route that dipicated the key locations of the peaceful revolution in Dresden. 2011

First Prize: International Urban and architectural Competition for the “Meetingpoint Music Messiaen”.Görlitz / Zgorzelec Germany – Poland 2009

Special recognition prize “architektour 2009” Chamber of architects in Thuring for the „Stadtspeicher“ project and the Hologrammfassade, Markt 16 in Jena. 2009

First prize: City planning and lighting concept for the  Market Square of the City of Freiberg, Saxony. Work executed included the development of 6 new lighting masts that could light the entire market square (140m x 70 m) in an evenly glare free light. The lighting masts also light the market square with coloured light reflections during the day. The sun interacts with glass elements intergrated in the upper part of the masts. In this way the lighting masts have a dual purpose. 1. Not only do they  light the space at night and fullfill all technical functions requirecd but   2. They also provide the town dweller, the tourist and the child with an artistic „sun clock“ lighting effect during the day. The lighting of the town hall, the historic fountain and the creatio of two new play fountains with urban seating were also part of the project.  2009

First prize: Revitalisation and architectural renovation of the „Markt 16“ a hertitage protected building dating from the middel ages situated on the market square in Jena.The „High-Tech“ holographic glass facade is a 16 m high „Light sculpture“ that interacts with the natural sun and the movemnet of time. 2006

First prize: “Growth 01” Exhibition architecture / Lighting installtion for the  Fürst-Pückler-Park and castle. Bad Muskau 2005

First prize: Architecture, Exhibition architecture and Lighting installation; for the war memorial and exhibition in Zeithain – Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain –  Stiftung      Sächsische Gedenkstätten 2002

Financial support from the City „Art Commission“ in  Dresden for the  Urban wasteland revitalisation project „open air museum project  Betonzeitschiene®“ and the Lighting installation  “schwarzrotgold01” as part of thethe  Dresden „Art in public space“ program, Dresden 2004

Exhibition architecture prize 2002: for the concept and execution of the Erich Kästner micromuseum®. in Dresden, Kulturstiftung HBS