Secondary School, Tallaght, Dublin    competition for the design of a seconday school, dublín, 2012


client: department for education and skills, ireland
type: two stage architectural design competition
area: 10.500 m2
location: tallaght, dublin, ireland
year: 2012
team: belén garcia fernández, philip baumann, josé antonio aguado (structural engineer), david gil (cost consultant)
status: competition

Project description


Our school building reflects an optimistic, open minded and curious spirit.

We opt for a compact scheme by grouping and stapling the programme on different storeys. This strategy reduces the internal circulation area, allows the creation of clearly defined common space for social interaction, and is considerably more energy efficient and sustainable.

The school is organised on four main levels (Basement + three storeys). The ground floor houses the staff area, SEN Unit and dining area offering thus direct connection to outdoor areas, delivery service and accessibility for these areas. The first floor groups all Specialist teaching classrooms for mathematics, science, arts and crafts. The physical act of putting them on the same level, making them equal, aims to create synergies and inspire a playful interaction between different disciplines and to encourage the pupils and teachers to explore.
The second and third floor lodge the general classrooms grouping them around the PE Hall. The two storey organisation enables a natural differentiation in first and second cycle students. All classrooms are orientated to southeast or southwest with optimal insulation and view over the surrounding landscape. 

The PE Hall doubles as assembly room and auditorium for drama or music events or other extra curricular activities and pretends to be a reference and attractor for the use of the local community.

The stapling of programme has the particularity of creating a far more extensive first floor level as the Specialist teaching classrooms occupy more space than the programme of the other levels. This has two advantageous effects: a surrounding rain protected area on the ground floor and the creation of an outdoor ring terrace on the second floor.
Especially the ring terrace inspires to a surprising and exciting interpretation of space and its use as it converts the second floor almost in a ground floor. The ring terrace can be used as an additional schoolyard in the breaks. Classrooms could even open directly to the ring terrace increasing the classroom space. But it can be read also in an elevated outdoor plaza to the PE Hall/ auditorium and the events that can take place there through a ramp that connects directly with the main entrance and magnifies the magic of the arriving and the expectation of the proper event. Additionally fire evacuation is resolved effortless throughout the whole building.  
The ring terrace acts as the main architectonical identification of the building, a manifestation of the programmatic layout where the structural system, a general framework as a symbol of the community is the generator of the aesthetic expression of the building that can be filled out and interpreted creatively and individually.



Indoors, the compact building scheme enables to concentrate the circulation space and permits the creation of a big common social space along the vertical circulation of the main stairs that double as resting area, seating grades and theatre like stages and promote in a natural way social interaction and sense of community.

Our building pretends to offer multiple spaces with altering textures and stimulating atmospheric qualities to inspire an imaginative and creative learning experience that foster to convert the school in an important building for the local community as a multipurpose centre of learning, culture and recreation.

While first cycle student classrooms have direct access to the ring terrace, second cycle student classrooms group around an outdoor patio on the main stairs to the roof top. This space functions as an outdoor sun terrace and viewing spot. On the roof top, the library is set apart as a retreatment area for silence and study.

Compact buildings layouts are generally more energy efficient as they reduce the wall/ floor ratio and reduce circulation areas. Our project aims to be not only energy efficient but didactically and encouraging in a sustainable use. Optimal orientation of all rooms with solar radiation and natural ventilation has conditioned the building scheme in order to reduce the energy needs over the entire life cycle and enable and stimulate users to participate actively in a responsible use. All main sanitary installations are concentrated in one vertical block reducing construction and maintenance costs and enabling the possibility to recycle the greywater. On the green rooftop we propose the installation of three wind turbines with vertical axis for energy generation which could then be compared with the building’s electricity consumption on an exposed spot in the main hall and therefore contribute actively and passively in a responsible and conscious use of the resources.

The compact scheme reduces the building footprint. The building is emplaced in the lower northern part adjoining the existing primary school and maintains all terrain south to the ditch and the trees free of edification and as green areas. The emplacements aims to create synergy effects with the primary school as outdoor facilities can be shared and a clearly identifiable educational and cultural centre is created for the whole community.

Our proposal is site specific but sufficiently universal to permit a possible adaptation on other sites.