Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Architecture Factory in Republic of Ireland by Cork Institute of Technology
October 15th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Cork Institute of Technology
The Architecture Factory is a third level education and learning space. It is situated in a disused 1980s-manufacturing warehouse. The split-level warehouse is a tradition flat roofed steel frame structure with infill brick faced block envelope with minimal fenestration.
Cost effective occupancy was a primary factor informing the strategic master plan for repurposing of a warehouse. The end-user department was seeking traditional architectural studio pedagogy with the possibility of improved interaction.
The initial concept therefore sought to avoid a traditional subdivision of walls and ceilings, which would require sub divided servicing and fire rated corridors. In a very deep plan building the penetration of natural light, air and a sense of space would be important factors in the user experience.
The basic scheme involved the introduction of 6 shipping containers, functioning as lecturer’s offices, occupying the lower half of the space dividing it into open studios. Physically the higher part of the warehouse allowed for the intervention of a mezzanine, which could be separated from the containers by an open boulevard. Physically the ground floor of the mezzanine with a lack of direct natural lighting would suit principally seminar, lecture and storage spaces. At either end where perimeter fenestration permits natural light, enclosed studios give senior years more acoustic privacy. Floor to ceiling frameless glazing minimally delineate the recessed acoustic boundaries. The elevation of the mezzanine avoids the creation of a long monolithic horizontal interior façade, favoring smaller vertically-oriented proportioned ‘houses’ with connected balconies. The glazed interior balcony is planned as an anamorphic projection distorting the perspectival emphasis depending on direction of travel. The balcony is intended to function as a busy first floor thoroughfare connecting the main campus to the car park via external bridges. Again the floor to ceiling transparencies offers excitement and vista to the activities below, on the one hand exposing the occupants but the other communicating function and learning.
The open multi functional boulevard, acts as an exploration-learning lab, an opportunistic exhibition space, and the main circulation. The lack of walls separating open plan studios from the boulevard creates a visually open connection between occupants to encourage interaction between peer groups.
The used lime green shipping containers, reuse embodied energy and radiate a chromatic energy within the space. The modular roof sections are serrated to allow a better sense of interior space acting as passive openings for natural light and ambient temperature control. The serrations create a repetitive texture angled toward the south for light and away from the mezzanine windows for privacy. The resulting textural composition creates differing cognate compositions depending on whether they are viewed from above or below.
The open plan studios occupying the many parti spaces between the geometric organizations of container offices appear in un-partitioned relief. Dedicated workspaces are arranged on the perimeter of the containers with industrial wire shelving functioning as both storage and acoustic baffle. Sound is moderated by both the absorption of shelving content and deflection via the corrugated container walls. The density of users act as textural sound absorbers and background white noise emitters. In use, the 6 acoustically open offices and studios function well in terms of learning intelligibility. Enclosed seminar rooms below the mezzanine provide more acoustically private spaces for theory delivery and discussion. With 240 students in open plan with no enclosure in studios, interaction is high and student-to-student learning is a natural consequence of the interior architecture. Pedagogical strategies are employed (like cross-disciplinary vertical projects) to build peer to peer interaction and learning.
The industrial heritage of the building strongly influenced how the scheme aesthetic maintained the genius loci. The use of containers reflects the manufacturing process. The white and grey provides an interior canvas carefully refined to minimize complexity. Color proportionality and density emphasizes the containers but is sensitively balanced not to perceptively dominate the space.
The space is immensely popular with staff, students and the many visitors. The space has promoted vigorous activity, play, fun and engagement in learning. Students feel a great sense of pride and ownership. Where former studios were uninspiring often resulted in apathetic and indifferent participants, the Architecture Factory is all consuming and full of energy.
Designers Comment: There are few times in a career when a schemes performance exceeds your own initial vision. Where, as a designer, you often walk away from a project at the end, only remembering the design flaws, the almost constant response of users who experience the space is so positive that I almost forget the irritations of compromise. It is perhaps in delivering a space so cost effectively that proves the added value of a well-considered design.
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Tags: Republic of Ireland