Exhibition open to the public

TCT 19 15 lo res

I have already posted a blog about the architectural extension to the Parsons building designed by Grafton Architects. Since I started working with David Taylor in 2013 I have always been interested in how the original and extension to the Parsons building were designed to abut each other.


After spending some time looking at the buildings and more specifically the extension from numerous viewpoints I really grew to appreciate the lines created by the Architects’ designs and how the architecture encapsulated and protects the Oregon Maple tree from the full brunt of any storms that occur.


I spent a good amount of time a month or so ago photographing both the interior of the parsons building where the old building is visible inside the new extension and from the outside. I am still drawn to the area where bricks from the original 19th Century building were deliberately preserved and are on display in the main corridor. The idea that where both building meet is visible inside and the fact that this outside of one building in now part of the inside space draws me to think of notions of liminal, between spaces where time and memory are layered, preserved and celebrated.


I spent a considerable amount of time photographing this area from a variety of angles. I have chosen one of these images to include as part of a light box piece in the exhibition.

Where the two buildings met outside was not as visually interesting for me. I was more taken by the area where the Oregon Maple and the new extension met.


There was one particular exterior image that caught my eye and I decided to do some line drawings to represent it. I was keen to engage with the idea of in between spaces and layers to reflect the notions that the building bring about for me.

I decided to start by drawing on different types, grades and sizes of tracing paper. Many many hours and drawing later I was happy with some of the results. The pieces I have chosen to include in the exhibition are in fact drawn on cork board and will be installed either inside or beside the noticeboards in the Parsons building space.

The drawings on tracing paper I have decided to use in a different way. In many ways I think they liken architectural drawings and I decided to play on this and extend the representation to roll them up and use them like pillars, all be it deliberately weak ones that might fail and crumple at some point during the exhibition, a fact that I am happy may occur. This of course would mirror some of conversations between David Taylor and I over the years and more specifically some of his recent scientific research. The light box that they are installed on emanates a gentle light from inside the rolled paper illuminating the drawing, which is layered on itself.

Again more images to follow after the installation is up.

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”