UCD Student Centre, Dublin
Friday 23 Nov 2012


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UCD Student Centre is the new epicentre of sporting, social and academic life at University College Dublin.

Completed in June 2012, the project occupies a unique position in the history of the campus, as both the largest single project since the original master plan, and the first to be funded entirely by its students.

Colour theory and a variety of sustainable materials have been composed into a rich, constantly surprising haptic adventure for the building's users. The complex encompasses 11,000 square metres of student facilities in an iconic, exciting and public-spirited new building, unified beneath a mono pitched timber glue laminated structure and roof.

Composed of multiple dynamic functions; a 50m swimming pool, gymnasium, dance studios, debating chamber, 3D cinema, drama theatre, radio studio, seminar rooms and cafe, each entity has its own volumetric quality and individuality. These volumes twist and turn, projecting internally and externally, while being lifted and lowered from the horizontal plane.

 The resulting voids and spaces in-between provide a navigable corridor-less public playground. The student advisory panel (our client) was unanimous in its calls for a foil to the predominantly grey modern architecture of the UCD campus.

The earliest design concepts are recognisable for their application of primary colours, which were subsequently developed into a multifaceted system providing orientation, spatial definition and a vibrant backdrop for student life around the clock. The outside of the building has strong monotone references to the adjoining context, yet when one transitions through the facade during the day or as evening approaches, the colour and vibrancy of this centre springs into life.

 The interior is a commensurately vibrant backdrop to student life, expressed through apposition of strong colours and tactile materials. Flamed limestone versus large scale polished black granite, grit-blasted black concrete versus smooth corian and tiling, exposed services adjacent to dropped white ceilings, white terrazzo versus electric green flooring pursue the vision of vibrancy through contextual diversity.

The journey through the building provides an ever changing, volumetric experience, with surface colour and materiality key to navigation. The transition through spaces occurs between, below and beside varying clad elements; the user's relationship to them changing constantly as they traverse spaces and levels.

 By night, when primarily viewed from the outside, the colours form a unified abstract surface of colour and light: a vital and animate backdrop to the nightlife on campus. This intuitive architectural legibility assists the user in finding a sense of ownership within the centre. The palette of bold and unfamiliar combinations has created a fun, inventive interior which is constantly enervating and engaging.

The UCD Student Centre reflects the interdependent relationship of leisure and learning, of colour and vibrancy of student life.

Fitzgerald Kavanagh + Partners