Burke Culligan Deegan’s design for the Aoibhneas Children’s Centre won the international competition administered by by the RIAI (Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland). The new children’s centre is an addition to the existing women’s refuge in Dublin, Ireland. The philosophy of the design was to aid growth and recovery in an uplifting environment for women and children who were temporary residents in the refuge.
Read on for information and images after the break.
The challenge was to create a centre that fit into and engaged the existing facility, reconciling the two in hopes that they would work together. The site offered several challenges including the fact that the architects had to work with the residual spaces left over by other buildings.
The new children’s centre should be seen as a “Home.” The vision was to create a protected walled garden that offered a variety of rooms for solitary use and group use. The project consists of 3 basic elements: the house for the children’s facility with its own identity, revitalization of the existing facility, and the creation of a site between the two that provides for outdoor rooms and play-spaces. The individual components of the “home” which consist of a variety of “rooms” are spaces that have individual qualities and foci to allow for a variety of activities in a group or individual setting. These spaces range from window seats, to a living room to an external garden.
The new children’s centre stands apart from the living quarters of the centre. It is linked through the new building, however. The detachment was a step to create a sense of independence from their living quarters to ensure a sense of event in the centre. The core, ‘enjoyment’ spaces of the brief are located in the house volume of the Children’s Centre, so that the children will relate the image of their house with one of play and delight. The secondary support aspects of the brief are housed separately in the link building yet function as one with the rest of the centre. The children’s centre is laid out as a collection of rooms around a central top-lit space. Each room is tailored to the activity within and can be closed off yet remain visually open to the rest of the centre. The materiality of the centre creates a space of unity: a continuous, strong and tactile materiality characterises the external image and internal spaces. Together with the softer domestic furnishings and personal touches of the children and staff, this robust backdrop is coloured with life and joy. The atmosphere of the new centre is one of stability, protection and relaxation – elements essential to the well-being of every child. Individual touches can be added with the addition of their personal work displayed in existing bay windows and private outdoor areas to create “mini-homes.”
The outdoor spaces have been reclaimed by the project, providing planted garden, and communal living/dining spaces for access by all residents. There are spaces within the walls of the centre as well as those that serve as an entrance into the site. Personal gardens are also available. Compounded into a scheme for well-being the woman’s refugee centre and the children’s centre work together to create an accepting and enriching environment.