Ostrava Plato

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.  






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.

Square Root

Making a shop in a tiny space in a Protected Structure included careful conservation and repair of remnants of existing fabric - a frame and fascia of pitted sandstone and early concrete which was washed down and repaired - not cleaned-up‚ but left as a fragment of urban archaeology. A new shopfront is made in its shadow - an insert of machined metal and glass in geometric golden section proportions. An internal mechanism of shutters fold and part to close off a display or reveal an interior world - a palimpsest of worn and painted timber panelling, coved plaster and painted brick; the external mechanism opens a canvas awning to shade the footpath.

Temple Bar Masterplan

In the early 1990's, MCMA were one of a group of architects who came together under the title Group 91 to compete in an invited competition for the Temple Bar Framework Plan. The plan sought to rehabilitate a run-down area of central Dublin, left derelict by site assembly policies for a new bus station, by promoting a network of urban spaces with cultural and residential uses. The project required the retention of existing fabric and the use of vacant sites for building or urban space, creating links which supported east-west pedestrian movement from Trinity College to Christchurch Cathedral. 

The competition was won by Group 91, who provided a clear sequence of urban spaces to link the quarter, and the eight architectural practices were commissioned to design individual projects; the nature of the sites suited the division of labour into smaller segments. Temple Bar Properties, the semi-state body responsible for the execution of the project, used the land bank available to assemble viable sites, concentrating on sustainable cultural projects which received a level of funding from government and from Europe matched by private investment encouraged by tax incentives.

Dublin City Walls

When Dublin Civic Offices were built in the 1970s, sections of the Viking City Walls were discovered on the site; some of these were sealed into a double height basement room for 30 years. The project creates a sequence of modern conference rooms within this volume by decisive intervention: the medieval wall is extended on its original line by a corridor, a hollowed-out space whose external dimension matches that of the old wall- solid become void.

The rest of the architecture is made as an undulating timber wall and ceiling , folded up to fill the double height space and offer a view of the old wall from a new public entrance.

Murnau Town Hall, Bavaria

McCullough Mulvin Architects have been premiated in the recent competition for the extension to the Town Hall in Murnau in Bavaria- famous for its connection to the Blau Reiter school of painting. 

The project involved the refurbishment of the existing Gothic Town Hall and making an extension on and over an adjacent listed house. The new block provided offices and storage at the lower floors and a double height Wedding Room overhead with views towards the Alps.

Marlay Park Sports Centre

Marlay Park Sports Centre will provide sports facilities for the people of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown within the perimeter of Marlay Park- a landmark terminating the vista to the hills and an appropriate gateway from the South. The brief includes 11 changing rooms, entrance foyer/cafe and three large adjustable gym/exercise rooms within a rectangular plan and an all-weather pitch with a running track and associated sports facilities outside. The front entrance on the East side is preceded by a paved forecourt with planting. 

The project is designed as a part of the park- almost like a formal garden within it; the main building is treated as a pavilion with a masonry ground floor and an upper level glazed on both elevations with views through to the Dublin Mountains. The whole frame is covered by a perforate metal screen forming a continuous skin with the roof; the lines of the building extend into the geometry of the pitches, forming an extended sheet of active uses on the parkland setting. Issues of sustainability are treated as core to the design. The mechanical and electrical services to the proposed building are designed to optimize energy efficiency and minimize the running costs of the building. 

The overall aim is to achieve a minimum 40% reduction in CO2 emissions and to provide a minimum 20% renewable energy. To meet these demands a series of passive and active measures will be incorporated, including fabric insulation, air tightness, natural ventilation, thermal mass, air to water heat pumps, heat recovery, condensing boilers, Together these measures will reduce the amount of energy required in the operation of the building and ensure the design will achieve a high BREEAM rating.

St Mary's Hall

St Mary's Hall, formerly St Mary's Church, High Street, Kilkenny was founded in the thirteenth century as the parish church of the City. In use as a Parish and Masonic Hall since the mid-20th century, it was purchased by Kilkenny Borough Council in 2010 with assistance from Kilkenny County Council and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The building is a cruciform 13th century stone structure with a later tower at its Western end; it sits in a substantial walled graveyard to the rear of High Street. The graveyard has recently been opened as a garden to the public; it contains many important tombs and monuments from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The graves have been subject to vandalism in recent years. Two almshouses stand within the churchyard to the North of the church; these do not form part of the current project. 

The project comprises the conservation and refurbishment of the Hall and its re-use as a public facility/museum building. The brief for St Mary's is for a public museum displaying items from the National Museum of Ireland- probably an exhibition of casts of Irish High Crosses with associated explanations and/or an exhibition of Irish medieval figurative sculpture and carving. There is an additional requirement for some space to display items related to the history of the City of Kilkenny. 

It is intended to make the project a demonstration sustainability project. The status of the existing building materials and finishes controls the approach to the project; the church proper will not be subjected to excessive fluctuations of temperature.

Institute of Engineers, Ireland

Engineers Ireland were concerned to develop a building that would resolve their increased office needs, conserve the best of the existing site, and support sustainable ideas. The scheme effectively rebuilt an existing two storey mews building , adding a new storey over it- effectively 'raising the roof'. A secondary archive and office unit was also built within the curtilage of the courtyard to Clyde Lane, giving a contemporary built urban edge to the outer world. The second part of the project rebuilt the garden, digging down and providing a semi-buried lecture theatre and link corridor.

The steel roof structure of the lecture theatre was canted to form an upper garden facade towards the house - the external edge was laid with timber and planted , blurring the boundaries between land and building. Rooflights penetrate to the cocoon-like lecture theatre below. From inside the existing Victorian house , the new building presents a timber and planted wall; this is also visible from Clyde Road itself.

Criminal Courts Complex

The Criminal Courts PPP project was designed for a seminal site beside the Phoenix Park in Dublin, a location which mediated between city and country and responded to the plan of the city, the third monument in a trilogy of major public buildings punctuating the river. 

Laid out in three fingers with interstitial spaces and gardens extending and folding from a focal point on the street, the scheme framed the Park and James Gandon's Department of Defence, allowing for great open-ness and easy public access, a manifest transparency to the legal process. Three towers of different heights marked the scheme from a distance and provided a gateway to the city; the internal arrangement required a complex interpenetration of double height courtrooms and multiple circulation routes.

Sligo Courthouse

Sligo Courthouse is a complex building of many dates. While the exterior presents a united and successful Gothic Revival elevation, several parts belong to older buildings incorporated into the fabric. It is memorable for a magnificent double-height entrance hallway with stone galleries and open work timber roof and the two best Victorian Court rooms in Ireland - now the Circuit and District Courts. The secure and very urban site with high perimeter walls created several external spaces. The brief was the conservation of the existing building using best practice and incorporating significant expansion to its capacity;the existing function was to be maintained,with the addition of two new courtrooms,improved circulation and increased office space. 

The architectural strategy was to respect the strong character of the original and propose delicate intervention work in certain areas.Most of this is practically invisible -service ducts and fire escapes, some corridors to create alternative routes for judge,jury,witnesses and accused,the insertion of lifts to provide disabled access to the building ,and the creation of a new top-lit central staircase.The most significant changes were the repaving of the hidden courtyard as a new urban space for the town and the creation of a new Family Court suite in the derelict block behind it,which was made as a box within existing external walls,and marked by a double-height timber-panelled wall,seen through older windows.The repair of the existing building and the exposure of its patina gave valid figure ground for modern intervention.