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a day in the life ucd student centre Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners

contributions by

Dr Hugh Brady James Mary O’Connor Aidan Kavanagh

Text by Graham Barry Photography by Donal Murphy


A Day in the Life: UCD Student Centre by Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners Editor Graham Barry Coeditors Aidan Kavanagh, Andrew Howley Photography Donal Murphy All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means now known or hereafter invented, without the prior permission of Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners. First published in 2012 by Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners 71 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, Ireland www.fkp.ie Printed in Ireland on FSC-certified recycled paper ISBN 978-0-9573697-0-2


a day in the life ucd student centre


Student health centre

Fitzgerald debating chamber

Gym changing rooms

Radio pod Gym

Student society offices and meeting rooms

Link to UCD Sport Spinning studio Fitness studio

Bridge to student centre


Changing village

CafĂŠ Gallery walk


Performance theatre

The Red Room Multimedia theatre

contents 9

Dr Hugh Brady

Primus inter pares


James Mary O’Connor On thinking big


Aidan Kavanagh

Diversity, diversification and the great legacy





08:00 - 11:59

12:00 - 16:59

88 130 158 167 169

evening 17:00 - 20:59


21:00 - 23:59

About Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners Project credits Acknowledgements 7


primus inter pares Dr Hugh Brady UCD President

Good architecture makes a difference to those who see it, work in it, study in it and play in it. It lifts the spirits. That’s just what the new UCD Sports and Leisure facility does for me, it lifts my spirits. It is the building that the campus has needed ever since the Belfield project was conceived in the middle of the last century. For students, staff and visitors alike, it has provided a new heart to the campus. The UCD campus is organic. Over the years many fine buildings have been added to the core, centred on the Newman Building and Science Centre, but though these buildings were for students they were not by the students. That distinction goes to the Sports and Leisure facility which has been wholly funded by the student body, past and present, and which will be home from now on to the community of students. The Centre’s architects, Dublin based FKP Architecture, have done an incredible job. The building is ‘of’ the students because the students participated in a thorough consultation process that prefaced the design work and which defined the aims of the design team. The architects put it very

nicely when they said, “The UCD student body was the decisive design generator.” The most common request from the college’s students was a foil, or respite, from the traditional grey architecture of much of the rest of the UCD campus and that’s what they were given, in spades. The new Centre has got light, it’s got colour and the facilities, the pool, gym, cinema, theatre and debating chamber are each, simply, magnificent. In years to come, when people say ‘What did the Celtic Tiger do for us’, one thing they’ll be able to say is that it allowed creative people, architects and engineers in this case, to seek and deliver excellence. Let me claim that UCD is ‘primus inter pares’ amongst Irish universities, its size, diversity and history giving it its own unique place in Irish society. The college, through its societies, has helped develop society’s leaders across all sectors, commercial, educational, legal, cultural and sporting. But there was always one problem – there was no flagship space dedicated to the non-academic expression of students.

For example, the L&H that has helped hone the debating skills of leading lawyers, politicians and members of the Fourth Estate over many decades but has had to make do with an adequate, but not ideal, lecture theatre for its debates. They and all the other debating societies will now have the magnificent Garrett FitzGerald debating chamber to call home. The equally ‘homeless’ amongst the college’s family of musicians will also take residence in the acoustically perfect chamber. Another example is DramSoc, which has nurtured many of the nation’s finest talent, theatrical and cinematic, for many decades, was based in the LG basement, never a proper theatre. But now they have perfectly formed 125 seater ‘proper’ theatre in the Centre. I said that good architecture lifts the spirits. Just going into the new theatre does that for me. A new theatre, especially in a time of economic gloom, is something to truly celebrate. Even better, the output from that theatre is going to lift all spirits all year, every year. I’m delighted for them and for all future ‘DramSocers’.

If the Sports and Leisure Centre is the heart of campus then the pool is the heart of the heart. The confidence that the Celtic Tiger gave us, a confidence that will surely return, meant that instead of building a smaller pool we decided to go big. We have over 30,000 people on campus, the size of large Irish town. This is the first Olympic sized pool on the South side of the capital city. It’s huge, it’s bright, it’s eco and sustainable, it’s seductive, it’s where students (and the Olympic swimmers amongst them), staff and our neighbours around the South Dublin can come to use and enjoy one of the finest facilities of its type. I started by saying that the new Centre is the new heart of campus. I look forward, long after my term is finished, to seeing new waves of students pumping life into that heart, with their creativity and energy, inspired by a beautifully inspiring building. Congratulations to all involved in bringing it to fruition.



on thinking big

Dublin Institute of Technology Grangegorman Urban Quarter by Moore Ruble Yudell

James Mary O’Connor, AIA

Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners Dublin Institute of Technology Grangegorman Urban Quarter masterplanner

The opening of the extraordinary UCD Student Learning Leisure & Sport Complex project designed by Fitzgerald Kavanagh + Partners (FKP) is a momentous occasion in the recent story of the UCD Belfield campus. As a fellow architect, professional colleague of FKP’s Director Aidan Kavanagh, and Principal at the firm of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners based in Santa Monica, California, USA, I am delighted to add my enthusiastic voice to the celebration of this remarkable architectural achievement. The ideals and values of our own practice, Moore Ruble Yudell, are most fully evident in the depth and breadth of our work for college and university campuses. Moore Ruble Yudell is internationally recognised for a strong and varied practice in campus architecture and planning. In Ireland, we take great pride in our current role as the Master Planner, Design Architect, and Design Team Leader on the Grangegorman Urban Quarter Master Plan for the Health Service Executive (HSE), Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and the Local Community in North Central Dublin. This project is at present being implemented, following the international design competition held in 2007, which was awarded to Moore Ruble Yudell’s Team, and the completion of the Master Plan design process in 2009. In our extensive experience on planning and architectural projects at academic institutions, we have found that the ultimate test of campus buildings is how well they “fit,” relate to and affect the

existing campus fabric at multiple scales— not only the immediate surrounding buildings around the site, but the entire campus as a whole—in order to create a strong sense of place and an inclusive sense of community. Based on these criteria, the new UCD Student Centre facility is an unequivocal success, forming a vibrant social, sports and creative “campus heart” for the benefit of students at UCD. Moore Ruble Yudell’s other recent campus work in North America is exemplified by our award-winning Steger Student Life Centre at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts , and the Student Community Centre at the University of California, Berkeley, which provides a rich, diverse mix of activities and program elements very similar to the UCD Student Centre project. Our design approach emphasises a commitment to the creation of campus places that celebrate and inspire human habitation and participation, seeking design solutions that are unique responses to their context, culture, and the aspirations of their communities. In this regard, it was a pleasure and honour for me to be invited as a participant on the UCD Gateway Project Competition jury panel assembled by President Hugh Brady in 2006. During the process of this competition at the highest level, I was delighted to meet and get to

know Aidan Kavanagh. FKP (in association with Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart) were the only Irish architectural firm included in a shortlist of 5 comprising the top international firms of Zaha Hadid, Michael Hopkins, Ingenhoven and Snøhetta invited to prepare design proposals. During the design and jury process, the FKP team clearly demonstrated a thorough understanding of Hugh Brady’s vision and aspirations for the Belfield Campus. FKP was advanced to the short-list of 3 finalist Teams, after an impressive presentation and interview during which Aidan Kavanagh’s passion for the UCD Belfield campus was most apparent.

Freed & Partners, the Aronoff Centre for Design and Art by Peter Eisenman, and the Vontz Centre for Molecular Studies by Frank Gehry.

In 2008, I had the pleasure to meet Aidan again at the opening of the Arup Design & Research Headquarters in Dublin Docklands—an elegant project also designed by FKP. In the same year, our relationship with Aidan and FKP was further strengthened when FKP with the UCD Estates team travelled to Cincinnati University in Ohio, USA on a visit to experience the establishment of the iconic “Signature Architects” precinct of new buildings in the centre of the campus, as part of FKP’s development work at project commencement with UCD on the Student Centre design. Cincinnati University’s dynamic ensemble of new projects by internationally known designers includes the Steger Student Life Centre by Moore Ruble Yudell, the Campus Recreation Centre by Morphosis, the Richard Lindner Athletic Centre by Bernard Tschumi, the College Conservatory of Music by Pei Cobb

With the opening of this remarkable facility, Aidan Kavanagh and FKP have met and exceeded the challenge of providing 11,000 square metres of student-identified needs, by completing an outstanding ensemble of facilities—seamlessly connecting the existing Student Centre and the 1980 RIAI Triennial Gold Medalwinning A&D Wejchert-designed 1964 Sports Centre. Creating a compelling new focus for student life at UCD with an engaging combination of scale, colour and fun, the completion of the UCD Student Learning Leisure & Sport Complex is a unique achievement worthy of celebrating and commemorating in the Fitzgerald Kavanagh & Partners publication A Day in the Life. It is a spectacular, inclusive building that is most worthy of becoming a multi award-winning facility for UCD.

Among these projects, two in particular— Moore Ruble Yudell’s Steger Student Life Center and Morphosis’s Campus Recreation Centre, anchoring a newly-created “Main Street” pedestrian spine through the heart of the University of Cincinnati campus— were seen by the participants to define an attractive centrepiece of campus life which became a Belfield project ideal, now brilliantly delivered by FKP with the new UCD Student Centre.



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Midday 12

diversity, diversification and the great legacy Aidan Kavanagh

Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners

In late 2007, the Sunday Independent ran an article in which incoming students detailed their reasons for choosing their respective universities, focusing particularly on the character and facilities of the campuses. Interviewed students summarised the UCD campus as ‘cold, too homogeneous, and lacking in colour’. This terse but insightful article became emblematic of the architects’ journey towards the development of the new UCD Student Centre. Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners commenced design in early 2008, conducting research of our own into UCD students’ perceptions of and aspirations for their campus. Students were invited to add an empirical rigour to the inherently speculative design brief; their interviews recorded and published online to open the discussion yet more widely. The UCD student body has been, from the very inception of this project, the decisive design generator. This body of research became known as ‘A day in the Life’ because it revealed the fascinating diurnal cycle of use, reinterpretation and reuse unique to UCD’s shared spaces: how the same room hosts a very diverse range of uses during the course of a single day. As our design work progressively synthesised this new understanding of life on campus, a functional, sensual and conscientious architecture with individuality and personality emerged as our ultimate goal. UCD originally conceived this project as a modest 7,000 sqm extension to the

existing student centre, which was built in 2001, and called an EU-wide architecture competition to appoint a design team. FKP’s winning entry revisited the original masterplan for UCD, penned in 1964 by Andrzej Wejchert. His concept would place the new Student Centre project at the centre of a complete sports precinct, surrounded on three sides by playing fields and on the exact site of a fifty metre swimming pool. After this discovery, the design team pursued a programme which was much more than the leisure facility described in the competition brief, additionally adopting the vision of sporting excellence in the original masterplan. For the design scheme which FKP presented in August 2008, all our research had coalesced into a building which is the new epicentre of social, creative and sporting activity in UCD. Standing on a granite-paved plaza at the intersection of existing sporting, academic and leisure facilities at the westernmost boundary of UCD, adjacent to the iconic water tower, the FKP proposal joined the neighbouring UCD Sport and Student Centres to create a combined 22,000 sqm destination for everyone in UCD. Construction began in earnest in November 2009, after a conclusive cycle of design development lead by students, teaching staff, administrative staff and local residents. The final Student Centre, as now built, reinvigorates the urbanism inherent – but oft ignored - in Wejchert’s original vision. The disparate collection of functions it hosts – swimming pool, debating chamber, gym, seminar room, café among others –

function as a city in microcosm, unified under a bird-wing glulam structure which soars outwards to embrace its newlyinterconnected neighbours. Each function is expressed as a self-contained volume with its own unique spatial and material character. The resulting voids and spaces in-between make the building a navigable, corridor-less public playground. The exterior is composed primarily of monochromatic volumes with discreet shots of colour in reference to the materiality and colour of the wider campus. Inside, however, colour comes to the fore. The interior is a commensurately vibrant, playful and fun backdrop to student life, expressed through apposition of strong colours and haptically rich materials. Slips of flamed textured limestone versus largescale polished black granite; grit-blasted black concrete versus smooth white corian and tiling; exposed services adjacent to dropped white ceilings; white terrazzo versus electric green flooring pursue the vision of vibrancy through diversity. The architecture is founded on precepts of legibility, commutativity and universal access. The Student Centre can be defined as the ‘sensitive container’ described by Zumthor (1999, p. 13), enriched by the infinite variety of human activity which will take place within. The manifestation of this vision is most perceptible in the absence of corridors in the new building, which have been replaced by interconnected volumes and Gallery Walk, the largest indoor public space on the UCD campus.

a complex set of visual rhymes, where colours are used at different scales in symmetry across a single space. Visual interconnectedness means that the most conspicuous volumes, (namely the yellow radio pod, red fitness studio and green changing rooms) can be used to easily orient oneself from anywhere in the Student Centre. Subtle distinctions in finish and texture are a recurring theme in marking the transition from one place to the next. This intuitive architectural legibility subconsciously fosters understanding and a welcome sense of ownership. After nightfall, and the general closure of the Student Centre, the architecture re-emerges anew as a festival of colour across the public squares. Floodlighting dematerialises the glass and steel mesh façade to bring the large coloured volumes to prominence as a fun, charged backdrop to the nightlife of the campus: evening training sessions, students leaving the Clubhouse Bar, media teams working late and other activities yet to occur. As UCD itself grows ever more diverse and diversified, so too must its facilities. Conceived as UCD reflects on 50 years at Belfield, and plans for its future there, the Student Centre embodies this paradigm shift in the institution’s history: this building is the legacy of a period of very high achievement, and the means by which UCD can continue to lead the pack far into the future.

A sense of order is maintained through 13

Second floor

First floor

UCD Sport

Ground floor


Student Centre →

Dominic O’Keefe

Director of Student Services and Facilities UCD students have always considered themselves proud to be a part of Ireland’s largest and finest university. With this pride comes an ambition to meet and exceed expectation. Importantly, this ambition and passion for the University are matched in reality by the drive of its students. The completion of the Student Centre project is a testament to this drive and determination. Today, the entire UCD community can be proud of the fact that we are now home to the most complete student facility of any university in Ireland. For years to come this magnificent complex will stand as an enduring legacy to all that is great about this University, its students.

Lorcan Sweetman

UCD Buildings and Estates Project Administrator Planned with sustainability excellence, this, to my mind, has added to the building design quality. Of significant importance is the use of the energy recovery systems and the focus on climatic change which means the building is designed for the present but prepared for the future (essential in Ireland!), all of which has been achieved with architectural elegance. FKP’s master planning of the sports precinct as preliminary work to the building design has proven to be a most valuable exercise and a useful tool in the successful collaborations between our building team and the design team as a whole. A key element to the success of the project has been the ‘client focused’ approach by the team and although often used as a cliché in this instance it rings true, simply because the building works. The juxtaposition of bold architectural elements with functional design is a credit to the designers and reinforces the new Sports and Leisure complex as a flagship building on the University’s Belfield campus.

Pat de Brún

President, UCD Student Union There’s a great satisfaction amongst students that this is their building in every sense. They ‘informed’ the design via the consultation process, they are paying the entire cost of the building through their levies and now they get to use it, one of the finest student leisure facilities that I’ve seen as Students’ Union President. The architecture ensures longevity and this building is going to be used and enjoyed by generations of UCD students to come. The scale and magnificence of the completed structure is testament to the vision, foresight and commitment of the students of UCD, who voted to construct & fund the Student Centre in a referendum several years ago. Every aspect of the project had a huge amount of consultation with the student body and that has culminated in a new heart of campus that each and every UCD student can feel ownership of and be proud of.


roebuck grove campus expansion wat faculty of commerce first expansion attempts woodview campus expansion science block gr catholic university medical school national university of ireland established easter rising byrne’s fields campus expansion trinity catholic university established university education act university park terenure sports base merville campus expansion ballymun tow university church opens Jesuits assume management 44 acres acquired at belfield dr michael tierney appointed president arts a james joyce enrolls earlsfort terrace expansion further city centre expansion attempts IDA fo 77 acres acquired around Belfield dana win roebu

1854 16

UCD Student Centre project begins

library opens engineering building opens centre for synthesis and chemical biology founded global lounge completed ter tower completed student club opens blackrock campus opens luas begins operations novaUCD opens roundbreaking agriculture transfers to belfield Dr Hugh Brady appointed president alliance with NCAD irish times debating victory merger proposed architecture moves to belfield 150th anniversary of UCD iPhone launched Dr Brady elected chair of universitas 21 wers open richview expansion fall of the berlin wall erasmus exchange programme begins gateway masterplan and law move to belfield sports centre opens conway institute established earlsfort terrace relocation complete ounded wejchert masterplan commerce moves to belfield ireland’s economic growth reaches 11% sutherland school of law opens ns eurovision belgrove residences completed horizons modularisation introduced the university observer wins newspaper of the year uck castle expansion o’reilly hall opens NIBRT opens health sciences complex opens science south completed

2006 17

morning 08:00 - 11:59




Swimming Pool at full length

The pool hall is the centrepiece of the Student Centre’s sporting provision. In addition to FINA compliance (so it can host international competitions), a system of movable floors and dividing booms allow for multiple simultaneous uses. The university’s diving, canoe and water polo clubs can adjust the depth and length of the pool to their requirements, without encroaching on lane swimmers. Technically, the volume is among the most sophisticated in the Student Centre. High performance materials included in the pool enclosure completely obviate the booming

Right The swimming pool, view from spectator entrance 20

Above right Section through café, fitness studio and swimming pool

echoes and leaking chlorine odour which beset other swimming pool complexes. In service of the building’s sustainability goals, the swimming pool is used as a natural heat store: circulating the warmth generated as the water is heated to neighbouring spaces, thereby offsetting their need for artificial heating. The three-storey pool volume is visually linked to the other sport facilities, and also to the academic wing. One of the biggest design challenges was permitting warmth and natural light to flow from the pool volume to the neighbouring spaces without

encroaching on the privacy of the pool users. Ultimately, a series of bespoke display screens along Gallery walk were developed to partially occlude the view paths into the pool hall without sealing it completely. A sense of human scale is preserved through the use of distinct materials on either side of a two metre height boundary. Low bands of black ceramic tiles and black sandblasted concrete, which contrast ostensibly with the vitreous reflectivity of the water and glass, mediate between the enormity of the structure and the relative size of its users.

21 8:00


Above The swimming pool, view towards Gallery Walk


Above right Starting platforms, spectator stand and fitness studio

Opposite View from spectator stand

23 8:00

Fitness Studio 8:00

Above Visual connection to swimming pool and gym.


The appearance of the south façade is defined by three large volumes: the Fitzgerald Chamber (polished basalt), the fitness studio (red aluminium) and the spinning studio (black basalt). Seen together, rhythmic variations in their scale and finish have created a visually exciting but well organised elevation which represents the breadth of activity within.

Right Stretching bar and view onto playing fields.

Opposite Viewed from the swimming pool.

The fitness studio permeates the boundary between the sporting and academic wings: it looks upon the swimming pool and playing fields, and also neighbours the Fitzgerald Debating chamber. This intermediary positioning of such a recognisable component serves to underline the inclusive spirit of the Student Centre as a whole. The Centre is visible to everyone and everyone is welcome.

The carmine red cladding developed from students’ complaints about the lack of campus life after dark, and universal requests for a foil to the alienating grey architecture elsewhere in Belfield. By day the fitness studio is a fun and lively place which shares the energy of its activity with the wider sports precinct; by night, the building’s floodlights reinvent it as a glowing beacon for the social life in the Student Centre after dark.

25 8:00

Gallery Walk entrances 8:00

There is deliberately no large central foyer in the Student Centre; instead, a continuous public route connects its spaces and levels. The creative and academic side of the Student Centre is accessed from entrances marked by the dark stone of the Fitzgerald Debating Chamber and performance theatre. The polished basalt is at once dark and light-absorbing yet almost mirror reflective:


a complex surface which perceptibly alters the behaviour of natural light which touches it and reflects the primary colours in nearby finishes. This light-dark-light transition marks the threshold between the outdoor public spaces and the dramatic volume of Gallery Walk, and thereafter the progressively more private volumes beyond.


Above The south entrance to Gallery Walk, and the Fitzgerald Chamber cantilevered over it.

Opposite top The lobby lounge inside Gallery Walk’s south entrance.

Opposite bottom View along Gallery Walk from the east entrance, at the performance theatre


structure in detail

The irregular geometry of the Student Centre building, coupled with the multiple requirements for open internal spaces has demanded a sensitive and varied approach to the design of the building structure. The material choice has been driven not alone by the structural requirements but also responds to the internal environment of the pool hall and the associated spaces.

the direction transverse to the pool. In the longitudinal direction stability is provided by the diaphragm action of the roof coupled with vertical bracing elements. A profiled steel service gantry is suspended from the apex of the frame, which is incorporated in to the overall structural system by means of tensioned cables which connect it to both ends of the rafters.

Structurally this is a complex building, incorporating the use of a variety of materials and structural systems. It is also a building where the structure is an integral part of the building architecture and as such required a high level of detailing to achieve the required effect. The building structure needs to accommodate a significant amount of technology, from moving booms and floors in the swimming pool to the stage and lighting systems in the drama theatre. The interface with the abutting Sports and Student Service buildings also needed careful consideration, with the irregular geometry of the Sports building in particular providing a significant challenge.

The glulam structure is continued in to the Gym and the associated changing facilities, which are located to the west of the pool hall. Here smaller glulam frames rise from the first floor concrete structure to span the 19.5m width of the room. Again, stability is provided in the direction of the glulam by the frame action, with vertical bracing elements providing stability in the other direction. The structure up to first floor level, at which point the glulams are supported, comprises in-situ concrete walls and columns and precast flooring elements.

Probably the most distinguishing structural feature of the building is the extensive use of glue-laminated (glulam) timber elements. This is evident from the moment you enter the building but is at its most dramatic in the pool hall. Here the profiled timber frames rise from a reinforced concrete wall at the western side of the pool to span the 33.5m width of the hall, where they are supported on inclined steel columns on the opposite end. These columns, which are inclined in two directions, are supported in clusters of four off shorter reinforced concrete columns, replicating branches extending from the trunk of a tree to give a striking visual effect. The timber glulams cantilever from these supporting elements to form the roof of the circulation space that divides the swimming facilities from the eastern wing of the building. The profiled glulam frames, which are typically at 5.50m centres in the pool hall and measure up to 2200mm in depth, are designed to provide structural stability in


As the glulam elements extend to the front of the building into the circulation spaces, the form changes. Here the internal leg of the frame cranks and extends to ground floor level to dramatic effect. At the secondary entrance to the building, the form changes further as a additional timber element is introduced which cantilevers over pairs of inclined steel columns to support the entrance canopy. The nature of the spaces created on the eastern side of the building is altogether different from a structural viewpoint to the rest of the building. The three primary spaces, i.e. the drama theatre, cinema and debating chamber are formed using a combination of reinforced concrete and steelwork elements. The debating chamber is of particular interest structurally. The walls enclosing the space are constructed in reinforced concrete which cantilevers at first floor level a distance of approximately 5m over the Gallery Walk entrance to create the desired architectural impact. The structural design was further complicated by an extensive

array of openings in the concrete structure to accommodate service routes. The lightweight roof is supported using a steel structure spanning the full 25m width of the chamber. The structure of the drama theatre is similar to that of the debating chamber, without the complexity of the cantilever. Reinforced concrete walls create the form of the theatre with a steelwork structure at roof level supporting a precast concrete roof slab, which is required for acoustic reasons. Steel gantries are suspended from the roof structure to accommodate the operational requirements of the theatre. The cinema is accessed at ground floor level and is constructed part underground. Again it is built using reinforced concrete walls with precast concrete slabs supported on a steelwork structure forming the floor over. Indeed this form of floor construction is utilised throughout the east wing of the building to create the spaces between the three primary spaces. The radio and dance pods are also interesting features structurally. The radio pod is an isolated steel framed structural element supported on four inclined columns and acoustically isolated from the rest of the building. Similarly the dance pod is a steel framed structure, in this instance integrated with the façade of the pool hall. The careful attention to detailing of the structure continues externally with the formation of cleverly conceived spaces and views. The structural concrete retaining walls and terracing form links between the various spaces at different levels. The high level of coordination with the landscaping has also minimised the presence of manhole covers and drainage breaks on the finished surface, with access chambers restricted to specifically design “greenâ€? islands that break up the mass of hard-standing.




Gallery Walk


Gallery Walk is the Student Centre’s main thoroughfare, and one of the largest indoor public spaces on campus. A triple-height linear volume composed of black concrete walls, white terrazzo floors with shots of primary colour; Gallery Walk is a charged backdrop to social, creative and academic life in the Student Centre. Bespoke lounge seating, televisions and internet access points line the ground floor of Gallery Walk. Overhead, a row of illuminated display screens show news updates, event bulletins and student work. The swimming


pool can be glimpsed through narrow windows, maintaining privacy but reinforcing the idea of interconnectedness. Gallery Walk is not an ordinary sunlight atrium. It is the generous, joyful and sociable intersection of all activity in the Student Centre. Sunlight flooding in from the roof lingers on the polished surfaces and accentuates the flashes of colour. This interplay of energy from nature and man-made design to celebrate it elevates Gallery Walk to the uplifting, worthy centre of the student life.

The architecture of Gallery Walk shares with Italian Futurism a fascination with movement and multiple perception: the bold volumes of the emerald green changing rooms, chilli red dance pod and traffic yellow radio pod are all visible alternately as one passes along Gallery Walk. Ascending the two upper levels brings infinitely more new encounters with these volumes within the same space: the building becomes an architectural adventure.


Above Gallery Walk, view from south entrance towards radio pod.

Opposite Theatre foyer and box office under yellow radio pod.

Opposite centre Early concept sketch of Gallery Walk.




The café sits under the red aluminium awning of the main dance studio, at the confluence of the sporting and creative wings of the Student Centre. It is, ideologically and architecturally, the intersection of the complex’s otherwise discrete functions.

Alongside Gallery Walk, the café is the main social venue in the student centre. The seating opens onto a landscaped, south facing café terrace facing the playing pitches. Deep window alcoves, finished in yellow aluminium, offer insular, individual spaces.

Left Before the breakfast rush, view from gym changing rooms.

Opposite Café terrace facing playing fields 35


Café breakfast service

The original UCD Masterplan in detail

By the mid 1940s, UCD’s buildings in the city centre had reached their capacity and the decision was made to move to the present 300 acre site in Belfield, south Dublin. An international competition to select the masterplan was held in 1963, attracting 105 entries from 64 countries and won by Polish architect Andrzej Wejchert (1937-2009). Wejchert’s scheme displayed extraordinary foresight, in that it planned for the protracted, irregular development of the campus by multiple architects. Six hundred


metres of covered walkways continue to ingeniously unify Wejchert’s Modernist masterplan and the patchwork of different architectures which now populate it.

laudable for the emphasis it places on landscaping and pedestrianisation: two ideas which were only to become hegemonic in following decades.

Conceived in the era of misguided social experiment in architecture (most conspicuously in the tower blocks for mass housing), the legacy of Wejchert’s masterplan is its true insight into the life of students in an emergent Ireland, and the enduring quality of the architecture he has derived from that. The masterplan is further

FKP’s Student Centre can also attest to the timelessness of the original idea, realising as it does the fifty-metre pool on the exact site which a 26-year old Andrzej Wejchert identified at his mother’s kitchen table in 1963.

1. Administration 2. Aula Maxima 3. Library 4. Student Facilities 5. Arts

6. Agriculture 7. Architecture 8. Biology 9. Chemistry 10. Physics

11. Engineering 12. Medicine 13. Chapel 14. Swimming pool 15. Gym

16. Changing rooms 17. Plant 18. Maintenance 19. Stadium 20. Playing fields

21. 22.

Halls of residence Gate Lodge


The Red room

10:00 38

Academic seminars and public talks take place in the Red Room, which is located on the ground floor overlooking Bridge Street.

further evolution. The resulting design prioritises high comfort in a neutral setting; where the focus is always the speaker.

The Red Room design started as an investigation of architecture’s role in creating effective spaces for learning. Lauded and groundbreaking examples around Europe, North America and Australia were analysed for their successes and opportunities for

Heavy, stable materials, including flamed limestone, arranged in a regular grid pattern give the Red Room its air of order and focus. The originally Georgian device of raising the main floor above street level has been used to further improve the privacy of participants.

Acoustic dampers embedded in the walls obviate the distracting din of group discussions and air conditioning, while a glazed wall admits natural light and fresh air. A wall of bespoke cabinetry invisibly accommodates all the technological provisions and conceals the audience seats when not in use.


Above Bespoke cabinetry to store presentation equipment and seating.



Below Three seating configurations.

Opposite Furniture laid out for public address.

Reception 39

newspaper editorial suite

The new Student Centre establishes a ‘media district’ within UCD, which clusters both campus newspapers, Belfield FM and the Campus Television Network alongside the Student Union offices.


Below Sky-lit passage through media suites and society rooms.


Below right View onto Gallery Walk from meeting rooms.

Opposite Interconnected offices to support collaboration.

41 10:00


Above The spectator balcony which encircles the chamber.

Opposite Bleachers retracted to provide space for individual music practice.

The Fitzgerald Chamber by day

The debating chamber is among the Student Centre’s distinguishing features. The need for a world class debating venue in UCD became ever more apparent as their teams achieved international success despite not having a dedicated facility in which to practice or host. The UCD Debating Chamber takes as its precedent the historic spaces which grew from the rich dialectic tradition at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. These spaces are defined by an insular atmosphere and very high standard of finish. In the Fitzgerald Chamber, iroko panels line the walls and ceiling, complemented by red velvet upholstery. A network of hidden staircases and leaning rails provide routes for the spectators and hecklers who have always formed part of competitive debating. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Chicago was another very important inspiration


for the design. The small suburban church shares with the other precedents a perceptible introversion and use of precious materials, but exhibits a unique geometric rigour and understanding of the human experience of its inhabitation. These latter traits have been explored in the Fitzgerald Chamber through careful regulation of light ingress, a clear distinction between interior and exterior and a haptic richness of the individual finishes. Technical performance and material characteristics have been considered carefully in terms of their versatility, specifically in the chamber’s acoustic isolation and low reverberation time. Tiered seating for opposing debating teams can retract automatically, creating a modest proscenium for private rehearsals and intimate performances.

43 11:00




Above View onto the stage created when the seating tiers are fully retracted. The balcony seats and leaning rails around the

upper level can accommodate a small audience for performances, workshops and demonstrations.




gym morning sessions

The gym’s cycle of daily use is inversely related to UCD’s academic schedule. Occupancy of the 150-machine gym fluctuates significantly during the course of the day, with multiple peak times which coincide with breaks in the lecture timetables. Team training sessions also cause surges in use.

energy-intensive air conditioning during quieter periods, natural ventilation helps cool the gym to the optimal 19°C. As the gym gets busier, and there is more heat from the occupants to remove, the air conditioning is then put to greater use.


This has significant implications for the gym’s mechanical services, particularly air conditioning. Rather than rely entirely on

Opposite The gym grows steadily busier as the day goes on, reaching peak use in the late evening. 47

Student health centre

The healthcare needs of a thriving and active student population are accommodated in a new suite of treatment rooms on the top floor of the Student Centre.

the rest of the Student Centre. In this way, the highly specialised medical, psychological and psychiatric needs of the student body can be addressed in an atmosphere of confidence and clinical rigour.

The spatial character changes significantly in the medical centre: it is a more introverted space; courtyard gardens connect visually with the sky rather than the surrounding campus. A unique selection of finishes further differentiates the health centre from 11:00

Left Plan layout of medical suites, showing two two courtyard gardens to admit light and fresh air from both side.


Opposite White translucent polycarbonate volumes project over the second floor of Gallery Walk to accomodate the medical suite.

49 11:00

Colour in detail

The student advisory panel was unanimous in its calls for a foil to the predominantly grey modern architecture of the UCD campus. The earliest design concepts are recognisable for their primary colour scheme, which was subsequently developed into a multifaceted system providing orientation, spatial definition and a vibrant backdrop for student life around the clock. Colour is treated as a building material, regarded as equally important to the architectural vision as the concrete or steel.

The green changing rooms, red fitness studio and yellow radio pod are the most recognisable volumes in the centre, and form a key element in its easy navigation. During the day, they occupy a discrete position in the greater volume; the user’s relationship to them changing constantly as they traverse spaces and levels. By night, when they will primarily be viewed from the outside, the colours form a unified abstract plane of colour and light: a vital and animate backdrop to the nightlife on campus.

kunstmuseum Liechtenstein

Günter Fruhtrunk


Günter Fruhtrunk (1923-1982) was a German abstract painter and printmaker. His work explores the tension between contrasting colours as their interrelationship shifts. Early paintings are recognisable for their sense of movement and restless mood, whereas his later works exhibit more rhythmic, vectorial geometries with a punctilious use of contrast. His choice of colour, and more specifically

their adjacencies, challenge our visual acuity and try to activate a new way of seeing. Working with the same palette, the perception of colour in the Student Centre mediates between Fruhtrunk’s two resolutions: it is always harmonious, but never static.


afternoon 12:00 - 16:59



student society rooms


The easy informality and open design of the Googleplex in California was the starting point for the design of new workspaces and meeting facilities for UCD’s societies and Union officers. Very flexible spaces with an industrial material palette foster the collaborative and empirical spirit central to a productive, inventive Student Union. By selecting materials typically seen in factories and laboratories, the durability of these environments is represented in the Student Union offices. Toughened finishes create an atmosphere which encourages experiment and fresh thinking, unencumbered by fussy, high maintenance materials. Visual connections within the suite, combined with the service conduits visible overhead, are analogous to the greater system which the Student Union officers serve. 54


Above Meeting room with adjustable walls facing onto Gallery Walk.

Opposite Glass walls admit natural light via Gallery Walk.


Gallery Walk hanging screens in detail

The intuitive navigation of the student centre became an imperative in the earliest design concepts. Transparency and visual connections link spaces, with the coloured volumes serving as beacons by which visitors can orient themselves. In places where some opacity is required for the sake of privacy, in particular at the boundary between the swimming pool and the academic wing, the architects proposed a row of custom-designed illuminated display screens.

The final proposal was for white polycarbonate screens with embedded LED lighting. The rectangular panels are five metres tall, and hang slightly forward of the glass wall between the swimming pool and Gallery Walk. The pool is thereby visually separated from the neighbouring offices but natural light can still flood into Gallery Walk from both sides.


Above Elevation of hanging screens along Gallery Walk.

Right Detail section through a hanging screen.

Above right Screens, lit in blue, as visual barrier between the sport and academic wings.

Far right Screens, lit in pink, hanging over Gallery Walk


DETAIL 4 - Polycarbonate Screen - 2nd floor Balcony












DATE G Details 5 & 6 ommitted in coordination to C.O. 32, notes added for clarification

Tensile steel cables fixed to glulam beams

50 x 50 steel square hollow section Powder coated aluminium box section Stainless steel plate

Twin layer polycarbonate panel Rows of LED light

DETAIL 4 - Polycarbonate Screen - 2nd floor Balcony

KK A 19-04-2011





Scale 1:10

CAD FILE REF. 2006\06_47 UCD Student Centre\CONST/sheets

SCALE 10@A1 , 20@A3 , 50@A1 100@A3 DRAWN BY JK / SS / AH CHECKED


DATE November 2009 JOB Student Learning Leisure & Sport Complex

Belfield Campus University College Dublin CLIENT UCD TITLE Hanging screens Gallery walk 2nd Floor Balcony Screen Medical reception screen

Fluorescent light with opal cover


06-47-C-725 REVISION




Above Pink illumination.


Opposite Green illumination.

59 12:00

design development in detail



Radio Pod

Situated prominently over Gallery Walk, the Student Centre’s yellow aluminium-clad radio pod is the backdrop for daily life along the building’s main thoroughfare. It works alongside the other media operating from the Student Centre: The University Observer, The College Tribune and Campus Television Network.

production and broadcast. The angular form has been adjusted to reflect noise from passersby, and conceals the intricate structural details which isolate the studio within. The radio pod is one of the most recognisable components in the centre, to be used as a means of orientation visible from almost anywhere around the building.

The radio pod’s irregular volume developed from the highly specialised acoustic considerations required for recording,


Left The radio studio occupies a two-room pod lifted over the north end of Gallery Walk. Opposite The yellow aluminium clad pod, viewed at first floor level.


63 13:00

Left The crystalline volume is designed to reflect the noise of passersby away from the microphones within the radio studio. Opposite top The radio studio is located among the other print and broadcast media societies which have their facilities on the first floor of the Student Centre. Opposite below Multiple layers of acoustic deflection and insulation completely isolate the radio studio’s recording equipment from outside noise.

13:00 64

65 13:00



Few places in the Student Centre will experience as constant and manifold an occupancy as the café. In between the rush at mealtimes, the café is the venue for internet surfing, study, debate, leisurely social encounters and individual escapism. The architecture used variations in scale to provide a place for everyone. The floating fitness studio implies a more human scale over the smaller tables, and extra deep bays seat one or two people in thoroughly individual spaces.

Left The café, prepared for the lunchtime rush.


Glass doors between these bays open onto the café’s furnished terrace, which faces south across the playing fields. When these doors are open, continuous floor finishes obviate the threshold between inside and out.


Public art

Joie de Vivre by Jill Pitko 13:00

The sculpture is movement, it is activity, it is vitality. This sculpture was designed to be accessible and playful in its simple pleasing modern shapes and primary colours. It features a figure caught in an outstretched free gesture leaping over an arch. The figure is thrown in a balletic pose capturing both athletic exuberance and agile grace. The arch was conceptualized in an exercise of geometry with circles and varying symmetry to represent the roads and ways in which students and faculty travel to make their way to University College Dublin. In surmounting the arch, the figure represents a victory over challenge. The sculpture captures the essence of the myriad of activities that will take place in this Student Learning, Leisure, and Sport Complex: sport-energy, dance-grace, joie de vivre-vitality, thought-creativity, freedom-playfulness.

--Jill Pitko Top left Concept sketch drawing of arch showing geometric basis. Bottom left Sketch model of leaping figure. Left Final sculpture in workshop before painting. Opposite Final sculpture in situ, as seen through the cafÊ’s deep window bays.


69 13:00



71 13:00




public spaces

Above Bridge Street, outside performance theatre entrance.

Opposite Landscaping along north façade, outside performance theatre.

Bridge Street Principles of linear pathway gardening, of which the Promenade Plantée in Paris and High Line in New York are the most important recent examples, have been developed in the narrow passage between the new and original Student Centres. A meandering public walk enhances the opportunities for spontaneous social encounters inherent in such a condensed volume. After descending from the southern entrance, the landscape assimilates into the industrial material palette of the Student Centre’s interior – most perceptibly in the selfweathering COR-TEN steel planting beds and streetlights around which the path serpents. At the northern end, the path opens onto the campus’s new ceremonial square.


Health Sciences Centre (2006)


Student Centre (2012)

Student Centre (2001)


Right Bridge Street streetscape with custom designed planters and lights.


Opposite Plan for the landscaped public square adjoining the Student Centre.


campus urbanisation in detail

Below The Student Centre’s integration into the existing pedestrian network.


The architects interpreted the UCD campus as a complete town in microcosm. Indeed, with a population of over 25,000, the Belfield campus is larger than Mullingar, Athlone, Wexford and Tralee. UCD’s population is an ephemeral one, however, and spread thinly over its 370 acres: an urban condition hostile to UCD’s potential as a thriving place of life and learning.

Opposite top Impression of new covered walkways.

Opposite bottom left Plan views of possible curved and linear configurations.

Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners’ Student Centre represents a new point of density in Belfield, reorienting the sprawl around a new epicentre of campus life. Rather than spread the Student Centre’s new spaces over the entire site, they have been stacked into dense academic, sporting or leisure ‘neighbourhoods’. Together these will foster a self-sustaining urban vivacity predicated on

Opposite bottom right Assembly diagram of proposed covered walkways.

openness, interconnectivity and diversity. The Student Centre’s unifying element is its soaring gullwing roof: its long overhangs embrace the 1984 Sport centre and 2001 Student Centre and, symbolically, the wider campus. Aerial walkways within unite the three buildings to create the largest, and only truly universal, public space on campus.





4 2


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Walkway form Steel upright Foundation Structural joint Drainage channel Concealed drainage downpipe Concealed electrical conduit Integrated lighting Resin bound gravel footpath



Sport entrance


Left Entrance into swimming pool spectator area.


Above Sport foyer, viewed from cafĂŠ.

Opposite Sport foyer, viewed from entrance to fitness studio.

79 15:00


Top Archive drawing showing potential for a diving pool to be added in the future by extending the Student Centre’s modular structural system.


Above right Impression of the diving pool addition.

Below View from spectator stand, with Gallery Walk visible along the right side and the gym along the left.

Opposite Spectator stand underneath the fitness studio.

81 15:00




Above The dedicated Spinning Room and the view across the playing fields beyond.


stand up and surf

16:00 84

It is anticipated that up to 2500 people – or one-tenth of the student population - will use the Student Centre every day. For many, it is as much a route as a destination, so the architecture provides for its visitors to plan their onward journeys with internet access worktops along Gallery Walk.


Above The lounge area inside the south entrance to Gallery Walk is bounded by two SUAS points.

Opposite A SUAS point in use outside the multimedia theatre on Gallery Walk.



The Student Centre is one of the most energy efficient buildings in Ireland. An allencompassing approach to sustainability has been developed in close collaboration with a team of technical specialists led by Arup. The following key features collectively result in a building which consumes over 33% less energy than similar buildings.

significantly reduces the Student Centre’s dependence on artificial sources. Optimal floor-to-ceiling heights within the Student Centre promote natural daylight penetration and reduce the need for electric lighting during the daytime. Active energy efficiency Two 500kW Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants meet a substantial proportion the Student Centre’s thermal and electrical supply needs. Co-generation is among the most efficient options yet invented, in this case using almost 50% less energy that separate heating and power plants would. For example, the considerable exhaust heat from electricity generation is recycled to warm the swimming pool. Specific algorithms have been developed to optimise the plant’s efficiency in response to constantly changing demands, with surpluses exported to UCD’s campus electricity network.

Passive energy efficiency The architects worked closely with specialists to find opportunities to save energy which arise during the Student Centre’s daily use cycle. As much heat from the sun and occupants as possible is retained by high performance glazing and thermal insulation which far exceed official requirements. The roof in particular is designed to retain 33% more heat than regulations require, to minimise heat loss and efficiently preserve a 29°C internal temperature in the pool hall. Roof overhangs and steel mesh screens are used to minimise excessive solar heat ingress during summer while also allowing useful solar gains in Winter and maximising natural lighting.

Low energy, demand-based ventilation systems which incorporate energy recovery are used throughout the Student Centre. All systems employ heat recovery devices to extract useful heat from the outgoing air, and recycle it to preheat fresh air. This technique is particularly effective in the swimming pool hall, which maintains higher internal temperatures than the rest of the Student Centre.

The double glazing on external façades and around the pool was tested for air tightness to further ensure minimal infiltration. The Student Centre achieved an air leakage rate of 3.57(m3/hr)/m2 which bettered the air leakage rate of 5(m3/hr)/m2 required under Part L of the Building Regulations. This

Modern control routines for the Pool air systems optimise the use of outside air for humidity control to minimise energy usage throughout the year. An intelligent lighting control system operates to minimise electricity consumption by the Student Centre’s complex lighting arrangements. A network of occupancy and sunlight sensors adjusts lighting levels based on available daylight and whether the room is occupied. A rainwater harvesting system has been installed to gather rainwater from the Student Centre’s extensive roof. This water is then used for toilet and urinal flushing, which will reduce by half the amount of fresh water needed from the public water supply. Every environmental control in the Student Centre is linked to a central Building Management System which monitors the building’s performance as a whole. This system constantly adjusts internal temperatures in response to climatic and use conditions, and provides statistics on energy consumption. This system further permits future targets for energy reduction to be set.



heat demand


power demand



CHP loss





Power station


53 losses 86




Left The efficiency of the Combined Heat and Power plant versus separate on-grid sources.

Opposite Summary of the design and lifestyle features contributing to the Student Centre’s sustainability.

1a 1b



6c 2b

3a 6b








4c 4d


Minimised heat loss through outer skin, achieved by: 1a Central placement of the warmest spaces 1b High performance, low u-value thermal insulation 2 Minimised heat loss through ventilation, achieved by: 2a Airtight faรงades 2b Centralised entry and exit routes with revolving doors prevent drafts.

3 Controlled use of natural solar heat: 3a Projecting louvres on glass faรงades deflect solar heat when it is strongest 3b Steel mesh brises soleils on south- and east-facing faรงades 4 Minimum dependence on air conditioning due to: 4a Natural heat convection from the warmest areas to the coolest 4b Use of the swimming pool as a thermal store.

4c Universal natural ventilation. 4d Exposed concrete acts as a thermal mass, absorbing heat and releasing it when temperatures drop to prevent fluctuations. 5 Maximised use of natural daylight. 5a Rooflights and glazed walls. 5b Narrow plan for maximum sunlight penetration 5c Motion detector activated lighting in all offices and hallways.

6 Additional features 6a A highly efficient Combined Heat and Power Plant which cogenerates electricity, heat and hot water. 6b Automatic computerised Building Management System which adapts to climatic conditions. 6c Local, ecological, recyclable, reusable and biodegradable building materials. 6d Grey water recycling: rainwater is gathered on the roof and used for flushing toilets. 87

evening 17:00 - 20:59




The tepidarium houses the sauna, steam bath, ice fountain, vitality pool, Kneipp walk and experience showers in an enclave next to the main swimming pool hall. The space is recognisable for the luxury of its finishes. Golden mosaic tiles, mood lighting and aromatherapy diffusers foster an atmosphere entirely distinct from the bustling pool outside. The tepidarium is central among the Student Centre’s facilities for propagating

Below Scent chamber.

17:00 90

Opposite Ice fountain and recovery lounge beyond.

sporting excellence in UCD. Its physiotherapy applications and role in recovery after exercise complement the gym, aquatic facilities and playing fields which neighbour it. The tepidarium adheres to Sebastian Kneipp’s hydrotherapy system, which involves the application of water at varying temperatures, methods and pressures as one progresses through the six functions.

91 17:00


Above left Recovery lounge.


Above right Red & brown mosaic tiles along the Kneipp Walk.

Main image View across tepidarium from recovery lounge.

Opposite Cross section and plan of tepidarium.

17:00 4. 3.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Children’s pool Spa pool Steam room Experience showers Ice fountain Kneipp Walk Scent chamber Recovery area

7. 5.






changing village

The swimming pool changing village is a self-contained essay on the colour theory which appears at a larger scale elsewhere in the Student Centre. The three scheme colours of red, green and yellow are used here as a much more intuitive, universal alternative to the familiar system of orientation by locker numbering. The colours are given due prominence by a monochromatic floor and ceiling.

Below One of the members-only changing rooms. 17:00 94

Above Grooming area in the changing village.

Opposite Orientation by colour in the changing village.

95 17:00


Below Ascending from the sports foyer to the green aluminium clad gym changing rooms.

17:00 96

The gym’s position as the ideological and architectural nucleus of sporting endeavour in UCD is reinforced by the transparency and interconnectedness of its new, open-plan volume. The swimming pool, hockey stadium and original UCD Sport building form the commensurately energetic backdrop to the new gym floor.

Opposite Cardio equipment with views over the swimming pool and fitness studio.

The gym’s glazed length opens onto the roof of UCD Sport, which has been redesigned as a sheltered venue for internal martial arts.

97 17:00



Above Cardio machines facing the roof terrace hosting martial arts.


Right View from gym entrance towards mirrored free weight area.

Opposite top Trainer station.

99 17:00

materials in detail Granite paving Varying sizes of sett are used to identify changes in use. The lines of the paving also align perfectly with those of the swimming pool, uniting inside with outside. Resin bonded gravel A coarser texture to complement the varying scales of smooth granite paving which mark different outdoor spaces.

Polished basalt The Fitzgerald Chamber is clad is highly polished black gabbro, a coarser-grained variant of basalt. The colour and reflectivity change markedly during the course of the day.

Irish limestone Smooth, flamed slabs with visible fossils are arranged in an undulating, staggered bond to visually break up the larger surfaces.

Sambesi wire mesh Structurally similar to Lago mesh but more transparent, Sambesi is used on the south-facing façade to regulate control the ingress of solar heat. With an open area of 42%, the mesh admits more heat when the sun is lowest.

White terrazzo A durable and beautiful composite of white Carrara marble set in white cement and inlaid with mother of pearl.

Terrazzo tiles (red/yellow) Vivid accents to the white and grey terrazzo floors, made from crushed glass set in pigment-dyed resin.

Grey terrazzo An aggregate of Bardiglio Imperiale grey marble set in light grey cement, polished to a vitreous finish.

Aluminium cladding (green/red/yellow) A highly reflective surface (85% gloss) which encases the most distinctive volumes and contributes to their acoustic isolation.

Lago wire mesh Another particularly industrial material, this stainless steel mesh has a dense geometric layout which oscillates between reflectivity and opacity depending on light and the viewer’s position.

Board-marked concrete A material which visually expresses how it was made: an organic effect achieved in a man-made material.

COR-TEN Used in the external landscaping, COR-TEN is a steel alloy which strengthens and develops a stable reddish patina over time. The colour and weathering process is analogous to the autumnal shades of the planting scheme. 100

Iroko A very distinctive and sustainable hardwood, with much greater natural variation in texture and grain than oak. Chosen for the Fitzgerald Chamber due to its warmth, intensity and historicist character.

Embossed aluminium A thin but extremely durable sheet material, used in the roof to foster a sense of levity as it sails over the Centre’s most voluminous internal spaces.

Self-finished render The projecting volumes of the medical centre are finished in a crisp, white render to preserve the discreteness of their planes and angles.

Polycarbonate A light, strong and semi-translucent thermoplastic polymer, used in the medical centre to maintain privacy while admitting daylight. The projection screens suspended along gallery walk are also made from polycarbonate.

Glulam Multiple layers of pine glue-laminated together and finished with clear lacquer. A much more sustainable and chlorine-resistant solution for the main roof structure.

Norament rubber floor A 3mm thick vulcanised rubber surface is used on the upper levels along Gallery Walk. The strong colour emphasises the circulation routes through the Centre’s academic functions.

White corian Smooth, matte corian television bezels along gallery walk highlight the coarseness of the black concrete walls behind.

Sandblasted black concrete A limestone aggregate and black pigment are used to create a light-absorbing concrete with an even texture.

Tesseræ in primary colours In a recurring theme, red and green mosaic tiles echo the colour and proportion of the larger volumes they are facing.

Black tiles A visually and haptically rich finish to the lower walls in the pool hall to imply a human scale.

Tensile cable webnet A very tactile material typically used in industrial settings and chosen here for its durability and transparency.

An industrial material vocabulary was chosen for the Student Centre as its inherent, perceptible durability fosters uninhibited and creative use of its spaces: a sense of ownership. Variations on textures and scales is a recurring theme, with the interplay of rough and smooth, large and small, light and dark serving to subtly distinguish different zones.

This architectural device is most prevalent on Gallery Walk, where the coincidence of a large number of disparate functions necessitated a sophisticated visual syntax to give each its due legibility. For example, the two theatres are identifiable by their black stone cladding which wraps the entire volume from outside in, but the divergence in their finishes - polished gabbro for the drama theatre and flamed limestone for

the multimedia theatre - representing their commensurate functions while maintaining their distinction. The changing character of materials during the course of the day and night was also an important consideration for the Student Centre. The aluminium, terrazzo and polished stone reflect sunlight by day, and then glow warmly under artificial sources at night.

The behaviour of the façades is particularly noticeable at different times. Controlled floodlighting is used to render the steel mesh sunscreens almost completely transparent, thus allowing the bold volumes of the changing rooms, Studio 2 and radio pod to provide a lively backdrop to sporting and social life in UCD well into the night.




Sport centre link

The Student Centre serves as an important catalyst to the urbanism of the UCD campus, not only adding new facilities, but also enhancing the experience of the existing ones. Aerial walkways to UCD Sport and the original student centre embed the new building into the established sporting and social activity, and encourage new use combinations across new and old. For example, the new tepidarium can play an important physiotherapeutic role after

Below Bridge linking UCD Sport to Student Centre, enclosing part of the outside wall.

18:00 104

Opposite Arriving in Student Centre from UCD Sport.

exercise, so its ready accessibility from around the wider sports precinct was a design imperative. The interface between UCD Sport and the Student Centre encloses part of the distinctive board-marked concrete of the 1981 building’s façade behind a new glass wall. This long and tall space is pierced by a bridge leading directly from the new gym to the indoor courts. An angular plan blurs the threshold between new and old, reinforcing the unity of the old and new buildings.

105 18:00


Above Polished black granite encases the reception to the sports wing, and lines the route from the original UCD Sport building to the Student Centre.


107 18:00

COMMUTING Facility west

The ongoing densification of the Belfield Campus has added significantly to the challenge of an appropriate commuting strategy. Existing surface car parking has expanded over the years in response to surging demand, but the Belfield estate has suffered as a result. Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners were asked to develop a design for facilities to encourage more sustainable alternatives to travelling to UCD by car, particularly cycling. It is envisaged that a set of ‘commuting facilities’ will be strategically located

18:00 108

across the campus, the first of which will sit alongside the new Student Centre. The multi-storey buildings will include secure parking for over 600 bicycles with managed changing, shower and locker facilities; dedicated coach parking; a bike sales and repair shop, motorcycle parking and 580 car parking spaces, ten per cent of which will be equipped to charge electric vehicles. A new terminus for Dublin Bus is also integrated. As a building to encourage sustainable lifestyles, wall and roof photovoltaic panels embedded in the façade provide up to 40%

of the building’s energy requirements, and a glazed exterior admits sunlight deep within so that artificial lighting is unnecessary for most of the day. As the Belfield campus develops to provide new and existing commuting facilities, the availability of surface parking spaces will continue to be reduced. The height models of the new commuting facilities will be very important in the public transport connectivity strategy of UCD.

Above Study of a typical elevation showing access and landscaping around the facilities.

Opposite Community Facility West on the UCD campus development model.


Below Impression of the completed commuting facility, showing photovoltaic facade.


Construction progress in detail

April 2010


June 2012 111



113 19:00

Multimedia theatre

The academic wing of the student centre is anchored by a series of cuboids containing the theatres, debating chamber and lift. The smallest such volume is the multimedia theatre. An intimate scale is well suited to focussed academic workshops, film screenings and webcasted tutorials. In order to provide for both general and academic audiences, the

19:00 114

projection room has been equipped with a particularly broad range of projection equipment, from the latest 3D-capable systems to a 35mm reel-to-reel projector for the classics. The theatre is also equipped to record and broadcast live events via the internet.

Below Sound lobby and entrance to projection room.

Opposite Auditorium occupied during film screening.


Above Black and red colour scheme in upholstery and acoustic wall panels .




117 19:00

the Fitzgerald Chamber

The debating chamber is among the Student Centre’s distinguishing features. The need for a world class debating venue in UCD became ever more apparent as their teams achieved international success despite not having a dedicated facility in which to practice or host. The UCD Debating Chamber takes as its precedent the historic spaces which grew from the rich dialectic tradition at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. These spaces are defined by an insular atmosphere and very high standard of finish. In the Fitzgerald Chamber, iroko panels line the walls and ceiling, complemented by red

19:00 118

velvet upholstery. A network of hidden staircases and leaning rails provide routes for the spectators and hecklers which have always formed part of competitive debating. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Chicago was another very important inspiration for the design. The small suburban church shares with the other precedents a perceptible introversion and use of precious materials, but exhibits a unique geometric rigour and understanding of the human experience of its inhabitation. These latter traits have been explored in the Fitzgerald Chamber through careful regulation of light

ingress, a clear distinction between interior and exterior and a haptic richness of the individual finishes. Technical performance and material characteristics have been considered carefully in terms of their versatility, specifically in the chamber’s acoustic isolation and low reverberation time, which also lend it musical performance. Tiered seating for opposing debating teams can retract automatically, creating a modest proscenium for private rehearsals and intimate performances.

Below Bleachers extended for opposing debating teams and their audience.


Above Section through the academic wing, showing the Fitzgerald Chamber suspended over the south entrance to Gallery Walk.




Above View across Fitzgerald Chamber from balcony.

Opposite View upon audience and team seating from balcony.

Left Structural detail of leaning rails, balcony and retracted bleachers.

Below Entrance to concealed corridors and staircases for hecklers.

75 x 275mm iroko leaning rail 10mm stainless steel rod 25mm solid iroko panels 60 x 120mm steel post clad in iroko


Coloured rubber floor with hammerblow surface 25mm solid iroko panels 100mm structural screed and 100mm wideslab exposed concrete finish 457 x 191 x 89 mm steel beam 12.5 mm plywood

ex. 175 x 50 mm timber framing

retractable seating

sprung floor with timber finish


Design precedents for the Fitzgerald Chamber in detail

The Fitzgerald Chamber shares with its Oxbridge counterparts a material richness and strong sense of the dialectic tradition which it perpetuates. Rejecting the superficially historicist character which some contemporary debating chambers are adopting, the architects studied a variety of buildings which are equally warm, functional and sustainable but which also readily assumed their place in the context in which they are built. Unity Temple (1908), a Unitarian Universalist church in Chicago by American architect

Frank Lloyd Wright, pursued similar antiimitative ideals and became the most influential precedent for the Fitzgerald Chamber in UCD. Wright persuaded his clients to abandon the familiar little white New England steeple in favour of a Modern solution which celebrated the value of gathering. Unity Temple is at once introspective and communal, monumental and human.

No visual connection to the outside places human activity at the heart of the space, while the concealed windows and rooflights create a sense of levity which belies the volume’s modest proportions. In common with Unity Temple, the finishes are arranged geometrically and symmetrically. This serves to lend a sense of order and balance to what will, at times, become the tempestuous and frenetic venue for elite debating.

The basalt-clad exterior of the Fitzgerald Chamber reads as a heavy, solid volume, but this encases a light and intimate interior.

Right Main facade of Unity Temple. Far right Pulpit and balconies. Opposite View from the pulpit of Unity Temple. Photo: James Caulfield


library of congress

library of congress

Overleaf View from the pulpit of the Fitzgerald Chamber.

123 photo courtesy James Caulfield



Swimming Pool in 25-metre sections

Technology incorporated into the floor of the swmming pool allows its depth and length to be customised. This is of particular benefit to aquatic team sports: a submersible boom can be raised to divide the pool into two sections. One half hosts team practices or matches, while lane swimming continues uninterupted in the other. A floating floor can be raised and angled in each of the sections to create yet more new environments for UCD’s watersports clubs.

Below Canoe polo club practice in the divided swimming pool.

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Opposite The pool in use in two 25m sections.

Overleaf With the dividing boom raised, the pool can host two uses simultaneously.

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the Fitzgerald Chamber deliberation landing

Teams regularly spill from the Fitzgerald Chamber during the course of debating competitions to prepare their counter arguments. The large, furnished mezzanines outside both levels of the chamber provide space for groups to gather in relative seclusion to research and prepare for their next round. At other times, these balconies also provide a new vantage point of the campus with views over the playing fields to the south of the Student Centre.

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Opposite Balconies outside both levels of the Fitzgerald Chamber.


Above Seating for debating teams to research and prepare counter arguments.




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the golden ratio in detail

Golden proportion is a ratio defined by the number φ (1.618033). It arises from the division of a straight line into two unequal parts so that the ratio of the whole to the larger part is the same as the ratio of the larger part to the smaller. In other words, so that A is to B as B is to C in the diagram below. This simple ratio was first documented in the 4th century BC and its occurrence has since been discovered in a wide array of biological settings, including the branching of trees,

arrangement of leaves on a stem, the spiral of a nautilus shell and the structure of a pine cone. Also known as Divine Proportion, the Golden ratio came to be interpreted as the basis of beauty and harmony in nature, and since the Renaissance it has dominated notions of correct proportion in painting, architecture, music and, most recently, plastic surgery. Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Claude Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris all use golden proportion.

Fib on ac ci

sp i

l ra





Above Golden rectangle applied to cladding layout on the Fitzgerald Chamber.

Opposite Geometric composition of the golden rectangle and Fibonacci spiral.


Theatre foyer

A subtle change in material, level and light marks the foyer of the Student Centre’s performance theatre. As it will primarily be used in the late evening, a material palette which retains its warmth in the absence


Above Audience entrance to performance theatre.


Right The radio pod as canopy over the theatre foyer.

Opposite Direct entrance to theatre foyer from Bridge Street.

of sunlight was developed. The yellow aluminium underside of the radio pod levitates as a canopy overhead, contributing to an atmosphere of unfamiliarity to preface the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

This separate entrance was also designed for round-the-clock access to the backstage areas and media suite upstairs.

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clubhouse bar

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The Clubhouse is UCD’s great social condenser. It offers a place for all the university’s clubs and societies to come together in a sumptuous and informal social venue. The Clubhouse is organised over two floors in the original Student Centre building: the larger sports bar on ground level and the more formal Clubhouse upstairs. An aerial walkway over Bridge Street links the bar to Gallery Walk in the Student Centre. There is also a direct entrance on the northeast corner of the original Student Centre.

The Sports Bar is divided into different areas by trophy cabinets, televisions and panels of American walnut. The space becomes very flexible, with café-style seating, lounges, pool tables and display cabinets celebrating UCD’s sporting achievement each offering opportunities for different social encounters. The Clubhouse Bar upstairs combines simple forms with finely detailed, opulent materials to give a modern, rich impression. This space shares the public spirit of the Sports Bar downstairs, but is also equipped to fulfil more ceremonial functions.

visualisations by Digital dimensions


Above The Clubhouse bar on the upper level. Opposite The sports bar.


performance theatre

Since its establishment in 1926, the UCD Drama Society has grown to become one of the university’s most active, performing forty plays per year. The new drama theatre is a prototypical black box theatre with a proscenium layout and a dedicated green room. The performance theatre is recognizable as one of the stone clad volumes lining the east side of the centre. To underline the theatre’s

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elevation from the day-to-day drama outside, it is expressed as an independent and insular volume. The stone cladding envelops the entire outer surface, from which the dark auditorium within appears to have been excavated. The backstage prop preparation areas are accessible around the clock through a staircase and entrance separated from the rest of the Student Centre.

Above Minimal adornment is a defining trait of black box theatres. The only visual distractions are the advanced lighting and rigging systems.

Below Acoustic model. The theatre underwent digital acoustic modelling and testing during the design phase in order to perfect the behaviour of sound within the auditorium.


Opposite Tiered seating for 112 audience members.




Opposite top Hair and makeup studios adjoin dressing rooms and a green room backstage.

Opposite bottom Acoustic panels, originally developed for sound stages and recording studios, provide perfect, echo free reverberation times.


Above A balcony and control room accessible to crew encircles the upper level of the theatre.




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public spaces after dark

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The Student Centre has been placed on a granite square between the 1964 UCD Sport complex and the original Student Centre from 2001, among the playing fields at the western edge of Belfield. By day the area is vital and welcoming thanks to this dense mix of sport and social facilities. In the evening, however, there is little to attract people and the area quickly becomes alienating and lifeless.

The ‘A day in the Life’ research highlighted this disparity, and presented an opportunity to catalyse a 24-hour vibrancy in and around the new Student Centre complex. The new programme concentrates extensive new facilities, which will attract users around the clock, across the formerly daytime use only buildings. Conceptually, the new building and its surrounding plazas echo the

infinite range of human experience they are designed to house. The complex composition of textures, materials and scales define the perceptive journey through the precinct, and it is the inventive application of light which seamlessly transfers their daytime interest into the night.

UCD nightlife. The Student Centre’s nightime guise casts the campus in a fun, lively new light after dark.


When lit directly, the glass and steel mesh facade dematerialises to accentuate the polychromy and reflective surfaces within. The brightly aluminium-clad volumes are given new prominence; the glow of the red fitness studio tints the granite pavement outside. Gallery Walk’s display screens further illuminate this mesmeric backdrop to


after General closure

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Above Colour from within the Student Centre enlivening its surrounding public spaces. Below The lounge at the Southern end of Gallery Walk. Opposite DramSoc and the news media societies are granted 24 hour access to their prop preparation, editorial or production facilities via an independent entrance route within the performance theatre block.


Opposite above The combination of street lights outside and floodlights inside the Student Centre create a lively atmosphere for the many people who will pass through after dark.


Left The swimming pool. Below The lifeguard leaves the pool hall after all the swimmers have returned to the changing village. Opposite View across Gallery Walk and the radio pod at first floor level.

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Above The multimedia theatre after the last daily showing. Below Colour and light preserve the safe and fun atmosphere around the Student Centre.


Opposite The Fitzgerald Chamber after the debating teams have left.




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Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners _



Design Philosophy & Approach Maurice Fitzgerald and Aidan Kavanagh have been practicing together since 1982. We believe professionalism and ethics have been at the heart of the success of Fitzgerald Kavanagh & Partners, where it is conveyed through our principles to staff that the opportunities of all our projects must be realised and completed with responsibility. Fitzgerald Kavanagh + Partners establish objective criteria from which to assess quality of design. Subjective aesthetics apart, the context in which design decisions are made is a good guide to the decisions themselves. Careful study of the brief, research into user requirements, limits of cost and construction timing, the organisation of skills and their efficient management all contribute towards a high design standard. Architecture is first a visual experience, then an environmental one. All Fitzgerald Kavanagh & Partners principles of sound practice have one objective - to continually improve the quality of design. The practice has delivered projects in a wide variety

of environments; urban, rural and conservation areas. Consequently, Fitzgerald Kavanagh & Partners has developed a reputation for producing elegant solutions to any client’s brief. It has been a privilege to lead the Design Team and the construction team on the UCD Student Centre project. Fitzgerald Kavanagh & Partners are particularly proud to have collaborated as a practice of committed individuals to design and deliver this piece of creative architecture. We endeavour to foster a spirit of team work and cooperation within our practice, to ensure that we strive to achieve the optimum design solution for our clients and their project needs. This project is a realisation of this work ethos, led by Aidan Kavanagh, one of our founding Directors, with Gerry Murphy, responsible for the conceptual design and strategy; John Thomson, Technical Director; and Andrew Howley, Associate and Project Architect, responsible for the delivery of all technical and design production, supported by a dedicated and talented design studio. We believe it is a fine legacy to the student funding of the project and a testament to the abilities of Fitzgerald Kavanagh & Partners. 161

FKP’s other projects with University college dublin cLINTON CENTRE FOR AMERICAN STUDIES _

Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Library _

UCD Gateway masterplan _ Program:

100,000 sq.m masterplan for landmark academic precinct. Designed in collaboration with Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart.


Competition 2006; finalist.



900 sq. m university library in former chapel.


Completed 2007


1,500 sq. m of research, lecture and reception facilities in a restored 19th century estate house.


Completed 2006

Postgraduate student residences _ Program:

4,600 sq. m of student halls of residence incorporating the restoration of a 19th century estate house.


Completed 2004.

Global lounge _ Program:

Interior fit-out providing new social space for international students and societies, including meeting rooms and offices.


Completed 2010

gleeson zen garden _ Program:

Zen garden situated outside the Global Lounge.


Completed 2009






project CREDITS Architects Design Team Leaders

Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners Aidan Kavanagh (Managing Partner) Gerry Murphy (Design Director) John Thomson (Technical Director) Andrew Howley (Senior Project Architect) Karen Hassey (Project Architect) Chris Doorly (Site Architect) Maurice Fitzgerald Jan Kukula Susan Tighe Ronan Cosgrove

Project Managers Quantity Surveyors

Davis Langdon

Civil/Structural Engineers Services Consultants


Fire Consultants

White Young Green

Acoustic Consultants

Allegro Acoustics

Façade Engineering

Billings Design


Stephen Diamond Associates

Commencement on site

November 2009

Substantial completion

March 2012

Project value

€50 million

Built floor area

11,000 sq. metres

Project Supervisor Design Process


Pool Consultants


GCCC Employers Representative

Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners


UCD Property Development Company Martin Butler (Vice President for students) Eamonn Ceannt (Director of Development) Dominic O’Keefe (Student Centre Director) Brian Mullins (Director of Sport) Pat De Brún (Student Union President) Aidan Grannell (Director Building & Estates) Lorcan Sweetman (Building & Estates Project Administrator) Enda Conaty (Project Engineer)

Main contractor

Walls Construction Eugene O’Shea Adrian Corcoran Rob Fox Bernard Green Joe Hanlon Brendan Darcy 167





Profile for Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners

A Day in the Life: UCD Student Centre by Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners  

A Day in the Life is a simple book about a complex building. The title comes from the body of research which prefaced the new Student Centre...

A Day in the Life: UCD Student Centre by Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners  

A Day in the Life is a simple book about a complex building. The title comes from the body of research which prefaced the new Student Centre...