East Quad Building
Dublin, Republic of Ireland
An education building truly for the creatives of the future
The East Quad Building on Grangegorman Campus for Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) breaks new ground in how creative arts and media programmes are delivered. Fostering collaborative relationships, whilst addressing the University’s aspirations and supporting the wider community.
The building is the gateway to the new university campus and, along with dedicated spaces for teaching and learning, is also open to the public, hosting daily performances and recitals at the Conservatoire for Ireland.
Pushing the boundaries of what the future of education should and could look like
TU Dublin had a simple ambition to be the first choice in Ireland for higher education. Rationalising their estate into one masterplan would not only address the isolation of departments across the city, but also put the university at the forefront of the third level education offering in Ireland.
The Grangegorman masterplan site, within a special planning zone, was one of the largest remaining undeveloped areas in the centre Dublin. The East Quad Building was to be a centre of excellence for the arts and act as a gateway to the university.
A careful interrogation of the brief led to numerous study visits to institutions with similar facilities, with an analysis of how these could be integrated into a single arts faculty building. The outcome was a building with a strong focus on faculty-wide collaborative learning and knowledge share.
Our approach supports the university’s desire for a building with strong civic presence maintaining community access to all public facilities. A thoughtful security strategy ensures people can enter the building and see learning activity around them whilst still retaining separation between students and the public.
Centre of excellence for cross discipline learning
Our design philosophy was influenced heavily by the evolution taking place in higher education, with greater cross fertilisation between subject areas and students a growing priority. Creating a centre of excellence which brings together the Conservatory of Music & Drama, School of Art & Design, School of Languages, School of Media and the School of Social Sciences and Law.
Circulation is more than a means of moving from one space to another; it's is active component in the learning process. This approach informed the simplicity and openness of the layout, with learning on view and accessible for all. Wherever you are in the building, you will see people actively learning. A greater variety of spaces can support different styles and ways of learning.
Our compact plan meant the whole building can be navigated from the entrance in under a minute. This close proximity has been balanced with the use of large open spaces in the form of an atrium. Acting as a buffer between the conservatoire, workshops, media and art spaces, people can go undisturbed while in their creative flow, even as people ebb and flow throughout the day.
The outdoors is an extension to the learning experience supporting the overall learning approach. Careful stepping of the building gives access to the external space, critical for many of the subjects offered within the East Quad, with terraces at all levels. Visual connections to the outside are also provided through the atrium, maximising natural light and improving people's wellbeing.
Encouraging collaboration with spaces and people on view
Formal and informal spaces come together, providing time for people across disciplines to connect, discuss and develop ideas together. ‘Formal’ spaces sit on the outside of the building and ‘informal’ spaces connect to the atrium inside. Social learning is layered horizontally with the noisiest space at the bottom becoming quieter and more intimate as you move upwards.
Movable walls enhance this flexibility,
allowing spaces to accommodate different sized groups of students as well as
enabling furniture to be re-configured in imaginative ways. The unique ability
to see between the different levels encourages people to explore and use all of
Flexible, innovative and creative
The entrance space is the first impression of anyone entering the building, influencing the creation of the plaza which leads directly to the foyer. Natural light and generous proportions ensures people feel welcome and can easily locate a member of staff as a friendly face.
The performance hall is designed for flexibility, with a stage area surrounded by retractable seating at the heart. As well as a box office, green room and dressing rooms. The upper gallery ensures performers can see an audience in every direction.
Distributed learning commons
Distributed Learning Commons (DLC) create an authentic professional learning experience similar to design studios in practice. Located near the stairs, the spaces are flexible to encourage students to move and use different spaces on different levels working across subject areas.
Flexible learning spaces
Learning spaces are designed flexibly to suit group based learning, varying in size and use from large horseshoe classrooms to smaller tutorial spaces. All the furniture was chosen specifically to accommodate these changes.
Great care and attention has been given to the internal acoustics of the recording spaces to ensure they are well suited to jazz ensembles and amplified music. These are one of the few spaces which benefit from mechanical ventilation due to high standards required to minimise background noise.
Following the examples of the BBC Media City, the editing booths are located to encourage collaborative working between media and music students. A close relationship with nearby breakout spaces ensures that some editing can also be done in a less formal environment.
The practice rooms maintain natural light and a view to the outside, creating sense of connectivity with other people around them. Whilst the flanking walls maintain the highest levels of acoustic separation, the corridor benefits from a lesser rating allowing the sound of practising to spread around the building.
A black box and second smaller theatre offer dedicated double height space for the media school. Associated spaces are all accessed from the same lobby including control gallery and rack room. The space was developed as double height for lighting and other AV controls above the main studio area.
The art studios have been located at the top of the building to bring a north facing light into each of the spaces. The finishes in these spaces are simple, where a sacrificial layer of plywood has been applied to the walls and a vinyl floor used to provide a robust and hard wearing finish.
The workshop areas are one of the most important aspects, positioned on the ground floor to act as a shop window to the building. This open plan workshop approach is already used at TU Dublin and is replicated in the East Quad.
Ensuring the best acoustic experience across every space
Due to the volume and variety of spaces, the acoustic design input to the project was complex, with room acoustics, sound insulation and background noise critical to the success of the building. We adopted a “room within a room” approach, where internal surfaces including walls, floor and ceiling are not in direct contact with the external building structure.
We chose sprung timber floor for all performance spaces, whilst the finishes such as curtains or vertical blinds are contained within pockets to ensure the room acoustic can be adjusted to suit performances. The recital hall’s timber finish combines its acoustic properties with a warm feel, whereas the black box has simple black painted walls on plasterboard in line with other experimental theatre spaces.
Promoting the environment and playing its part in a sustainable future
Energy use was a key design criteria, with the design focused on reducing energy demand, optimising building performance and orientation to utilise some solar gain in the summer and limit heat loss in the winter.
Heating and lighting is zoned in accordance with patterns of use with public spaces requiring control for much longer periods of time.
Nearly 50% of spaces are naturally ventilated, with specialist performance spaces mechanically ventilated due high occupancy and acoustic sensitivities of these spaces.
The robust palette of materials means these will require replacement less often and assists in cleaning and maintenance. A Building Management System reduces energy usage through monitoring of heating, lighting and ventilation.
Cohesive, intuitive design making wayfinding easy
To address the scale of the building, we needed to create cohesive and clear internal finishes and wayfinding strategies. To create a colour palette for the building, our interior design team took inspiration from the colours of autumn as this tied in with local Irish landscape e.g. pebble beaches and the River Liffey which runs through Dublin.
We then designated a colour scheme for each zone and department. National Conservatoire uses neutral and gold colours, Atrium 2 uses light blues, Atrium 3 dark blues and Atrium 1 burgundy.
We also designed feature wall graphics, which were inspired by Tangrams, using colours from the designated palette. Tangrams are a Chinese geometric puzzle, consisting of a square cut into several pieces which can be arranged to make various other shapes. This represents a collaboration of individual forms to create various larger shapes and acts as a visual depiction of the various disciplines coming together to create new and exciting ideas.
Staff areas use a consistent colour palette used across the whole campus. All finishes, carpets, walls, stairwells, and the signage in each area correspond with each colour, which makes the wayfinding more intuitive.
To showcase performances, linear lighting has been introduced, with brushed gold effect trims, sitting horizontally and vertically between each natural timber panel
A gateway to the Grangegorman campus
The East Quad Building was designed to act as a landmark of the site. This is demonstrated visually, through a simple material palette of brick and bronze, expressing DIT’s values of blended learning and authentic experiences for staff and students. As well as, connecting with the wider community and the city.
Experiencing the building before it was even built
There was a significant challenge of having a geographically dispersed design team located across the UK, Ireland and Spain. We utilised BIM on the new East Quad to create 3D models with the aim of improving the end product and efficiency whilst minimising data loss.
The stakeholders, wider design team and students could experiment with the 3D environments in Virtual Reality changing material choices, location of objects and different structures all in-situ.
This transparency, throughout the entire process, gave the stakeholders a chance to make more informed choices, minimising risk and benefiting all aspects of the project. Our 3D architectural models of the campus are now even used by Game Design students to create games based within their very own university as part of their syllabus.
Dublin, D07 H6K8, Republic of Ireland (ROI)
BER rating of B1
BREEAM Very Good
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