Competitions are the lifeblood of ideas in architecture - they offer architects choice in an increasingly regulated world - this, not that, is the one you want to do, stretching the mind through exploration of new functions and sites; thoughts developed in competition emerge sooner or later, are re-examined - occasionally built. Competitions in Ireland and abroad form a core aspect of the practice’s work - whether the result remains a shining idea on a shelf or gets to site like the Thapar University complex.

Our design has been selected as the winner of the international competition for a new world-class performance and music education facility for West Cork Music in Bantry, Co. Cork. The opportunity to work with an arts organisation as celebrated as West Cork Music in developing this important new cultural and civic space in Bantry town is hugely exciting. We’re looking forward to delivering a project that is essentially of West Cork, respecting the grain of the town and generating a significant new public place while making a strong contribution to Ireland’s cultural infrastructure

    In 2023 the RIAI held the ‘Town Centre Living’ competitions, aimed to encourage innovative designs from architectural firms for social housing within town centres. McCullough Mulvin looked at two of the competition sites - one in Sligo and one in Kildare.

    The Pirn Mill Road site marks a key transition point between the low-rise urban grain of the 19th Century Sligo town and the larger grain post-industrial landscape of the Sligo docklands. The adjacent remaining 19th Century Mill buildings demonstrate their durability and adaptability over Sligo’s long history within a harsh marine and industrial environment. These post-industrial structures and the larger industrial grain of train lines, metal sheds with dramatic views to the iconic Benbulbin hillside inspire the proposal for a contemporary 21st Century sustainable Housing model for the site.

    For the Pirn Mill site we have proposed a “open building“ concept that is built around the principal of an efficient building shell with a strategically positioned central circulation core that allows for flexible of use. Naturally ventilated and generously day lit floor plates accommodate efficient residential floor plates, as well as other uses such as offices/retail and other hybrid uses with simple adaptation of the lightweight and recyclable infill partitions. The central stair and lift core is designed to be generous and to accommodate service routes for multiple configurations of use. 

    The concept for the site in Kildare arises out of the site itself: the potential for development in the backlands of the site which recalls the grain of the historic landscape, and potentially may even follow an alignment of the more ancient landscape of Kildare and the monastic enclosure of St Brigit. The lines of the sacred temenos are likely to be more extensive that what currently survives, high definition archaeology could confirm this significant reading of the landscape as artefact - a crucial part of understanding the site.

    Cartographic evidence for the site off Station Road, close to the cathedral, contains a number of radiating plot boundaries, these suggested to us a series of linear courtyard houses of a low rise, high density type recovering historical grain and creating mews- style housing behind main streets. The existing street frontage on Station Road is carefully repaired –single storey cottages are amalgamated to make a generous house, and a new build two storey element containing an archway under to access the site to the rear bookends the street edge. Four lanes are formed between linear courtyard houses, following the old land divisions – three at grade and one at a podium level set over bicycle and car parking. In strategic places on each of these linear housing clusters, a site is left open for a small square, a green pocket opening connections from one street to the other, generating a more casual route which meanders across the site and, at the edge, goes up steps or via lift to the podium level. The courtyard houses are single, two and three storey, giving a varied skyline and levels of incident and enclosure creating a safe and intimate environment for family and neighbourhood living, full of planting, nature and big views of sky. 19 units of housing are proposed. 

    The premiated schemes for the extension to Murnau Town Hall in Bavaria and Ostrava Art Gallery are transformations of older buildings - the latter in the old city slaughterhouse - the plan a huge cruciform incision through site and building. Like Ostrava, Malahide Cricket Club - a new facility responding to the explosion of interest in cricket in Ireland - deals with landscape, making a pavilion reflecting a bouncing ball attached to a huge circular enclosure. The E3 Learning Foundry in Trinity College – designed with Wilson Architects in Boston and Martha Schwartz Landscape - was a whole new approach to 21st century collaborative education in a dramatic stacked ‘treehouse’ forming a new heart for the Trinity East end.

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