The Student Centre is the new epicentre of social, creative and sporting activity in University College Dublin. The Student Centre stands at the easternmost boundary of UCD’s covered pedestrian mall, adjacent to the Water Tower. The building has been carefully arranged so as to embed itself into the existing pedestrian network and introduce a large indoor public space to the campus.
Conceived as a contemporary rereading of the original 1964 UCD masterplan, famously penned at his mother’s kitchen table by a young Andrzej Wejchert, the Student Centre shares with its precedents a determined pursuit of progress and a dedication to the enduring benefits of conscientious, punctilious architecture.
As both the clients and financial stakeholders, the UCD student body was the decisive design generator. A foil to the grey homogeneity for which the campus is known, as well a host of specific features – from a tournament-grade debating chamber to professional television production facilities – have all been realised at the direct behest of the students.
The complex encompasses 11,000 square metres of student facilities in an iconic, exciting and public-spirited new building by Dublin-based Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners. A 50 metre swimming pool, debating chamber, 150-piece gym, 3D cinema, Spa & Health suite, performance theatre, Cafe and radio studio, among many others, redefine the standards for Irish university facilities.
With weekly visits by International parties it is quickly becoming a benchmark for student facilities worldwide. Sustainability was central to the design, with local materials, international expertise and groundbreaking technologies combined to make the Student Centre one of the most eco-friendly public buildings in Ireland, and has been internationally commended for such as winner of a Green Apple Award for sustainability, among others.
New public space around the Student Centre unifies the new facilities with the existing UCD Sport complex and original Student Centre including the recently completed FKP extension to the Student Bar. Aerial walkways within the new building link the three structures to make a seamless, hybrid sport and leisure complex of 22,000 square metres.
Composed of multiple dynamic functions – this microcosm of student life is unified under a bird-wing like glulam structure which soars outwards to embrace its newly-interconnected neighbours. Each function is expressed as a self-contained volume with its own unique spatial and material character.
These volumes are lifted, twisted, pushed in and out of the façade, the resulting voids and spaces in-between form the buildings navigable corridor-less public playground. The exterior has strong monotone references to the adjoining context, yet when one transitions through the facade during the day or as evening approaches on the concourse, the fun, colour and vibrancy of this centre springs into life.
Each function throughout the building is individually expressed through the use of varying rich materials and boldly expressed colours. This results in an intuitive architectural legibility and in-built way-finding mechanism subconsciously fosters understanding and a welcome sense of ownership.
This is after all the students’ building. In the first year of its operation the building has been a generator of a new found vibrancy within the campus having something for everyone. As a public building within UCD with a multitude of offering for the wider community it has also fostered an engagement with the wider public never witnessed before: a place for everyone.
Article by Marco Rinaldi