St. Angela's College Cork
ARCHITECT: O'Donnell + Tuomey
CLIENT: St. Angela's College
AWARDS WON: RIBA Award for International Excellence
This is a thoughtful piece of architecture on a tight budget with difficult site constraints and is inspirational as an example of how the modern requirements for a school can be knitted into the community on a compact city centre site.
St Angela's College exhibits an extremely high level of skill and ingenuity and is clearly a mature piece of work from these talented architects. The design has evolved over a nine year period while funding was secured and additional land was acquired. In addition it was necessary to negotiate with the relevant ministry to meet the standard school brief in an unconventional way given the constrained city centre site which included some existing buildings. For instance a large volume gym and an external space of given dimensions must be included and these have been stacked one above the other.
The project benefits from commanding views from three sides of the wider city and its key landmarks. It is on an elevated and steeply sloping site (18 metre difference from end to end) and is highly constrained in terms of access, land area and adjoining buildings. Though outside term time it was not hard to imagine how the building would be brought to life and enjoyed by its occupants.
The school is approached through a narrow entrance on one side, which on entering gives way to the first of many considered vistas and spatial sequences as one moves within and between the various linked buildings, both internally and externally. The architects likening of the project to a compact hill town is apposite. A series of interlinked external spaces between the buildings vary in size and aspect in a delightful way, so that the experience of journeying through the site is constantly changing as each space is revealed. The architects explained how they conceived of the project as an extension of the dense, compact urban fabric of the city - with generously scaled circulation spaces assigned street-like status within the this little ‘town within a town’.
Internally the classrooms all have an exceptional aspect, quality of light, space and views. There is extensive use of warm materials, ply finishes and bespoke Iroko framed fenestration. The design of the windows perhaps do most to give the building its distinctive but understated identity; classrooms have strip windows with opening lights behind a system of vertical hardwood strips giving depth and shadow while spaces relating to vertical movement have circular windows.
Moving around from room to room whether via side lit corridors or over light filled bridges is an experience of delight and surprise as views open up and routes reveal themselves. One moves seamlessly from new to old such that the integration of the two is exceptionally well handled and promotes the sense of continuity of this institution which by all accounts is well loved by its alumni too.
Photography can never do this building justice and it needs to be experienced to learn just how good it is. In this sense it truly fulfils its endeavour to extend the fabric of the city – rather than to present itself as a distinct and more self-aware piece. It is a disarmingly humble piece of work that delivers far more than might have been expected of its meagre budget.
Contractor: L&M Keating Ltd.
Structural Engineers: Malachy Walsh and Partners
M&E Engineers: Arup
Cost Consultant: John J. Casey & Co.
Conservation: Jack Coughlan Associates
Health & Safety: Chris Mee Safety Engineering
ACCESS CONSULTANT: FIONNUALA ROGERSON ARCHITECTS
FIRE: CK FIRE ENGINEERING
INTERNAL AREA: 5,938 SQM
Date Of Occupation: 01/2016
PHOTOGRAPHER: Alice Clancy