Originally founded in 1784, the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland (RCSI) has been a leading educational facility for medical professionals for over 200 years. Completed in 2017 by the Henry J Lyons architectural practice, the RCSI building has been reimaged as a 21st century modern healthcare campus providing education for both graduate and undergraduate students from over 60 international countries.
The project was undertaken to extend the existing compact site while staying within the boundaries and constraints of the historical urban area. The project addressed limitations on the building’s ten-story height by expanding underground: the renovated building contains four basement levels to meet the needs of the expansion including a new library, auditorium, and sports facility.
Two separate atria provide spatial organization and a sense of lightness and openness to the project.
The project also aims to create a model educational facility to support how students learn today.
“Today's students are not accustomed to studying in isolation or in only formal settings,” explained the architect. “Modern students hold group study sessions in cafes, exchange notes in the mall, memorize text books from their iPads and block out any background noise with their headphones. The building had to respond to this by offering a level of choice. Users required spaces for students to study both formally and casually, to interact individually and in groups, and to socialize and be able to work and learn in silence.”
To accommodate such diverse demands of the space, the architects selected Arper furniture throughout the project for both their aesthetic and functional contributions. Catifa chairs are found on the main corridors to lend a sense of calm to open spaces. Colina chairs are found in the library’s vertical piazzas where interaction is encouraged through comfortable seating. In areas where quiet and focus is needed, high backed armchairs allow students to have space for private study.
“The furniture for every training space was meticulously considered and selected to suit its function and enhance and support the students' learning experience,” continues the architect. “The resultant spatial variety supports the diverse demands of healthcare education while encouraging social interaction and promoting the human skills required to be an excellent medical practitioner.”
In addition to function, sustainability was a major consideration in the construction of the project. Steps were taken to ensure the building would achieve a LEED Gold Certification: reducing solar heat gain and reliance on air conditioning through building materials, a 40-percent water use reduction thanks to a rainwater harvesting system, and strategic use of natural light to reduce electrical reliance all help to create a more sustainable building.
RCSI has also taken into consideration the impact of the renovated site on the community both inside the institution and within the larger area. Members of the local community are invited into the space to tour the building and engage in Culture Night – embedding the RSCI more deeply into the urban fabric. Internally, the building connects departments together physically in one building, creating interactions that had previously been impossible. These design choices—along with interior design, furniture selections, and considerations for the environment—create a new model for the future of healthcare education.
Interview with Anne-Marie Saul-Rotne, PM & Architect at Henry J Lyons Architects.