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The location for the school at Kingswood, Tallaght is a sloping, grassy field, split in half by a thick hedgerow and stream. By definition, the horizon is the apparent line that separates earth from sky, the line that divides all visible directions into two categories: those that intersect the earth’s surface and those that do not. In this field the hedgerow is this horizon. We like the idea of horizon because we think it is a critical aspect of designing a building in a sub-urban landscape. Very often buildings in such a landscape do not register the ground and sky and rarely occupy the ground between.
Buildings are built speculatively, sometimes as if there is no context, as if suburbia was a non-place, a no-where. Yet we live there and we love there, so what we build should belong there. Buildings in suburbia must acknowledge both sky and ground. We think that a building that registers the specific ground-sky context of suburbia will feel appropriate to the place and feel at home. For a school, the idea of horizon suggests learning and knowledge [broadening one’s horizons], and if a school could occupy the horizon, students might made more aware of both ground and sky and be both firmly grounded in knowledge but enabled to dream and look skyward for ambition and inspiration, [reaching for the stars]. This school is a home for learning in the horizon.
Given the population who learn and work here, this school is like a small market town, a busy place, in which people exchange knowledge and ideas. We organised the school in this way, referring to Kasbahs, long since a source of inspiration in the design of democratic buildings in architecture, being low-rise, loosely organised and formed around richly decorated courts and gardens of individuals and communities. The school has a clear but loose social order, to facilitate communication and exchange, organised over just two stories, to promote an open and democratic school with no built hierarchies. The rooms on the ground floor are organised on a series of stepped terraces, which follow closely the given slope of the site, to minimize excavation and fill of ground. This ensures that students and staff, as they move through the school on gently sloping ramps will be literally and spatially grounded in the site. All rooms gain light from the perimeter or from a number of garden courts, embedded within the building. These gardens, each with a distinct character, provide light and delight and orientation to the circulation areas of the school.

School, Tallaght

An open architectural competition for a new secondary school in West Dublin.

Year: 2006
Location: Tallaght, West Dublin
Type: Open two stage architectural competition
Commissioners: Department of Education + Science / R.I.A.I.
Collaborators: CAST architecture