Giant’s Causeway inspired design wins UCD Future Campus architectural competition

UCD Centre for Creative Design (Steven Holl Architects)
Concept Design, Steven Holl Architects: UCD Centre for Creative Design, University College Dublin

Posted 7 August, 2018

  • Winning design by Steven Holl Architects (SHA), an award-winning architecture and urban design office based in New York and Beijing
  • €48 million, 8,000m² landmark building at the main N11 entrance to the campus will be surrounded by a plaza and reflecting pool
  • Building will foreground a highly visible and welcoming entrance precinct to the university including seven new quadrangles of open green space

A building design in part inspired by the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO world heritage site ranked alongside Mount Everest and the Giant Redwoods of California, has been announced as the winner of the UCD Future Campus architectural competition.

The interlocking basalt columns created by volcanic activity some 60 million years ago on the coast of County Antrim are recognised throughout the world.

The new €48 million landmark building (UCD Centre for Creative Design) located at the main N11 entrance to University College Dublin will be surrounded by a plaza and a reflecting pool.

Giants Causeway (Stefan Klopp)
Sun setting on Giant's Causeway (Stefan Klopp)‌

It will display prismatic forms inspired by geology and feature an abundant use of natural light coming through two major vertical structures angled at 23 degrees, mirroring the tilt of the earth. These two towers take their design cue from the pentagonal vertical pillar of the university’s iconic dodecahedral 1972 water tower.

The design of the new building will encourage creative collaboration and interaction with a “circuit of social connection” allowing students, faculty and visitors to peer into maker and classroom spaces through glass walls.

The 8,000m² UCD Centre for Creative Design will foreground a highly visible and welcoming entrance precinct to the university covering some 335,000m² near the main N11 entrance to the campus.

This entrance precinct includes seven new quadrangles of open green space, a new pedestrian spine, parallel to the campus’ original spine, lined with weather canopies that double as solar connectors, forming the infrastructure of an energy network.

Concept Design, Steven Holl Architects: UCD Centre for Creative Design
‌‌‌Concept Design, Steven Holl Architects: UCD Centre for Creative Design, University College Dublin

Cafés and social spaces are located along paths for informal gathering; landscape spaces are animated by water-retention ponds, rain- and wind-protected seating areas and preserved specimen trees.

The winning design was created by a team led by acclaimed New York and Beijing-based studio Steven Holl Architects (SHA). Founded in 1977, the firm has extensive international experience in the arts, campus and educational facilities, and complex urban projects.

Past SHA campus projects include the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s Expansion and Glassell School, the Lewis Arts Complex at Princeton University, and the Reid Building at the Glasgow School of Art.

“Holl’s vision is intriguing and striking – combining an iconic design for the Centre for Creative Design with a masterplan distinguished by a few considered, highly intelligent moves that open up the centre of the campus and use creative landscaping to intensify its natural beauty,” said UCD President, Professor Andrew J. Deeks, who chaired the competition jury panel.


‌‌‌Concept Design, Steven Holl Architects: UCD Centre for Creative Design, University College Dublin

“The Centre for Creative Design promises to be an exhilarating presence, announcing UCD from afar, creating a new Dublin landmark, and giving visitors, students and faculty a definite sense of arrival.

“We are fortunate to have an expansive campus which brims with potential. We searched globally for the best talent and were rewarded.  Now we can create the world-class environment UCD deserves,” President Deeks added.

“We are very honored to win. It’s a very important and inspiring project for Steven Holl Architects and we look forward to working with UCD,” said Steven Holl, Founder, Steven Holl Architects.

“Our masterplan and the new UCD Centre for Creative Design are not just iconic objects − they reflect on the history and quality of UCD’s campus, responding to the particulars of the site to create place and space,” he added.

Concept Design, Steven Holl Architects: UCD Centre for Creative Design, University College Dublin
‌‌Concept Design, Steven Holl Architects: UCD Centre for Creative Design, University College Dublin 

Professor Hugh Campbell, UCD Professor of Architecture, University College Dublin and member of the competition jury, said “Holl’s emphasis on daylight and social connection promises a building which will enable and encourage collaboration and interaction, a building which is open and welcoming, a building in which cutting-edge technologies and core creative practices can fruitfully combine.”

“The Centre for Creative Design will allow UCD to harness and develop the creativity of its students in responding to the challenges and opportunities facing society.”

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said “Both the jury and UCD have shown great receptivity and imagination – they have listened intently to the architects and shown terrific realism about seizing the moment.”

By: Dominic Martella, UCD University Relations