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Hall McKnight wins Cork park contest

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Hall McKnight has won the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s (RIAI) design contest for a €1.9 million revamp of Bishop Lucey Park in Cork

The Belfast and London-based practice was chosen from 32 submissions to the single-stage open competition to win the €15,000 top prize and an opportunity to enter into contract with the council – on the basis of a 13 per cent fee – to design and deliver the scheme.

The second prize of €10,000 went to Scott Tallon Walker Architects with OKRA, while the €5,000 third prize was awarded to NJBA Architecture + Urbanism. Tom Hegarty Architects was highly commended.

The win comes four years after Hall McKnight won a contest to extend Gallaudet University in Washington DC. The practice is working with the specialist university for deaf people to develop proposals which could emerge over the coming years.

The anonymous competition – organised on behalf of Cork City Council – sought proposals to transform the 150m x 50m park into a ‘connected green urban block’ designed to the ‘highest contemporary standards, incorporating landscaping, art and architecture as dynamic elements’.

The project aims to boost connections between the historic and growing city and the small open space, which was created by transforming a derelict block in the 1980s and is named after the former Diocese of Cork Bishop, Cornelius Lucey.

The competition was open to architect-led design teams featuring landscape architects, archaeologists and heritage consultants.

John Sheehan, Lord Mayor of Cork, said: ‘What struck me about this entry is how they have created a design that really opens up the park to the wider city centre. You can see how appealing it would be to buy something to eat at the English Market and enjoy it from one of the many benches and steps. It will attract more people to enjoy this green space in the heart of the city.’

Cork City Council city architect Tony Duggan said: ‘The winning entry is an inclusive design with something to offer all ages, and it opens up the park to the city, creating a central “soft space”, with a wildflower meadow, right in the city centre while still being sensitive to the mediaeval history of the site, emphasising the existing city walls within the site itself. It is particularly impressive how cleverly this design integrates the heritage of the city within a modern scheme.’

Kathryn Meghen, RIAI chief executive and competition registrar, said: ‘Architects deliver value in all aspects of the built environment and continued investment in our public spaces is both necessary and welcome. Recent events have particularly highlighted the importance of our public realm and how public spaces enrich our daily lives. Bishop Lucey Park is an essential public amenity, which should be enjoyed by everyone who lives in and visits Cork city centre.’

Cork expects its population to increase from 210,000 to 300,000 by 2040. London-based HH+ and Francis Keane Architect won an ideas competition to rethink the future of Cork’s historic waterfront in 2017.

Earlier this year, University College Cork launched a search for an architect to design a home for its business school in heart of the city. The winning team will design and deliver a 17,000m² business school on a waterfront site, formerly a builders’ yard.

Bishop Lucey Park, Cork

Bishop Lucey Park, Cork

Source: Image by William Murphy

Bishop Lucey Park, Cork

The latest competition focuses on a pocket park created in the 1980s on the site of a former urban block which connects the city’s medieval core to areas which emerged during its later 18th-century expansion.

It includes a landmark pair of arches, a fragment of the former city wall and the Swan Fountain by Irish artist John Behan. The project is intended to transform the park into a place of ‘active and passive’ recreation which responds to its unique urban context. Proposals will be expected to maximise connections and linkages throughout the area while also featuring an innovative lighting plan.

Hall McKnight’s winning scheme was praised by the judges for its attention to the site’s historic medieval wall.

According to the citation: ‘In this proposal the medieval wall is treated as one of the main features, being the threshold between park and Grand Parade, and is accentuated by means of steps, which in turn creates a ‘place’ to view and interpret the historic urban growth of the city.

‘The main route through the scheme emphasises the urban context of the city and its linkages, starting from the English Market through the existing archway, making a strong urban composition. It continues across the moat-cum-medieval wall by a bridge landing on plinth at the north east corner and traverses the park diagonally to the existing fountain, which in turn creates open and potential “secret spaces”, such as a “plaza” to South Main Street and more intimate sylvan spaces adjacent to Tuckey Street.’

The jury featured city architect Tony Duggan, Cork’s lord mayor John Sheehan, the landscape architect Gerry Mitchell, and David Prichard from Metropolitan Workshop in London.

Architect’s view

Winner: Hall McKnight

Winner: Hall McKnight

Winner: Hall McKnight

We have endeavoured to make a proposal that is unique and specific to this place.

Our proposal recognises that Bishop Lucey Park is not simply one singular experience; rather, it can be considered as a series of connected environments or episodes. These are distinct in terms of character and atmosphere, responding to changes in context around edges of the park.

We have placed a plinth within the site as an identifiable object – a ’new ruin’, embedded into the topography of the park. Subsumed into the park the plinth brings an underlying order whilst avoiding prescriptive formality. Four distinct structures emerge from the plinth – thereby differentiating each entrance to the park. A small Tower overlooks the square to the west and relates to Christchurch; a portal provides a doorway from Tuckey Street; and to the east, a raised slab (with planted roof) is set on two columns, defining a pavilion whose horizontal qualities relate to both the Medieval Wall and the lateral expanse of Grand Parade. Adjacent to the Pavilion lies a Bridge – spanning across the Medieval Wall from Park to Grand Parade. The Bridge embodies the shift of conditions across the Wall – moving between eras of Cork’s history – between park and city.

Our proposal re-asserts the Medieval Wall as a legible element within the city – to be viewed and appreciated as an accessible element of the city’s fabric, yet also experienced as an edge or threshold that delineates between eras of the city’s history. The Wall defines the Park’s eastern boundary – the remaining area of the site (to the east) becomes an expansion of Grand Parade’s public realm.

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