[First look] Robin Lee Architecture has won a contest to design the new Confucius Institute for Ireland at University College Dublin (UCD)
The ziggurat-shaped 2,000m² building will be the first purpose-built Confucius Institute centre anywhere in the world.
Planned to complete in 2016, the facility will host courses and events promoting Chinese language and culture within Ireland.
Robin Lee’s bronzed aluminium-clad scheme will occupy a green site overlooking a new lake within the UCD campus.
The design features ‘abstracted Chinese motifs’ and a lighting scheme for evenings and winter months. A first floor terrace and central atrium will also be included.
The project is being delivered with Dublin-based Arthur Gibney and Partners.
The Architects’ view
The approach to the design of the Confucius Institute for Ireland is to make a building that complements the existing UCD campus in scale and character and makes subtle references to forms and treatments associated with Chinese architecture. In this way it is intended that the building will sit in harmony with the overall character of the campus and yet allow for an interpretation of Chinese culture through the subtle inclusion of carefully controlled design elements.
The physical setting at the heart of the campus setting and adjacent to the new lake at UCD has allowed the idea of a pavilion in the landscape to inform the architectural expression. This leads to an open building identity, engaged with its surrounding landscape. This idea of opennessunderpins the design approach giving physical expression to the ideals of cultural sharing and exchange central to the Confucius Institute.
Form + Identity
The external form consists of a series of square floor-plates stacked one on top of the other, each one progressively smaller than the one below, creating a ziggurat form. This arrangement creates an open, generous base level crowned with smaller built forms stacked on top. This arrangement gives separate articulation to each of the floor levels while the generous base course encourages engagement and access into the building and creates a humanely scaled building within the landscaped setting of the lake.
The upper two levels are formed in deep revealed bronzed aluminium creating a shimmering appearance in the daylight hours with the reflections of surrounding trees animating the facades. In the evening and in the winter months the upper facades will be lit, creating a subtle beacon fronting onto the adjacent lake. Fixed glazed units are interspersed with bays dedicated to ventilation in support of the natural ventilation strategy. These ventilation units take the form of decorative, lattice panels with patterns derived from abstracted Chinese motifs. Through repetition and abstraction the pattern will have a neutral identity with subtle reference to Chinese forms and character to ensure the overall building identity connects seamlessly with the surrounding buildings.
Externally the base of the building is clad in pre-cast concrete panels with sculpturally profiled forms. This arrangement allows opportunities for shelter while the embracing form signifies welcome. A terrace at first floor, enabled by the ziggurat form, provides an amenity space for students and staff.
The ground floor of the building is conceived as an open forum, connected to the experience of the landscape immediately outside. The space is laid out to encourage walking; a sense of exploration and discovery. At the centre of the square plan an atrium punctuates the building providing calmness and serenity to the heart of the building and delivering daylight and natural ventilation to an expansive ground floor exhibition space.
The design is influenced both by Chinese courtyard buildings and cloisters found in western architecture, where learning and contemplation are often linked with the ritual of walking. This strategy of movement around the central space is continued on the upper levels to promote interior elevations that are continually active and animated.