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Steven Holl wins university contest with Giant’s Causeway-inspired design


Steven Holl Architects’ Giant’s Causeway-inspired design has won a £42 million international competition to overhaul University College Dublin (UCD) 

The New York-based practice was selecgted from a US-dominated shortlist including Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Studio Libeskind, Chicago’s John Ronan Architects with Dutch firm UNStudio and Irish architect O’Donnell + Tuomey.

The shortlist for the Malcolm Reading-organised competition, entitled Future Campus, was announced in April. Almost 100 teams from 28 countries entered.

Holl has designed a centrepiece 8,000m² building, set next to a plaza and a reflecting pool, housing interdisciplinary and collaborative spaces, together with a 24ha masterplan which is expected to open up around 335,000m² of new development on the campus.

According to the practice, Holl’s winning designs were inspired by the geology of UNESCO world heritage site the Giant’s Causeway.

Andrew J Deeks, president of UCD and competition jury chair, said: ’Holl’s vision is intriguing and striking, combining an iconic design for the Centre for Creative Design with a masterplan distinguished by a few considered, highly intelligent moves that open up the centre of the campus and use creative landscaping to intensify its natural beauty.

’The Centre for Creative Design promises to be an exhilarating presence, announcing UCD from afar, creating a new Dublin landmark, and giving visitors, students and faculty a definite sense of arrival.’

Holl’s team included Dublin practice Kavanagh Tuite Architects, US analysts Brightspot Strategy, structural engineers Arup, landscape architects and urban designers HarrisonStevens and climate engineers Transsolar.

Meanwhile the jury awarded a special commendation to John Ronan Architects for a masterplan of ‘great clarity’ and a Centre for Creative Design that had ’gravitas and a gentle, rational strength’.

UCD is located on a wooded 133ha campus close to Dublin’s city centre, and has more than 33,000 students. Its campus features a mid-20th century core designed by Polish architect Andrzej Wejchert. A new Confucius Institute for Ireland, designed by Robin Lee, is due to open later this year.

Judges include Deeks; David Adjaye; Paul Thompson, rector of London’s Royal College of Art; Hugh Campbell, UCD professor of architecture; and Ann Beha, principal of Ann Beha Architects and member of the Harvard University Design Advisory Panel.

The shortlist

  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro (USA) with Sasaki, Scott Tallon Walker Architects, GROSS. MAX., Atelier Ten, Arup, IN2 Engineering Design Partnership and Linesight
  • John Ronan Architects (USA) with Arup, CLUAA, Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture and Transsolar
  • O’Donnell + Tuomey (Ireland) with Allies and Morrison, Arup, Hargreaves Associates, Superposition, Plattenbau Studio, Phil Jones Associates, Max Fordham and MLM Group
  • Steven Holl Architects (USA) with Brightspot Strategy, Arup, HarrisonStevens and Transsolar
  • Studio Libeskind (USA) with BDP, !melk, NRB and Dcon
  • UN Studio (The Netherlands) with Arup and REDscape Landscape & Urbanism

Readers' comments (6)

  • Would Holl design a building in New York inspired by the Yellowstone National Park? Although that is at least in the same country.

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  • looks like he's not visited the causeway either....

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  • anonymous

    Blunt tectonic bio/geo-mimicry is the shallowest and laziest form of conceptual thinking.

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  • Project Architect: Ireland, Ireland, Ireland, anyone know anything about Ireland?

    Architectural Assistant: They have those big stones in Northern Ireland!

    Project Architect: Ah yes, the stones, great, lets do that.

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  • Phil Parker

    So disappointing that the university and the city are forced down the route of prissy architectural shape-making.

    How can this building engage on any meaningful architectonic level?

    I’m afraid the same goes for the other entries. Should the brief really have asked for a clock tower?

    Silly brief - wrong outcomes.

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  • Well, from what little I can see hear I kind of like it.

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