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Work starts on Robin Lee's Confucius Institute scheme in Dublin

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Construction has begun on Robin Lee Architecture’s competition-winning scheme for 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 and is being jointly funded by the Irish and Chinese governments.

Planned to complete in April next year (2017), the ‘cultural forum’ will host courses and events promoting Chinese language and culture within Ireland.

Robin Lee’s limestone and gold anodised aluminium-clad scheme will occupy a green site overlooking a new lake within the UCD’s Belfield campus. Internally the building will be finished in oak and limestone.

The design features ‘abstracted Chinese motifs’ and a lighting scheme for evenings and winter months.

The project is being delivered with Dublin-based Arthur Gibney and Partners.

Project data

Location: UCD Belfield Campus, Dublin, Ireland
Type of project: New building cultural and educational facility
Client: UCD Confucius Institute
Architect: Robin Lee Architecture / Arthur Gibney & Partners
Landscape architect: Mitchel & Associates
Structural engineer: Aecom
M&E consultant: Varming Consulting Engineers
Quantity surveyor: Mulchay McDonagh & Partners
Planning supervisor: Mulchay McDonagh & Partners
Lighting consultant: Varming Consulting Engineers
Facade engineers: Inhabit
Main contractor: Glenman Corporation
Funding: Department of Education & Skills (Ireland) / Hanban (China)
Tender date: December 2015
Start on site date: May 2016
Completion date: April 2017
Contract duration: 12 months
Gross internal floor area: 2,059m²
Form of contract and/or procurement: Public Works Contract for Building Works PW-CF1
Total cost: TBC 

The Architects’ view

Design Approach
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.

Robin Lee's Confucius Institute for Ireland at University College Dublin

Robin Lee’s Confucius Institute for Ireland at University College Dublin

Competition-winning designs - November 2014

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.

Interior Landscape
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.







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