Medical School and Student Residences at
the University of Limerick by Grafton Architects

| 8 comments
 

This group of university buildings by Irish office Grafton Architects, including a limestone-clad medical school and three red-brick student housing blocks, was one of the six projects named on the 2013 Stirling Prize shortlist last week (+ slideshow).

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

Grafton Architects added the four new buildings to the main campus of the University of Limerick, which straddles the River Shannon in the west of Ireland. Alongside the existing sports pavilion, world music academy and health sciences facility, the structures frame a new student plaza on the north side of the campus.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The architects selected different materials for the two types of building. "The language of the medical school is that of an educational institution while the student residences appear like three large houses," they explain.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

For the four-storey medical school, they added a facade of cool grey limestone that references the local architectural vernacular. An angled colonnade directs visitors into the building, where a full-height atrium leads through to laboratories and lecture rooms.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

"[The atrium is] designed as a social space with enough room to stop and chat or lean on a balustrade/shelf and view the activity of the entrance and other spaces above and below," say the architects.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The three student housing buildings zigzag along the northern perimeter of the plaza. Each block has a brickwork exterior with recessed windows and concrete sills.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

Inside, floors are laid out with living rooms and kitchens overlooking the public square in front, while bedrooms face back to the quieter northern border of the campus. There are also sheltered meeting places carved out of the base of each block, leading through to the laundry room and bicycle store beyond.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

As well as these buildings, the architects also added a new concrete bus shelter to the campus, with steps and ramps that negotiate the sloping ground.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The University of Limerick project was named as one of the Stirling Prize nominees last week. Other projects to make the shortlist include a house in the ruins of a twelfth-century castle and the overhaul of a notorious housing estate.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

Grafton Architects is led by architects Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell. Last year the studio was awarded the Silver Lion for most promising practice at the Venice Architecture Biennale for an installation celebrating the architecture of Paulo
 Mendes
 da
 Rocha. See more architecture by Grafton Architects »

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Photograph by Alice Clancy

Photography is by Denis Gilbert, apart from where stated otherwise.

Here's a project description from Grafton Architects:


Medical School, Student Residences and Bus Shelter at the University of Limerick

The University of Limerick, in the South West of Ireland occupies a large territory, formerly a Demesne, and is situated on both sides of the lower reaches of the river Shannon, the longest and largest river in Ireland. Part of its most recent expansion to the north of this great river, accessible by pedestrian bridge from the existing campus, provides for the construction of a new medical school building and accommodation buildings for students attending the facility. These new buildings are also intended to address a large public open space which will ultimately become the focal point for this expansion of the campus to the North.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The aspiration is to combine faculty buildings and residences in a manner which encourages overlap and contributes to the life of the public spaces at the University. Aspects of the formal character are derived from an interpretation of the campus master plan which requires an organic approach to the making of public spaces on the north side of the river Shannon. Here the ground is sloping and remnants of the agrarian landscape pattern are still evident in the form of old field patterns and hedgerows.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

This new suite of buildings combines with three existing, neighbouring institutions, the Sports Pavillion, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and the Health Sciences Building, in order to make a new public space. The new buildings consist of a medical school, three blocks of student housing and a canopy/pergola forming a bus and bicycle shelter.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The Medical School, the last in a series of set pieces, acts as an anchor around which the other buildings now loosely rotate. The language of the medical school is that of an educational institution while the student residences appear like three large houses. The concrete bus shelter, together with the residences combine with the medical school to form a loose edge to the public space. The bus shelter canopy, steps and ramps negotiate the level change to the sports pavilion beyond.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Photograph by Alice Clancy

The central space slopes gently to the west. Three oak trees, stone seats and steps occupy a central level platform subtly providing a focal point before the space moves out, fracturing at the edges to connect to the residences, car parking and other faculty buildings. The surfaces of the public space move from hard to soft, south sloping grassed spaces, designed with and without furniture to provide for leisure and lingering. The buildings stand guard facing the public space, distinguished by their material.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Photograph by Alice Clancy

Limestone is used to represent the 'formal' central medical school, making reference to the limestone territory of County Clare in which this side of the campus is located. The stone wall is folded, profiled and layered in response to orientation, sun , wind, rain and public activity. A colonnade to the south and west corner acts as a gathering and entrance space. In contrast the north and east walls are more mute.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Photograph by Alice Clancy

In response to the deep plan, the roof-form is modulated to light multiple spaces, including the central circulation space, the clinical skills labs, the corridors, and a small roof terrace.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Site plan - click for larger image and key

An open central stair connecting all of the primary spaces, threads through all levels of the interior, designed as a social space with enough room to stop and chat or lean on a balustrade/shelf and view the activity of the entrance and other spaces above and below.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Medical school ground floor plan - click for larger image and key

Brick follows through to the residences from the existing accommodation buildings behind. Here the material is given depth and the facades deeply carved providing a form of threshold between the domestic interior and the public space that they overlook. All living spaces address the public space to the south east with the more private study bedrooms facing north east or north west.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Medical school first floor plan - click for larger image and key

The undercroft of the residences is carved away providing archways allowing pedestrian movement from the carpark and bus park to the north as well as forming sheltered social spaces for students. Large gateways open into the entrance courts of the housing blocks where stairs, lift, bicycles bins and common laundry facilities are.

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Medical school second floor plan - click for larger image and key

Client: Plassey Campus Developments
Contractor: P.J Hegarty and Sons

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Medical school third floor plan - click for larger image and key

Size: Medical School 4300m2, Student Housing 3,600m2, Pergola 180m2, Piazza 1.2ha,
Date: Completed December 2012
Location: University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Medical school section - click for larger image and key

Project Managers: Kerin Contract Management
Structural and Civil Engineers: PUNCH Consulting Engineers
Mechanical and Electrical: Don O'Malley & Partners
Quantity Surveyors: Nolan Ryan Tweed
Health & Safety: Willis Consulting
Fire Safety and Access: G. Sexton & Partners

Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Student housing ground floor plan - click for larger image and key
Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Student housing first floor plan - click for larger image and key
Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Student housing second floor plan - click for larger image and key
Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
Student housing section - click for larger image and key
  • LAF

    This seems to be quite a pinnacle for British architecture. Sensitivity to context, materials, spaces and technologies come together to make a beautiful building, which I would hope is not just beautiful to architects.

    • Jordan

      …er, it’s in Ireland.

    • 14_6

      It’s Irish.

    • AMG

      Correction. Irish architecture… in Ireland!

  • Fergus

    This project is in Ireland by Irish architects. It is indeed a fantastic piece of work by architects from whom are consistently producing work of a very high standard.

  • AMG

    Grafton Architects are one of Ireland’s leading architecture firms at the moment, doing amazing work in Ireland, keep up to fantastic work!

  • El Jiji

    Strongly influenced by Kahn? I love everything these two ladies (and their teams) design.

  • http://www.ul.ie/medicalschool Michael Larvin

    These buildings are not only pleasing to the eye, but are wonderful to live, study and work in. Thank you Grafton Architects and Plassy Campus Services.

    Michael Larvin, head of UL Graduate Entry Medical School, Limerick, Ireland.