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International Design Competition (Finalist)

Client: University College Dublin

Dates: May – June 2018

Area: 23.8 hectares

Category: Education

In collaboration with O'Donnell + Tuomey, Allies and Morrison, ARUP, Hargreaves Associates, Superposition, Phil Jones Associates, Max Fordham, Horgan Lynch, MLM Group.


Link to presentation boards here


In 2018 University College Dublin announced an international competition for the development of both a masterplan and a new Centre for Creative Design for their extensive campus in Dublin, Ireland. Our team, headed by O'Donnell + Tuomey Architects, was selected from a total of 98 submissions as one of 6 teams to go through to Stage 2.


The University as City

Concept developed in collaboration with Superposition

We believe in the power of exchange; of informal, cross-disciplinary, inclusive, student-driven learning.

UCD is the largest university in Ireland with over 33,000 students. In terms of population alone it ranks as Ireland's 9th largest town, and like other universities, like cities and the world's population, UCD will continue to grow in scale. With the potential for a further 335,000 sq.m of new, large-scale development within the existing campus grounds, the university is in danger of becoming too big. For that reason, our interventions focus on providing architecture at the micro-scale as a counterbalance to the macro-scale of the larger academic buildings. The aim is to allow for spaces that encourage interaction and exchange on a more intimate level. The placement and functions of these structures (not necessarily buildings) draw on our observations of how people learn and work within urban environments and pay particular attention to the rising success of co-working spaces, hot-desking arrangements, laptop cafes and freelance workers as indicative of a desire to learn and work differently.

When UCD eventually doubles its built environment and learning capabilities, we believe that this other, secondary, framework should be also in place. Small, carefully planned and sometimes hidden, these spaces and structures would reveal both the layers of history, activity and culture that are present at UCD, while simultaneously also offering a space for both the academic community and the inhabitants of the surrounding area to gather, share, to exchange and learn from each other, away from the classroom.


We developed a series of interventions together with Superposition as an example of what this framework could include:


Learning Pavilion


Lake Bar

Mobility Hub

Rooftop Cafe

Covered Walkways (together with Superposition)

The Bridge to the City (Superposition)

Woodland Bridge (Superposition)

Periscope (Superposition)

Bookshop (Superposition)

Walled Garden Conservatory (Superposition)

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Learning Pavilion

Situated in the space between O'Donnell + Tuomey's proposed new Welcome Building and the existing CRID lab, the Learning Pavilion is envisaged as a single room structure sitting between the existing trees. This multi-purpose space can function as a storefront for UCD, utilising a vitrine-like outer-wall to display work from the students, staff and researchers to anyone walking by. Inside, a small, open-plan space can be used for workshops, tutorials, study groups and focus-meetings, with plenty of wall space for pinning up work or presenting ideas. The pavilion uses an existing ring of trees to create a small natural forecourt, allowing it to expand outdoors on fine-weather days for exhibition openings, student gatherings and campus events.

Zoom Learning Pavilion.jpg


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The Pontoon provides a platform for meeting, celebration and recreation at the edge of the original lake. A freeform seating platform faces the sun and looks back across the lake towards the James Joyce Library. On graduation days, its open space can accommodate a graduating class of students, posing for photos with O'Reilly Hall behind them. On warmer evenings, it can serve as the base for a cinema screen, projecting films across the lake to anyone sitting on the main steps. There's also a smaller version placed beside it, for ducks.

Zoom Pontoon.jpg

Lake Bar

The Lake Bar is an outpost, a place to gather on the way back from campus at the end of the day. Situated between the new walkways and the new lake, the Lake Bar is essentially a kiosk, an outdoor assembly point for student life placed close to the existing student accommodation in a sunny corner of campus.


The main structure is made from steel frames partially wrapped in steel mesh. Although its function occurs at ground level, it nonetheless extends towards the sky to mark its presence in the landscape. A concrete box is inserted into the middle of the structure to house the bar, a small storage room and WCs. The massive existing concrete paving slabs around the bar reappear at a smaller scale within the bounds of the bar itself so that the scale of the ground begins to reflect the increased density of people standing on it.

Zoom Lake Bar.jpg

Mobility Hub

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The Mobility Hub acts as the gateway to campus for all of those arriving by bus or being dropped off by car. Situated immediately inside the main entrance and alongside the new central axis, it provides a direct, fast connection to the heart of the university. Students, staff and visitors arrive under a large, floating timber canopy, sheltered from rain and wind (and lit from within on darker evenings) as they make their way to and from their daily college life. It is playful in structure and urban in scale, celebrating the moment of arrival and using its visual language of canopy and legs to connect it to the new bridge and new covered walkways. A bicycle shop, coffee kiosk and package station also populate the Hub, creating a centre for movement and transport at the beginning of the university grounds.

Zoom Mobility Hub.jpg