Launch of UCD Belfield 50 Project
Launch of UCD Belfield 50
Virtual, 29 September 2020
On behalf of University College Dublin, I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to you this evening as we celebrate the launch of the Belfield 50 project, celebrating the making and shaping of the campus we enjoy today.
Shortly after my predecessor Dr Michael Tierney commenced his term of office in 1947, he made one of the most important decisions in our history – that UCD would move from its location at Earlsfort Terrace in the city centre to a suburban site worthy of the University, which was, then as well as now, playing a major role in the development of Irish society. Great credit must go to him for his extraordinary foresight and brilliant strategy in quietly buying up, throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the various estates and tracts of land which now make up our Belfield campus.
He credits this as his greatest achievement across his 17 years as UCD President, he foresaw the enormous growth in student numbers, the need to move to a much larger site and to provide adequate buildings for the University’s ambitious plans. In his own words “when that is done it will be a worthy university for the people of Ireland”.
My own first visit to Belfield was in the spring of 2013. Although a number of projects were under construction at that time, the campus made a very strong impression on me. At its best on a sunny spring day, the scale of the campus, the way the buildings worked with landscape, the combination of history and modernity, and the architectural quality of the more recent buildings melded together to project a world-class university with ambition and drive.
During my time as President, I have escorted many guests on tours of Belfield, and have enjoyed watching their jaws drop in surprise as they see just how wonderful it is, this ‘hidden gem’ of ours. I have also talked to many of our senior alumni who reflect on how far the Belfield has come since the early days and how well the campus is looking now.
We chose 1970 as a commemorative date for the campus since it marks 50 years from the opening of the Newman and Tierney buildings and the relocation of the administration and Faculties of Arts, Law and Commerce from Earlsfort Terrace to Belfield.
University College Dublin is dynamic and ambitious. Since its foundation, the University has played a pivotal role in educating Irish, and increasingly, international students who come to us to experience a holistic education that goes beyond the classroom and the lecture theatre, onto the playing pitches and the debating chamber, and further afield into societies, projects and friendships.
The next fifty years will see further evolution and transformation of the local and global societies in which we live and work, much of it driven by the pandemic in which we now find ourselves and its ensuing consequences. I see our campus and our community continuing to evolve and transform - rising to the challenge of those societal and cultural changes.
One of the enablers of the University’s Strategy to 2024 is to build world-class academic facilities and student amenities. We have more students and employees at UCD than ever before. To ensure that our facilities continue to enable the achievement of our vision for 2024, and to ensure that we have the facilities in place to accommodate the targeted increases in student and employee numbers we must plan and implement additional academic spaces, sports and student amenities spaces, and student accommodation.
We have developed a Strategic Campus Development Plan 2016-2021-2026 which defines three distinct character areas: academic, housing our teaching, learning, research and innovation activities; sports and student amenities, housing our sports pitches and halls, our student centre and our student clubs and societies; and residential (containing our student residences together with retail spaces, dining facilities, meeting rooms and support facilities in a ‘village centre’).
We will ensure that our campus development supports the delivery of a student experience that defines international best practice, and that our strategic themes inform the development of an accessible, sustainable, healthy and digitally enabled campus that also represents international best practice.
An exciting part of our plan is the Steven Holl Future Campus Masterplan, which in Phase 1 will deliver an iconic Centre for Creativity and a Centre for Future Learning. The UCD Centre for Creativity will be one of the most exciting pieces of modern architecture in Ireland and indeed in the world, making it a fitting frontispiece for the fabulous campus that is Belfield. In this way, we continue and expand on the vision of Dr Tierney to make UCD a campus worthy of the people of Ireland and the world.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to wish the project team the very best with the various components of Belfield 50. I look forward to joining in the celebrations and I hope that you will join us over the coming year in some of those events.