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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.

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...