Europan 10

"Inventing Urbanity"

Ballymun, Dublin

Competition Entry 2010


In 2009, Stephen teamed up with an ex-university colleague to contribute to the Europan 10 competition, under the theme "Inventing Urbanity".   We were required to put forward proposals for the regeneration of a disused communal boiler facility for the soon-to-be-demolished tower blocks in the area.   Ballymun, an area of Dublin notorious for high-rises and social problems, was seeking a new way forward in which a coherent town centre would emerge.


Our given brief required considerable residential occupation, while at the same time providing a new art gallery that made use of the old boilerhouse structure.   From an urban point of view, to fit all of the residential accommodation and avoid it rising higher than the local planning constraints was to have it follow the perimeter of the site, simultaneously helping to create street scenes so badly needed in the area.   This decision, while sensible from an urban point of view, brought with it a challenge - the public art gallery was now situated behind this perimeter block of private accommodation.


Our strategy was to peel away at this block, subtracting volume as necessary ensure that the gallery could be clearly seen on approach from all directions.   The old boiler stack was retained at the heart of a new pedestrian route though the site, that would simultaneously act as a sculpture garden.  


In reusing the boiler house, we propsed a symbolic approach, stripping away much of the building's cladding, services and interiors, leaving only the useful bones of the old structure.   We then painted these beams and columns bright orange to differentiate them from the newer components, and wrapped a new modern lightweight gallery space around them.   We added to the new modern community of Ballymun, while building on the the strength of what had already existed.


On the other side of the courtyard, we erected a communal market hall, a different offering to the new multistorey shopping mall that was planned across the street.   The roof of these structures then took on a practical role for the residential accommodation above, providing private amenity space.   In doing so we had successfully incorporated an inviting civic throroughfare through the heart of a private residential street block, adding round-the-clock vibrancy to a village where it was once so lacking.