McCullough Mulvin Exhibition, Sao Bento Metro Station, Porto, Portugal


ABOUT MCCULLOUGH MULVIN Based in Dublin, McCullough Mulvin Architects does not produce trophy architecture for 21st century consumption; the practice is concerned with time, place and nature - which guide where to build, and not to build, how to make something right in a particular place. There are questions on how to make ordinary things in an age of extremes and superlatives, how to make appropriate 21st century public space places for people to meet. Buildings are different because ideas, places and functions differ; materials are used as long as they are interesting; there is no house style. There are ways of doing things - approaches to material and fabric - which are creative tensions in practice - making things which are static, extracted, carved out - and others concerned with line, tension and geometry. All practice is about exploration and some experiment - working over and back on ideas that endure and get combined, moving around things in parallel rather than directly forward, which, by degrees starts a stuttering language.

The work is mainly public and university buildings in Ireland - museums, libraries, fire stations, research buildings- projects in the cities and towns - especially Dublin- and in the countryside, now also in India, where the practice has designed Thapar University in the Punjab. They are new things- but of a place, or new additions to older buildings, a knot of rooms and materials growing up and around old roots. Architecture occurs at the junctions on, in, and around geographies- of the past, of nature, of cities - the project a open question as much as a solution. Living in Ireland sustains an interest in nature, in its phenomenal landscape, its weather and light - in how to build on it, in it, how to frame it - making fissures that become ways of admitting light, making buildings that become geography - working on the tight line that divides nature and artifice - extending to archaeology- the nature of incision, revelation and layering. This brings engagement with the nature of construction and destruction; everything is being made or falling away; work on existing buildings is just another layer- a view on the frailty of material things and a commentary on the passage of time. In the same way, old things provide a formal and typological source, modern architecture but also that of the ancient world with its abstraction and unavailability of intent. While built projects are critical, the practice also makes explorations through writing, making books, etching, films- the basis of the Porto exhibition.

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION The project is about McCullough Mulvin, about Ireland and India, about projects that the practice is currently engaged in - completed, in design evolution, one under construction.  Two are of urban scale - Thapar University in the Indian Punjab and Trinity College in Dublin, where the practice has built three major projects in an historic university. Two projects are palimpsests, partly new and partly old - St Mary’s Museum in Kilkenny and the Military Archives and library project in Dublin - where new elements are like accretions on older ones; three relate specifically to ideas of ‘constructed’ geographies - Kishogue School in West Dublin, the Beaufort Laboratory in Cork - which studies wave energy - and Waterford Fire Station in Waterford City.

Kishogue School, the Fire Station and the Beaufort are set in specific geographies and work with different kinds of geometry to create architecture. Kishogue conjoins three regular abstract forms- shapes relating to the art of the Irish artist William Scott; internal and external spaces are woven between them as a second language. The other two are buildings to do with process - moving fire engines, measuring water - but they are quite different because of function and location - one makes an abstract world in a neutral landscape to house a particular kind of life, the other reflects a very specific geography - an opposition of tense and relaxed geometries....


Mullingar - Decentralised Offices

This building forms part of the Decentralised programme for Government departments and is designed for the Department of Education and Science using a prominent site just outside Mullingar on the Tullamore road. The four storey prismatic form sits at the southern end of this green field site. A dominating presence from the main road, the project creates its own surroundings and extends the landscape setting of the project to make an environmental haven at the edge of Mullingar. The parkland and river are incorporated into the project and a seamless continuum established between them.

The core concept of the building lies in the provision of a new standard of flexible office and ancillary accommodation for the Minister and staff of the Department of Education and Science offering a wide and constantly changing variety of views and vistas across and between elements in well tempered and lit working environments; a variety of different working spaces in the building allow each section a clear and identifiable working environment and identity. Cross views through a series of dramatic and inter-related glazed courtyards and lightwells allow for a richspatial experience in three dimensions and visual linkage between these sections in a suitable and appropriate way. This provides an exciting and flexible environment for those working in the building - who have direct views to landscape or green courts.

The building form is broken open at ground floor level allowing access and air into courtyards and through routes – a generous bridge across the River Brosna signals the entrance from the road - nature literally extends from the site into the building form - building and site form a single entity.

The building is clad in a taut flush skin of glass, aluminium & stone panels.

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Shanid Road

This house is in Harolds Cross, on a wedge shaped corner site with a large garden on Shanid Road. The geometry of the site inspired a response which involved wrapping the existing house in a carapace that had to yield a master bedroom and a generous space for cooking, eating and entertaining. The brief had two components: an enormous bed, and for the preparation and sharing of food to be central to the home.

The carapace has a taut exterior and a flayed interior, like the concept of the Aran currach. Built economically in simple materials, the interior of the space reveals the steel structure and the timbers that span between them have been left exposed, as if the ceiling had been peeled off. This has all been painted white, and acts as a counterpoint to the simple surfaces at the lower levels, where oak and sharp blue tiles give a weight to the work areas.

A series of triangular roof lights take this geometry and shine light on the cranked double-height kitchen as well as the master bedroom on the first floor. The exposed roof structure is up-lit in the bedroom to give a sense of warmth and interest; a bath sits at one end with the enormous bed on a platform beyond and a dressing area in between. A tiny window in the bedroom wall looks through the new roof across the double height space and to trees beyond.

The kitchen is located in the larger volume, simple units sit orthogonally with the space sculpted around them. A square picture window addresses the terrace directly which when complete will become another place to eat. A long solid oak table slides in to a dining area in the crook of the plan, with a lower ceiling where candlelit dinners have real intimacy.

The garden is envisaged as a riot of vigorous planting – the next phase.

Palmerstown Road

This is a house for a growing family, a project that is a cumulation of thoughts about materiality that has evolved over a number of years in a true collaboration with the owners who’s 3 storey Victorian house was a blank canvas – the partnership involved the two owners – one the builder and the other the client – and a series of robust debates with their architect.

The idea relates to two volumes that sit back to back. They touch at their intersection but don’t engage directly. The concrete volume draws in the sky, the timber volume cuts in to the ground. The concrete has the imprint of the timber, like a memory of an earlier version of the design – appropriate for a scheme that developed as a concept over ten years.

The interests were in board-marked concrete and the experimentation of relief, surface and lining, and in timber for both the concrete formwork and the kitchen lining. The garden room is a board-marked concrete cube with a double-height funnel bringing in the light. The ply-lined kitchen is made as a three dimensional lattice work with ceiling fins that thread the space together and full height doors; the warm light held in the carapace and reflecting from the sheen of the plywood. The spaces are linked with a concrete floor, and other smaller interventions thread the ideas through the house as a whole. The project continues in the garden as the family learn how each space works best for work, play, entertainment and entertaining depending on the time of year and the way the light falls.

Baggot Lane - Mews Housing

A development of three mews houses on a dense mews lane site in Dublin 4. The houses were designed to include parking within the footprint and generous units of approx. 120sqm each over three floors were achieved, with living on first and second floors enjoying views and air. The development was compact and economic to construct, and maximised the units with well designed, uncluttered spaces for sustainable urban living.

The project was taken to planning stage and the developer executed the construction stage independently.

Ostrava Plato Gallery

Ostrava in the Czech Republic is founded on industry, railways and coal. Until recently, apartment blocks shared streets with pit shafts and lift gear - an urbanity of big machines, bomb sites, Austria-Hungary and 50’s plain-ness. Industry remains in the blood. Ingenious metalwork can be found everywhere - a tradition of making things in sheds and small workshops. Before the war, the town was committed to modernity. There is a little-known Mendelsohn department store and a Functionalist art gallery of 1926. Located at the junction of Poland, the Czech Republic and pre-war Germany, architecture was an expression of cultural progress. In recent years, Ostrava has turned itself around, removing the slag heaps and opening itself to culture and a renewed quality of life. It remains a fascinating assembly of architectural proposals.

Recently, the city held a limited competition for a new art space – PLATO - in old slaughterhouses behind the town centre. The building - isolated in an open site - was made up in four separate blocks, high brickwork spaces created in waves through the last decades of the 19th century which evolved into a disconnected cellular plan without corridors. They have a gritty dream-like quality which matches the character of the city - a disparate sequence of halls with slatted windows, metal columns and old concrete surfaces.  For the competition, the urban character of the space in the city had to be established and the slaughterhouse spaces maintained as a gritty found space for art. At the same time, they required intelligent transformation into a multiplicity of galleries arranged in a logical sequence as well as spaces for education, tickets, café and office/workshop and storage.

The project was interesting both for its art and architectural potential - how to do the minimum to the spaces to allow them to work, be lit and linked but not destroy their potential ‘otherness’. Like all intervention projects, a matter of judgement about what to do and not do, but also about forging sequences of gallery spaces which move from very small to large to tall and low and wide - imagining widely varied options for display, creating views down from above, thinking about light from the sky or no light at all.

The scheme leaves the building pure, yet makes two significant interventions. The first, an observation tower which signals the scheme across the city in the tradition of its mineshafts. The second, a giant urban crossroads, one route across the site intersecting another linking the galleries, a line cut through soft spots where the fabric allows. They meet at a new double height entrance space - performance space, education and café on one side; galleries on the other side around a rooflit route from entrance to a new atrium formed from a space between the original buildings. Windows are opened and others closed to create different lighting effects with balconies to allow viewing of ground floor galleries from a height. The galleries as designed form a powerful sequence of large and small spaces offering every possible combination for the display of great art; certain sections may be closed off and others left open without disturbing the sequence.

The site plan makes an intense grid, like an industrial site. One part is related to amenity and display, the other for access and future buildings. The plans of former buildings act like a ’ghost’, forming areas of planting or display. Some parts of the perimeter are walled to make intimate external sculpture courts. The front elevation towards Meat Street is treated as an open esplanade with the access route running down towards the front door. NMC



One Up Two Down

One Up Two Down is an urban courtyard house in central Dublin built on a very tight budget; the site was carved out of an existing plot along the filled-in branch of the Royal Canal near Phibsborough. The scheme fills the rectangular site and works to maximise open space- a walled and stepped front garden, the main rooms with bedrooms below and living space over, an internal courtyard and a studio to the rere. The roof offers another garden space. The facade bricks from the original ruined house were retained and used to build the front façade.

As featured on Architizer.

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Military Locker Block

The Military Locker Block is a new 1,700 sqm  locker and changing facility which combines the refurbishment of an existing early 19th century protected structure and a new building to house lockers and changing facilities for military personnel. The existing building is to be carefully restored and sensitively adjusted to enable new links between the existing rooms and the proposed new building to the rear. New access links and stairs are being inserted into the existing building to enable these new connections. The new building to the rear of the existing building has been designed to sit sensitively into the existing landscape of military buildings in the barracks complex. This has an innovative and striking roofscape de-liniated with projecting roof lights.

Blackrock Further Education Institute

The site - in a seaside town close to Dublin - incorporates the former Town Hall, Carnegie Library and Technical College, a tripartite composition of historic buildings from 1860 and 1905. A new L-shaped addition completes the implicit urban block – generating, between new and old buildings, two planimetrically equivalent but spatially distinct courtyards - one glazed, one open. These courtyards provide orientation points throughout: one ‘sea’ based, its floor screenprinted with a photo of shells at low tide, the other ‘mountain’ based - a fern garden open to the sky.

The refurbished and extended building contains a College for 1000 students and the Public Library, utilising natural synergies of Library and College - provided from different arms of the public purse – to enhance the learning environment. The new building is without formal entrances allowing the old Town Hall retain this role; elevations avoid hierarchy by giving equivalence to all rooms behind, except for the glazed atrium - expressed as a giant scaled ‘eye’ at the upper part of front and rear facades. Windows in the new build are full vertical openings between a matrix of floor plates, and slide along, abacus-fashion, to required positions. A range of flexible teaching spaces cater for changing course requirements to allow the building to become a loose framework for learning rather than a rigid box of classrooms, spaces can flow into circulation and informal group learning spaces are integrated into movement patterns within the College.  Internal spaces in the historic structures are sympathetically refurbished and matched with appropriate uses. 

The major interventions - courtyard and glazed atrium - are used to create light canons which make a focus of new social spaces for college students, spilling out onto the shell floor and freewheeling around the fern garden.  






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Beaufort Maritime and Energy Research Laboratory

The Beaufort Maritime and Energy Research Laboratory on Cork Harbour makes an L-shaped form with a tall research block and entrance stacked to the sea and a large tank hall with testing facilities behind it, its form driven by the size and relationship of the four testing tanks, used alternately still or agitated, with paddle mechanisms and profiled floorplates to simulate wave action, coastal erosion, ocean floor modelling.  Light is reflected up and refracted down. 

The tank hall roof – supported by 45m long trusses – was developed using a series of study models -  investigating how the mapping of folded geometric planes supported on clear span trusses can be resolved onto the plan, how shifts of different points of the roof planes advance the clarity of the idea. The research write-up spaces, seminar rooms and canteen hover between the artificially agitated water of the tanks and the natural wave motion of the sea. 

As featured on Arch Daily and Divisare and in Architecture Ireland

Best Educational Building (Third Level)

Best Educational Building (Third Level)

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Hidden Garden Floating Plane

This extension, on a corner site on a quiet residential street in Dublin 6, is part of the great Dublin project all architects are engaged in to enhance and revitalize our old housing stock for living in.

As a composite and overlapping project this may be the greatest legacy we architects of the twentieth and twenty-first century bequeath back to the living city – the myriad of tiny fragmentary adjustments of fabric, piercing with light and drawing new spaces together, all over the dense urban tissue of Dublin.

The project floats a new singular roof plane over part of the rear of the site to create a sunken garden room enclosing a calm courtyard, proportioned on a golden section ratio.  A rooflight over the steps to the new room – similarly proportioned – generates a diagonal conversation between open and closed spaces.  Dissolving boundaries between inside and outside space and integrating living rooms with garden spaces by creating an undulating ground plane under a floating single plane, it reinforces the idea of the traditional Dublin type, the single storey villa with its ingenious split section. Here sectional elaboration continues, sinking the garden room and terrace below the hidden courtyard between old house and new, then raising the garden to its original level,  to create volume and spaciousness as well as privacy and intimacy.  This type – familiar all across the city with its careful projection of a modest gentility - flights of granite steps to the door, ‘good’ room to the front and split section behind sheltering the dense complexity of family life – is as familiar to our modern eyes walking through the city as it was to James Joyce, whose extended family inhabited houses of exactly this type on Fontenoy Street and Glengarrif Parade on the other side of the city.

As featured on ArchitizerArchello, Arch Daily, The Irish TimesWorld Build 365 and The Independent.

Kishoge Community College

This College for 1000 post primary students is located on a peripheral site along a major distributor route in West Dublin, poised between the radial routes to Cork and Galway. It serves all adjoining housing districts and is the first post primary ‘Educate Together’ non denominational school in the country. Because of the inhospitable nature of the site it was essential to make a ‘place’ using the building blocks of the College itself, to maximise sunlight and views to the Dublin mountains while providing high standards of acoustics and natural ventilation, to create areas of intense social activity for students inside and out. Three ‘L’ shaped blocks are linked to generate hubs of movement and excitement interspersed with areas of calm and reflection, set around a south-lit courtyard space containing a small climate garden, and a series of east and west facing open ended courtyards for Special Needs and general sports and garden uses.  The 10,000 sq m of space are stacked in a series of monopitches, high side to the road to block sound and create a microclimate to the south making a welcoming entrance zone. 


Military Archives

The new Military Archives, located in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines Dublin 6, is a very particular 2016 project. The Irish Army has a fascinating and extensive archive built up over the years since the foundation of the State; it includes Army records, depositions concerning the War of Independence, maps and films.

The new building is located in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines very close to the last house that Michael Collins occupied in Dublin before he went to his death in West Cork. It is made up of two sections- one old and one new- representing at once the tradition and the progressive nature of the Army- and a good example of radical re-use of existing buildings for new uses. The old section is one half of an old stone and brick hospital block dating from the early years of the barracks; this has been turned on its end and a new entrance opened in the gable leading to a new public library and reading room lined out in timber; the rest is made up of offices and a Conservation laboratory. The new section matches the old in some of its character, extending the architecture of gables, but is made of brick- there is a dramatic folded courtyard between the two. The new building, partially recessed in the ground, comprises two large archive rooms with computer controlled rolling racking at both levels, built to the highest international standards of environmentally controlled Archive storage. 

As Featured in Architecture Ireland Issue 289 and Culture Fox TV 

Best Cultural/Public/Community Building

Best Cultural/Public/Community Building






Trinity Long Room Hub

The new Humanities Research Building in Trinity College Dublin the 'Long Room Hub' is a platform for the Irish university sector focus on achieving world-class status. It is a space for thinking, for making soaring linkages, for sharing the unique collections of the Long Room. 

The site for the project is in Fellows Square at the heart of the College; the small rectangular form- four stories high with tall rooflights penetrating the volume to form shafts of light- perches on the end of the Arts Block, closing the square and framing the prospect to Front Square over the 1937 Reading Room. The Hub is a powerhouse of ideas; the honeycomb granite surface is broken and imprecise; it floats over the existing fabric; the canons of light crash through the form, disturbing expectations and creating zones and double heights for work and research. Its character is formed by its thin-ness; it can be seen through from side to side, the external envelope broken by recesses forming balconies and external spaces.

Westport Fire Station

The Fire Station in Westport houses three appliances with ancillary spaces. The form derives from its site and function; the Station is built into the slope to minimize its impact but also to provide a walkway extending along a causeway from a public car park to an entrance in the upper level. The scheme uses the slope to serve the function; the fire service enter and leave the building at the lower level to the front; the public enter and leave from the upper level at the rere; both are connected by an internal staircase. 

The building appears to grow out of its environment, emerging from the hill as an extension of the natural formation. The causeway extends the geography to the rere; a tongue of tarmac emerges from the engine bay and folds down to a seating space by the bridge. Its extent is pinned by the drill tower, a vertical element read against the sunken horizontal of the station facade.