Common Ground

I have been exploring the Sligo ground. 

Exploring the ground as a deposition of a multiplicity of narratives and texts, ranging from mythology, to archaeology, to geology, to the poetry of Yeats, to contemporary tourist brochures. 

Exploring the ground as a source of discovered space. 

Exploring the ground as a source of meanings that can be transformed and connected to through building. The act of building must, of its essence, mark the ground, depositing another layer of representation and adding to the complex multiplicity of readings with which this ground is imbued. 

I have been exploring how this can be achieved in a meaningful way so as to achieve a resonance with this place. 

The house project is sited in the amazing Glen which cuts through the terrain for a mile and a half on the south side of Knocknarea, and which was written about by Yeats. The project was about responding to this by making an incision into the ground. In this way the form of the building was made by this manipulation of the ground and then a series of tectonic planes were added to articulate the spaces and control the views through and across these spaces to the wider landscape. 

The subject for the thesis is then a community school and the site is on the other side of Knocknarea, just above Strandhill. The site is located where the field system breaks down and the mountain begins, and is also on a stratigraphical boundary where the hard limestone of the mountain changes to the softer rock and shale below. There are two eighth or ninth century ringforts adjacent to the site. 

The thesis has therefore been an exploration of how to achieve a resonance with this place and with these narratives that are contained in this ground. I have attempted to make this artificial landscape using concrete as a kind of third geology, that is inserted between the two landscapes and begins to act as a threshold between them, with one side being buried and the other built up to respond to the different edges. 

Weaving A Resilient Architecture

This thesis explores the notion of weaving in both a physical and social sense. The textile becomes a multi-faceted motif, a driving force in the activity of a place as well as an influence on its built form. I started to think about this idea in the context of Galway with its own history of textiles, as it became a means of threading aspects of the project together. Inherent in it is the value in interconnectivity, of architectural elements, old and new built fabric, occupants and social structures. It is these confluences that make up the thesis. 

The site consists of a former distillery and textile factory and its surroundings on Nun’s Island. Embodying a forgotten industrial heritage, the distillery sits across the Corrib, viewable but unapproachable. The scheme bridges this connection in an initial strategic move that sets up an atmosphere of passing through or of overlooking distant spaces. 

The aim is to weave university and city by establishing an isolated NUIG campus closer to the city, giving their research institutes a central position from which to engage with the public. The building values the transparency of knowledge, providing chances of encounter between disciplines throughout. This townhouse for Galway is university infrastructure and civic amenity at once. 

This theme of transparency is reflected in the architectural approach as veil like screens bind old and new fabric. The transparent screen is used as a device to reveal and conceal connections. In places, it affords the reading of old alongside new, in others it lightly partitions off spaces.

Assembling Place through Dissonance

The overall ambition of this adaptive-reuse and regeneration project was to inject new life through careful architectural intervention into the currently overlooked, and underutilised area of the Stranmillis campus around the Henry Garrett building. This is accomplished through the partial adaptive reuse of the Henry Garrett building, and the intervention of a loggia to activate the central, overlooked meadow space as an informal courtyard. The architectural challenges of this site included, the poor utilisation of the existing natural environment, partly due to the imposing road network throughout the campus that limits pedestrian movement around it. The relative lack of formal public areas for socialising and working, which include the stunning woodland and grass areas around the campus which create opportunities for informal social spaces, however they are not utilised due to the poor spatial layout of the campus, with disconnected buildings and pedestrian paths intercepted by roads. And finally, the fact that the Henry Garrett building itself, a Grade B+ listed red brick former multi purpose educational building, constructed in the late 1940’s, is laying derelict, in a state of disrepair. 

The renovation of this building could be a key intervention into unlocking the overlooked potential of the campus, as well as being crucial to preserving, and continuing to utilise the unique built heritage of Belfast. The success of the proposed intervention should re-animate this area into a socially cohesive, engaged space that will be utilised by future generations. The interventions are designed to outlast the Henry Garrett building, therefore as the existing fabric of the building further disintegrates over time, the intervention will remain, redefining the spatial alignment of the space to be shaped by future generations.

“Every building must create coherent and well-shaped public space next to it”(Christopher Alexander, in “A New Theory of Urban Design” 1987)