Plus Architecture and Scullion Architects came together last year to design and deliver the Printmaking Workshop at the new TU Dublin Campus in Grangegorman, which was nominated for a 2021 Irish Construction Industry Award.
Gavin Wheatley of Plus Architecture and Declan Scullion of Scullion Architects, along with their teams, combined their decades of experience and expertise to design the single-storey framed building which was shortlisted in the Education category. Launched in 2012, the Irish Construction Industry Awards recognise, encourage and celebrate original and innovative contractors, businesses, teams, consultants and projects that demonstrate excellence in the built environment.
The design details a saw-tooth profile roof structure with integrated windows at each section along with solar panels. The light-filled internal space provides teaching and technical support spaces associated with printmaking and screen printing for the Technological University Dublin’s School of Creative Arts.
After a break in construction due to Covid-19 restrictions, the project was completed and handed over by main contractors Weslin Construction to the client – Grangegorman Development Agency – in June 2021.
According to Declan Scullion, the collaboration brought out the best in both design teams.
“It was a real team effort. Everyone worked well together and we’re delighted with the end result,” he stresses.
“Gavin is a good friend of mine so when the opportunity came along to work with him, I jumped at it. It was a big deal for Scullion Architects because we’re a small and relatively new firm which has only been going since 2016. In the early days, we did some fitout work for AIT, so we had that previous third-level educational experience.
“But this wouldn’t have happened without Plus Architecture’s scale, manpower and proven track record. We were both dedicated to ensuring we did a good job.”
As a practice which is primarily engaged in large-scale residential projects, Plus Architecture welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate its skills in a completely different sector.
“It’s good to diversify. It challenges you and broadens your horizons,” says Gavin Wheatley, who set up the practice in 2011 along with Des Twomey and Cyril O’Neill.
“While we’re very busy with residential developments at the moment, we’re eager to branch into other areas such as education. We’ve also worked in AIT and this is another nice project to have in the portfolio. Plus Architecture and Scullion Architects have worked together on a framework of projects in Grangegorman for the past three years, and Declan led this job brilliantly.”
The client’s original brief was to provide an interim solution of a workshop and ancillary supports for the printmaking education at TU Dublin’s School of Creative Arts. At first, the project was potentially destined to provide modular cabins housing the Printmaking Workshop. During the early stages of research, however, the design team demonstrated better value-for-money with a more permanent, robust and flexible solution offering a multitude of future uses.
Notwithstanding the economic benefits, a fit-for-purpose environment offers very significant gains for the end-users, the University and a social dividend for the communities of the local neighbourhood. The €1 million project comprised a central north-lit workshop area surrounded with technical support and administrative spaces with a total floor area of 320m2.
The building is located where the fringe of the newly-emerging Grangegorman TU Dublin Campus meets the industrial landscape of the former Broadstone Railway Station and Dublin City Bus Depot. A short delivery programme demanded forms of construction that were readily available, commonplace and simple to build.
The structural steel design was based on standard section sizes that repeat the bays across the length of the structure. Simple methods of construction and a restricted palette of low-cost materials were used throughout the build with a focus on finishing details to create a crisp silhouette and interior.
As with many projects in 2020, the arrival of restrictive public health measures midway through the project resulted in some extension to the original delivery date. However, with the cooperation of the employer and contractor, time was regained and the project was delivered on budget.
The design team did not want to make a workshop which was a presentation or pastiche of an industrial space. Instead, they sought a place of specific character, a place of production, a place to be robustly engaged with and altered.
The structure comprises repetitive steel frame trusses on columns enveloped in built-up layers of thin metal liner sheets, thick material wool insulation and corrugated cladding normally used on rapid-build industrial buildings. A focus on the external edges of the building lends it a precision and refinement not normally associated with these building types. Internally, the designers developed construction details which were limited in number, unsophisticated, but purposeful.
The building is distinguished on the campus by the strong silhouette of its pitched roofs and its expansive bright white interior. The interior allows the artwork created to be the focal point in the space. A generalised shed would not readily facilitate the production and display of small-to-large work, and the processes required to create them.
The saw-tooth form creates a bright, well-lit interior which has multiple subtle spatial characters such as the low truss booms, caryatid-like UC columns and moveable walls on casters as well as a fully-glazed studio annex to the south product nodal points and overlapping room – like divisions within a simple enclosure.
The services are exposed internally and carefully coordinated to allow ease of future maintenance. Overhead lighting is integrated alongside the steelwork, freeing up the space below the saw-tooth roof to be unencumbered by hanging services. Radiant heating panels sit flush within an overhead panel lining the underside of the saw-tooth roof valleys.
The floor-to-ceiling glazed studio annex is set about 50cm higher than the footpath outside. The soffit of this space is flat so that one is drawn to the trees and wide pedestrian walkway outside. In this way, the campus is drawn into the workshop, and this ‘shop window’ also permits the workshop to be projected into the campus.
Health & Safety was paramount on the site, while energy efficiency was one of the key factors that demonstrated better value in a purpose-built workshop.
The project showcases the talents of Plus Architecture and Scullion Architects who are both based in Dublin and employ 21 and three people respectively. Plus Architecture is dedicated to producing progressive, high-quality architecture and design for its clients. The practice was established with a strong design ethos and recognition of its professional duty to deliver creative, workable and cost-effective solutions on all projects. Its biggest project at the moment is the 485-apartment Hamilton Gardens development in Cabra, which has Walls Construction as its main contractor.
Scullion Architects’ work is characterised by a sensitive approach to materials and intuitive understanding of construction and detail. And like Plus Architecture, it is always looking for new challenges and to expand into other sectors.
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This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, April 2022, Vol 8 No 4