THE MERRION ROAD PROJECT

Competition 2008

Streetscale and Skyscale

The project should consist of two simultaneous scales. The Merrion Road Project will give a new contribution to the Dublin skyline, but as well it will be experienced at the eye level of Merrion Road and Serpentine Avenue pedestrians. Our architectural approach strongly underlines the juxtaposition of these two opposite relations.

The Project has two parts like a classical sculpture. The base of the sculpture has three stories which will match with the height of neighbouring Victorian terraces and the opposite Royal Dublin Society. The base will cover all the site possible to construct. The street facades of the “plinth” are fragmented with vertical glazing and ceramic sections of varying widths reminiscent to EAN-codes. Together with the preserved row of the roadside trees this will create a pleasant pedestrian environment and make a modern reference to the historical streetscape.

While the base follows the perimeter of the site, the residential towers will have a free leaf-like aerodynamic form. To avoid bulky volumes, each tower is divided into three, which makes the composition more complex and always new depending on the viewpoint. The visual impact is even enriched by matte and reflective finishes of the convex and concave halves of the facades finally creating a magician’s mirror-box like illusions. Or they could be perceived as a vast mobile in the Dublin horizon. The towers are mainly withdrawn from the street and are not active on the pedestrian’s eye level. Some towers are partly cantilevered over the western driveway.

Community and Privacy

The building complex is zoned both horizontally and vertically from public to private. The urban focus will be in the existing plaza from where there is an access to all major functions: to residences, offices and retail. The Plaza should be full of life like Mediterranean paseos and make a common living room for the residents.

The offices are divided into four sections with sky-lit galleries which give light into the deep frame. Galleries serve mutual functions like receptions, canteens and exhibitions. Each level could be conveniently used by 2-4 autonomous tenants. Conference centre and retail as well as restaurants on the –1 level get daylight through openings on both sides of the plaza.

All parking except the few spaces on the existing western driveway are located on the –2 and –3 levels. 740 spaces for cars and 750 spaces for bikes could be located on only two levels if all car parking is arranged with stacking storage system. If more convenient layout is preferred, an additional sub-level is needed.

Residential towers have their secured entrance lobbies from the Plaza. The whole roof of the base building is terraced for a semi-public outdoor area for the residents. Each tower has as well a roof garden on the top floor.

Four clovers

The clover-like arrangement of residential towers around vertical service shafts give optimal light conditions to every apartment. Each home will have multiple aspect with almost 180 degree panoramas. This of course increase the perimeter, but large floors (675 m2 net) give efficient net to gross ratio (0.85). The leaves are positioned to each other so that disturbance from the neighbours is minimised. The elevators are acoustically separated from the apartments and each elevator level is luxuriously lit.

The room layout revolves around the stalk of the leaf. From the main door there is usually a direct view through the apartment to the glazed balcony. Successive room arrangements create large fluid open spaces. Many of the bathrooms may have daylight.     

Structure follows form

There is an obvious analogy to an organic structure which should be taken in advance. To each part of the system, to the stem (service shaft), to the leaf (floor) and to the leaf stalk (the dividing wall) must be given its proper duty.

The base part of the complex is made as a rigid box: the sub-levels are cast in-situ concrete and office floors are stiffened with trussed steel structures around the perimeter of the building. The towers are stabilised by the vertical service shaft attached at each level to the leaf stalks. The stalks are stiffened against torsion by transverse interior walls. Standardised geometry of the towers induce to study possibilities for prefabrication.

The exterior walls of the towers are made of lightweight metal panels. The streamlined shaping of the skin will reduce wind loads.

Trefoil Strategy for sustainable design and energy efiiciency

First: Functional layout without any waste space, maximal flexibility to meet unpredictable future needs, in-built capacity for tomorrows technologies.

Second: High efficient heat recovery systems in air-conditioning, properly insulated skin, the use of gas-fired third generation plant supplying electricity, heating and cooling, the joint need for heat and cold water increases the total efficiency of the plant.
 
Third: Pleasant and satisfactory living and working environment, consistent landscaping strategy throughout the project. The facades on both sides of the Plaza are trellised with  hop. The grid on the roof terrace is a texture of pavements and planted surfaces. A variety of clovers blooming in sequence replace a monoculture of green grass. Clover carpets invite to play and picnic. Besides presenting many colours the selection of Red clover (Trifolium pratense), White clover (Trifolium repens), Golden clover (Trifolium aureum) and Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) bring nature closer as butterflies can visit the site too. The breathtaking views over Dublin Bay and Wicklow mountains from the top of the towers are framed by climbing plants.