Building Extension incorporates Oregon Maple


Designed by Grafton Architects, the modern extensions to the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (Parsons Building), Trinity College Dublin, completed in 1996 and 2005 are additions to the original 19th century building and have won a number of architectural awards (2005, 2006 Architectural Association of Ireland, Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland).

The extension on the Nassau Street side is of particular interest to us because not only does it layer and abut a modern addition to the existing 19th century building but part of the remit for the extension was to consider, protect and incorporate the existing Oregon Maple tree into the architectural concepts and plans.


Image: interior of the extension abuts the 19th Century building, bricks can be seen on the right.


Image first floor, Oregon Maple growing through grating.

It is unusual and wonderful to see trees get such consideration. Great attention to detail in the plans and material used around this tree take into consideration it’s need to for space to grow. The Oregon Maple is surrounded by grating that can be recut to reflect a change in tree girth size, while also ensuring that any rain water that falls on the first floor is allowed to filter through and water the trees roots beneath.

To follow please find an extract compiled by Grafton Architects describing some of the concepts and features of this build.

“This is the second extension we have completed to this Department, the first being in 1996, which addresses the campus and is attached to the existing Parsons building which houses the Department of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering.

This particular site was a space wedged between an 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,sewers etc. An existing electricity substation and transformer pits located on this site had to be maintained and so we were tip toeing around to find a place for the additional accommodation required.

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 as funding became available.

The building extends the existing Department, forms a space between this Department and the rear of the repaired urban block and upgrades the existing pedestrian gateway to Nassau St. 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 forward of and between buildings. It also provides escape routes from the rear of the previously ‘trapped’ spaces to the rear of the urban block. A drop of 2.5m between the street and the campus allowed us to run the podium up to the street edge with small storage and research spaces housed below.

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. A gap of 600mm is left between old and new. New is kept separate from old, but connected with half levels, quarter levels, multiple lift stops, multiple stair landings, allowing easy movement between new and old spaces.

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.

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. The granite cladding coursing is matched with the existing stone coursing of Parsons building and the stone is interlocked at the corners revealing a cladding condition as opposed to a solid form of construction. Two ‘mute’ brick elements, like chimneys, are attached to the Lincoln Place gable housings a new lift and toilets.

The exterior in its form and language, mediates between city and campus.

PROJECT INFO: Client Trinity College Dublin, Contractor Pierse Contracting
Size 850m2, Date 2002, Location Dublin, Ireland

COLLABORATORS: Structure and Civils Arup, M&E Homan O’Brien
Quantity Surveyor DLPKS, Photography Ros Kavanagh”


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