TCD: Parson’s Podium

  • Location: Trinity College Dublin
  • Architect: Grafton Architects
  • Completed: 2006

The site for this second extension to the Department was a space wedged between the Lincoln Place urban block, with all its extensions and accretions, and the 19th Century Parsons Building. It is also a corner of the university site through which enormous primary service routes make their way from the city to the campus: gas, electricity, IT, water and sewers. An existing electricity substation and transformer pits located on this site had to be maintained.

The site is at the junction of the “brick urban block” with the “stone university buildings” both in terms of geometry and language. The brick gable of the Lincoln Place buildings, with the painted sign of Finns Hotel could not be interfered with, because this sign signifies the hotel where, as every Dubliner knows, Nora Barnacle worked when she met James Joyce on Nassau Street. Also there was one important tree to be preserved.

The brief was to make sense of this confluence of disparate geometries and buildings and, in the process, to find a way of providing additional research and teaching spaces. There was also the requirement that the building had to be designed in such a way that it could be phased, in parcels, as funding became available. The brief for the Lincoln Place buildings was to improve accessibility by attaching a new lift to the brick gable, and to improve fire exits by making connections from the existing stairwells onto the new podium.

The podium level stretches, bends and folds to deal with the complex conditions of the site. It connects street with campus, forms new entrances and exits from existing departments, and forms a sunny communal space under the canopy of the preserved tree.

An external lift is housed in a new “gatehouse” element. This provides disabled access from the raised level of Nassau Street to the campus below. A podium houses extended basement levels used for research laboratories. This podium forms “forecourt” and “courtyard” type spaces. It also provides escape routes from the rear of the previously “trapped” spaces to the rear of the urban block. The preserved tree is anchored in this podium space and engenders a sense of communal life.

The upper level accommodation consists of smaller teaching spaces. Three teaching spaces are stacked to the west of Parsons building. A gap of 600mm is left between old and new. The larger teaching spaces, toilets,  stairs etc. are stacked to the rear of Parsons building, forming a court to the rear of the Lincoln Place buildings.
The small teaching block to the west cantilevers over the podium to form a new entrance to the department. The granite wall is punctured by timber windows clad externally in stainless steel, finished flush with the granite.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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