In June, St Mary’s Primary Care Centre, Cork won the ‘Health Project of the Year’ at the 2019 Irish Construction Industry Awards. Avanti Architects were the lead architects on the project and Building Ireland caught up with company Regional Director, Ronan Conneely to learn more about the success and the business itself.
Practicing in Ireland since 1996, Avanti Architects is an award-winning practice with an open and progressive design approach committed to creating socially sustainable and joyful buildings, places and spaces.
The company has offices in London and in Kinsale, Co Cork and currently employs 45 staff, including Ronan Conneely, who is Director of Avanti’s Irish office.
Building Ireland caught up with Ronan himself recently to hear all about Avanti – from the state of business at the minute to its recent success at the Irish Construction Industry Awards.
“Avanti Architects was originally founded in London in 1981 and the company’s is in Ireland since 1996,” he explained.
“I’m Regional Director here in Cork since 2000 and when the company originally started it was focused on social housing. Over time it moved into different sectors and in 1996, it started in on healthcare projects in Ireland.
“Since then, we’ve grown right across the south of the country with projects from Tralee to Wexford and we concentrate mainly on developing solutions to our clients’ problems.”
With that growth has come a reputation for excellence in Avanti’s work, earned by consistently delivering projects on time and with budget.
Projects can range from “€35,000 to millions”, according to Ronan, who is as proud as anyone when he hears glowing reviews of the company’s work.
“Our order books are full at the moment, but at the same time some projects are slower getting off the ground than others,” he explained.
“We see the market a little bit unsettled at the moment because of Brexit. Before St Mary’s we had the Ulster Hospital project which we completed in 2017.
He added: “I think a big part of our success here has been because we’re quite meticulous in how we work and it has stood to us down through the years.”
As for St Mary’s Primary Care Centre, Cork, it was a project “represented a catalyst” for Avanti, according to Ronan, who pointed to its uniqueness in combining the healthcare and educational sectors.
Together with the Health Service Executive, Avanti Architects this year delivered a new Primary Care Centre, developed to meet the health needs of up to 40,000 people in the surrounding area.
The centrepiece of the new St Mary’s Health Campus, Cork, the building was planned as a compact ‘figure of 8’ shaped plan building around a triple height internal street space at the centre connecting all departments together.
Located on the grounds of the former Orthopaedic Hospital in Gurranabaraher in Cork city, the 6,500 square metre facility (the largest in Ireland) is home to primary care services in the north-west of the city and includes a number of GP practices, Public Health Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapy services, Dietetics, Speech and Language Therapy, Podiatry, Psychology, Dental, Opthalmology, Immunisation, Mental Health Services and series of bookable rooms for additional services.
The presence of University College Cork in the north side of the city for the first time ever is also being facilitated in the primary care centre.
The Centre for Urban Health and Wellbeing and The Cork Vocational Training Scheme for General Practice is accommodated within the centre along with a Dental Outreach Training Centre for the UCC School of Dental Surgery.
The folded ‘figure of 8’ geometry of the centre created two courtyards connected with a circulation spine / ‘internal street’ at the centre.
The southerly courtyard is a visual extension of the ‘Arrival Square’ and provides a sense of openness to the main entrance. The northern courtyard captures and frames a ‘green finger’ of landscape, creating ‘in-between’ green spaces which echo the vernacular architecture of the campus.
The courtyards serve both to provide natural light and ventilation, but also support the creation of a therapeutic environment essential for this building typology. The internal street at the centre of the building is glazed to the courtyards and contains reception points, waiting areas, health information and a café.
As part of the appointment, Avanti Architects were asked to prepare a framework for the future development of the site including expanded community nursing units, out patients department, clinical spaces and office accommodation.
The official opening of St Mary’s Primary Care Centre took place this past April and was opened by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. It has been warmly received by local residents, patients and staff.
Come June, the project was shortlisted at the Irish Construction Industry Awards at Dublin’s Citywest Hotel and reigned supreme in the Health Project of the Year category on the night.
Ronan collected the award from judge panel member Michael Duff on behalf of Avanti, and reflecting on the success, says it was a privilege for the company to be involved in such a project.
“It was a great project and a great honour to be recognised that night. It was especially great for the staff of this company as a whole and we were delighted to win it,” he stated.
Going on form, you get the feeling there could be more award successes to come from Avanti in the not too distant future.
For now though, the focus down in Kinsale remains on current and future projects and, of course, continued growth.
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Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, September, Vol 5 No 9