Text description provided by the architects. The Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners -designed UCD Student Centre was announced yesterday as the winner of the RIAI Irish Architecture Public Choice Award 2013 for building of the year, as well as Best Universal Design Award supported by the Centre for Excellence In Universal Design. UCD Student Centre is the new epicentre of sporting, social and academic life in UCD. The project occupies a unique position in the history of the Belfield campus, understood to be the first funded entirely by its students. FKP Architects believe design should seduce and evoke an emotional response, and above all, good design must primarily serve people. With this in mind it is a great honour for FKP Architects to receive the RIAI Irish Architecture Public Choice Award today as the Irish public’s favourite building of 2013.
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.
The design team and construction team was led by Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners. This project is a prime example of what can be achieved when client and designer unite in pursuit of the same goals. “This is a complex, sophisticated building. We have worked hard to provide a fun, exciting space which contributes to the UCD student experience 24 hours a day, 365 days a year”