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Queen’s University graduates reveal new design for Dublin primary school

Learning Space competition winners announced

Queen’s University Belfast graduates Laura Martin and Cormac Maguire from County Antrim, have been selected as the winners of UCD’s Learning Space competition for their design of the new school building for Holy Rosary Primary School, in Ballycragh, Firhouse, Dublin 24.

St. John Walsh, from Cork; Sarah Williams, from Dublin; and Deirdre Brophy, from Dublin, were the other three finalists of the competition, organised by UCD Architecture and sponsored by Irish Offsite and Modular Buildings  specialist RoanKabin to find a new design for the Tallaght school, while giving students and graduates the opportunity to showcase their talent. The four finalists were shortlisted from 20 participants.

The winners received a cash prize and the opportunity to take up a three-month work placement with sponsor RoanKabin, at the company’s drawings and contracts department in County Kildare. St. John Walsh and Sarah Williams who came second and third respectively also received cash prizes.

The Learning Space workshop and competition was organised within the wider NOW WHAT? program, set up by UCD Architecture in July 2009 as a response to the decline in employment for graduate architects. With architects facing up to 50% unemployment this year, the NOW WHAT? initiative aims to encourage young architects and avoid the loss of talented and highly educated architecture graduates due to the lack of employment prospects.

The workshop leaders, Emmett Scanlon and Deirdre Mc Kenna of UCD Architecture were asked by the school management to help them develop some ideas for their new building. Holy Rosary is a unique school, with a very diverse student population of over 500 students of 40 nationalities

“After some discussion with the principal, we thought it would be best to try and harness the creative energy of architectural students and more specifically recent graduates and to focus this energy on generating new ideas for the school. This would also provide some real, productive, creative outlet for recent graduates in architecture as all graduates are experiencing unprecedented difficulty in finding employment as architects in Ireland,” explains Scanlon, a lecturer in architecture at UCD.

Paddy McEvoy, Managing Director of RoanKabin, explains the company’s involvement with this unique competition: “RoanKabin is very active in the Education sector and we are constantly developing new and innovative building solutions, from a design and from a sustainability point of view. All the projects presented today had a main focus: creating a sustainable school project and we are delighted to be involved since we share a common interest in sustainability as the base for the schools of the future in Ireland.”  

School Principal Max Cannon was very impressed with the quality of the projects presented. “We got ideas from staff and children at the school and we set up a list of what they would like to have in their new school: respect for the environment, community, respect for local history, and facilities for special needs were among the top priorities,” he explains.

“I think the participants really listened to what the teachers and children had to say. They took into account the needs and requirements of the school and they came up with very innovative ideas, taking into account not just the school curriculum but also innovation in building materials and future-proofing the school in relation to ICT as well.”

Cannon points out many unique concepts were incorporated to the projects and really captured the panel’s imagination: an indoor/outdoor classroom, a school divided in blocks that would allow the school to manage energy more effectively, allocated plots where children and parents could grow vegetables, and many more quirky designs, supported by sustainable systems, such as solar panels and geothermal heat pumps.

“The winning project was unique as it was clear Laura and Cormac had done very in depth research and put a great effort into their presentation that showed the project in great detail. It made it very easy for the panel to see how the new building would work,” he adds.

The development of the winning project will now depend on the Irish Department of Education.

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