Mayo’s Spirit of Place Project

Spirit of Place Installation Benwee Head, North Mayo
Author's Collection

Professor Travis Price’s Legacy

Founded during 1993 by American Architect & Educator Travis Price FAIA the Spirit of Place -Spirit of Design exploration Program has become a major environmental or cultural force.  The Mission to preserve Cultural wisdom in Architecture is paramount.  For over twenty years Spirit of Place have been invited by host countries project patrons to create a ‘legacy marker’ that would revitalize an unique aspect of historic celebrations of an area.  That programme has resulted in a series of twenty – two award – winning, projects built by students of the Catholic University of America in Washington D. C. under the guidance of Professor Travis Price.  All projects lead students into an immersion of the mythology, history, culture plus ecology of places as they reflect an evocative space whilst celebrating the unique cultural spirit of a specific site. [i]

Travis Price’s project of place – design-built expeditions constructed a myriad of cultural legacy marker throughout the world in an astonishing nine days.  Areas of construction were undertaken in British Columbia, a floating house on the Amazon in Peru, a star -gazing temple on Machu Pichu.  A snake – shrine in Napal, a modern temple on Pantelleria Island in Italy, a shamanic haven of the Finnish Kavala epic even pre – Celtic sacred retreats in western Ireland. [ii]

Mayo’s Installations

The Spirit of Place – Spirit of Design (founded in 1993) is an international design – built education programme with a cultural exchange curriculum at the Catholic University of America in Washington D. C. with a brief in response to the poetic specific of the Culture, Mythology also the Ecology of place.  These otherworldly art projects celebrate Irish stories with mythological understanding in a modern idiom.  They have featured in the Washington Post, New York Times also the National Geographic. [iii]

‘The Thin Places’ installed during 2002 at Annagh Head, plus Doonamoe, North Mayo were two projects worked together as the ‘thin places’ in which ‘time past is part of time future, & time future is time past, & time now is encompassing all.’  The construction at Doonamoe encompasses an enormous blow – hole where the sea shoots up to one hundred & twenty feet. [iv]  ‘The Thin Places’ were inspired by early monastic beehives.  The project is ‘a refuge on one hand but also a vista that celebrates the peninsula’s eating of the sea!’  One may sit in meditation in this landscape which is interrupted by the rusted steel frames looking out to the sea. [v]

The ‘Vault of Heaven’ 2004 at Scott’s Port, Belmullet is a shrine Processional dedicated to the children of Erris. [vi]  The structure was designed along a series of lines with stainless steel pipes, which were positioned to exaggerate ‘time’s long past & forever future’ with a small stacked stone temple to sit or reflect that provides  ‘a powerful moment of timeless memory.’ [vii]  ‘The Vault of Heaven’ is a processional walk along boulders that brings one to a wall of stone with steel rods at 30 feet long, 12 feet in height.  At one end of the wall are large loosely fitted boulders that enable viewing spaces while the other end is a solid construction. [viii]

During 2005 ‘The Children of Lir’ at Ceathrú Thaidhg represents a tale of nine hundred years told in sculptured land.  It was produced to give voice to the Children of Lir in literal architectural form.  The installation relied upon sound or song that were both artificially created with the design of steel chimes in tune with the natural based sound between the sea surf with the wind. [ix]  One key feature of a loop – walk in North Mayo is the Children of Lir Loop – Walk sculpture.  It is one of a series from the Spirt of Place Sculpture Trail that centres on culturally distinct, historic, also isolated areas of the world. [x]  The Children of Lir sculpture has significance to an area from which thousands of people have emigrated to all parts of the world whilst they brought with them a strong spirit of place as many never returned. [xi]  This link has many images of The Children of Lir loop – walk in Belmullet:

‘The Temple of the Tides’ was constructed during 2007 at Belmullet Harbour was designed along a series of lines that used steel pipes positioned as to exaggerate ‘time’s long past & forever future’ with a small stacked stone temple to sit or reflect that provides ‘a powerful moment of timeless memory.’ [xii]

‘The Crossing’ 2014 at Dhún Phádraig evokes the struggle & sublime slipstream between the mystical & material, between cultural history & the eternal sacred. [xiii]  The celebrated ‘The Crossing’ 2014 at the remote blow hole of Downpatrick Head in North Mayo is an architectural & landscape installation. [xiv]  The 2014 project ‘The Crossing’ project is a quiet restorative project with a thunderous architectural & landscape installation that commemorates the natural power & richly – layered historical tales of the site.  The metaphor of ‘The Crossing’ evokes the border where folklore & spoken traditions reflect on the lion’s den of lives past or yet to arrive plus the unspeakable moment when two totally divergent realities collide with the despair of loss or celebration of joy from the past fifteen hundred years of Irish Heritage.  This site has amazing sketches or images from Down Patrick. [xv]  A video of the North Mayo project ‘The Crossing’ is available at this link:

The ‘Procession of the Souls’ 2015 installation at Swinford is one of twenty – four projects that forms the Spirit of Place programme.  It incorporates a staggered stone path with high walls that exemplifies the struggle through a turbulent tragic journey.  There is a light – filled structure of illuminating ascension that overlooks the graveyard with Dr. Michael Henry’s burial site at the culmination of the passage. (It also is reminiscent of the high stone walls of a workhouse.)  There is a table under a steel etched -glass roof for the hosing of religious services.  This installation has won two American Award s for its design: in 2005 the Washington DC American Institute Chapter Design plus the National AIA Faith & Form IFFRA during 2016. [xvi]  The ‘Procession of the Souls’ installation was installed during 2015 within the Famine & Paupers graveyard in Swinford.  It is dedicated to Swinford’s history of the Great Famine.  They repaired the gravestone of Dr. Henry within the graveyard.  This poetic imagery by students guided the project; ‘Trudging midst cradled shadows Snarled beneath shrouded tumult Drenched in malevolent deceit Writhing anguished, scarred & fractured into eroding masses Echoing glimmers of unsung brilliance beckons.’ [xvii]

This site has information on the Swinford project:  A wonderful video of the above work at Swinford may be seen at this link:  This above Project in Swinford is mentioned on this site:  This site has an usual image of Swinford project:  At this link one may view an article of ‘Procession of the Souls’:

Inisturk Project

The 2014 Spirit of Place installation titled ‘Tale of the Tongs – The Gathering’ on Inishturk Island ‘represents centuries of cultural gathering on Inishturk as a shrine, a respite, a viewing plus resting place. It is a spiritual & cultural focus point representing the global Irish diaspora.’ [xviii]  Professor Price produced a Documentary during 2014 entitled ‘Tale of Tongs.’ [xix]  This Documentary premiered at the Environmental Film Festival Spring 2014 in Washington D. C. [xx]

 Another trailer of the Project is available at this link:

Cong Sculpture

This ‘About Fishers of Men’  Spirit of Place installation was designed plus built by 30 architect students from the Catholic University under the stewardship of Travis Price, Professor of Architecture, along with 5 mosaic artists.  Peter Hynes, Chief Executive of Mayo Count Council stated at the launch that ‘I would like to compliment Travis Price and his team for delivering this stunning Spirit of Place project for Cong. Everyone who contributed to this project can be immensely proud of their achievement knowing that they have provided a valuable asset to Cong and the surrounding area.’ [xxi]  The Cong 2019 installation celebrates the ‘Fishers of Men’ understanding of the Gospel of Matthew in concert with the mysterious sun boat god, Mainiaman Mac Lir who commands the boat passages between the sun and the underwater voyages into the underworld. [xxii]  The ‘Fishers of Men’ during its installation in 2019 was an earthly sanctuary grounded with abstracts of earth, land plus sky with a rugged beauty at Cong, Co. Mayo according to Katherine B. Bell on her blog.  The design metaphor is largely about being submerged under water, caught in the net then rising to the light.  It celebrates the intertwined Celtic & Christian traditions of the region with the palette of nature also nature – inspired materials & colours.  The square imposing form provides gentle enclosure on the forested site: planes slide past each other thus makes a solid yet dynamic structure. These material palettes echo the Neolithic pagan stone monuments with the nearby ruined Abbey.  Intricate embedded mosaic of blues / greens are inspired by the twin sacred ocean themes of Matthew’s Gospel with the Celtic lore figure of Manánnan Mac Lir.  There are 30,000 pieces of stone plus glass in the three hundred & ninety panels. [xxiii]


The Irish times has an interesting article at this link:

This site has detailed coverage of Mayo art works:

This link has a world map of Spirit of Places structures with a list of completed installations from 2002 plus a video of the Inishturk island construction:

One may view several Mayo installations at this site:

This site has an image of the Western People Newspaper re ‘The Procession of the Souls’ project in Swinford on their blog page:

Several images of Travis Price’s excellent installations are available at this link:

There are several installations featured at this link:

There is a Facebook page at this link:


This link is a short biography by Leslie Linthicum that mentions Professor Travis Price’s anthology titled ‘The Archaeology of Tomorrow’ :

Professor Travis Price B. A. is a celebrated Architect, Environmentalist Pioneer, Author, Educator, also a Philosopher.  He is a Professor at the Smithsonian Institute.  He Founded, now directs the non – profit Spirit of Place – Spirit of Design projects.  His modern Architectural installations enhance the Tales of our Souls.  He has been awarded a Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture.  He is a contributing Editor to the National Geographic Travel Magazine.  His home has been described as one of the Greenest Homes of the World. [xxiv]

One may read of Professor Travis Price’s achievements at this link:

When awarded the AIA award for his project ‘Procession of the Souls’ in Swinford, Co. Mayo Professor Travis Price stated that ‘I am humbled, honoured, and elated.  After building twenty – four projects globally, Spirit of place is not only pleased to receive our 6th national AIA design award for the Procession of the Souls.  Indeed this project in itself is a procession of the human story in architecture at the forefront of architectural education, cultural tourism, while most importantly lifting the hearts and souls of those we design for and with around the globe.  Swinford and all of the Irish projects have elevated the modern world to architecture that speaks to the enduring human spirit.  Indeed the Spirit of Mayo is heard round the world!’ [xxv]

Publications / Documentary

Professor Travis Price published ‘The Mythic Modern Architectural Expeditions into the Spirit of Place.’ 2012, ‘The Art of Tomorrow: Architecture & the Spirit of the Place’ 2007 Independent Publishers (Gold Medal winner), plus ‘Travis Price Architects 2007 – 2013’ during 2013. [xxvi]

During 2014 Professor Travis Price produced a Documentary entitled ‘Tale of Tongs’ which may be accessed at this site:

Was very honoured to have met Professor Travis Price with his students in Swinford during the launch of ‘The Procession of the Souls’ installation with the service at the site.  He was an entertaining intelligent, humble person, with several amusing antidotes to share!


[i] Spirit of Place -Spirit of Design ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[ii] Spirit of Place –Spirit of Design ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[iii] Spirit of Place ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[iv] (Spirit of Place ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[v] Spirit of place ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[vi] The Vault of Heaven ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[vii] The Vault of Heaven ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[viii] Spirit of Place ( ) [assessed 4th April 2020]

[ix] Children of Lir ( ) [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[x] Carataige ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xi] Ceathru Thaidhg Loop Walks ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xii] Spirit of Place ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xiii] Spirit of Place ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[xiv] Mayo has become home to ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xv] About Spirit of Place  ( [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[xvi] Procession of the Souls ( ) [assessed4th April 2020 ]

[xvii] Pride of Place Swinford ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xviii] Sprit of Place – Spirit of Design ( [assessed 4th  April 2020]

[xix] Spirit of Place – Spirit of Design ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xx] Spirit of Place –Spirit of Design ( [assessed 4th April 2020] 

[xxi] Spirit of Place ( ) [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[xxii] Spirit of Place Project ( ) [assessed 3rd April 2020]

[xxiii] Spirit of Place – Spirit of Design ( ) [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xxiv] Spirit of Place – Spirit of Design ( [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xxv] The Procession of the Souls ( ) [assessed 4th April 2020]

[xxvi] Spirit of Place – Spirit of Design ( [assessed 4th April 2020]


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