Rhatigan Architects has designed a building in Dublin that provides an open and transparent interface with the public

The new National Cervical Cancer Screening Laboratory at the Coombe Hospital, Dublin is a project of national significance involving the delivery of a four-storey laboratory building within the existing campus, together with the internal refurbishment and upgrade of the existing adjacent laboratory building.

The linear rectangular building is positioned adjacent to the existing pathology laboratories at the rear of the hospital along its southern site boundary, a confined urban site previously in use as part of the campus carpark. The project brief called for a refurbishment of existing inefficient facilities and a substantial laboratory extension to increase capacity and improve operations.

Rhatigan Architects has designed the building within its current context so it responds to future proposals that will see significant development on lands adjoining the site. Therefore, although currently surrounded by vacant sites, the future development proposals will change the building from a relatively hidden development to one with a prominent siting within a new urban setting. The visual appearance of the laboratory building has thus been designed to reflect its changing context. The striking building design succeeds in providing an open and transparent interface with the public.

The narrow building plan width has facilitated the creation of double aspect, bright working spaces in the main laboratories. It celebrates staff spaces, public zones and circulation routes within the building by designing them such that they contrast aesthetically from the clinical laboratories and working areas in terms of colour and materiality. Close collaboration with the building occupants during the design process has ensured that space adjacencies align with very specific workflow processes.

A glazed link acts as the connection between the new and pre-existing laboratories, within which a welcoming double height foyer space serves as both a reception area and as an arrival space. The circulation staircase and overhead link bridge combine here to create a dynamic entrance space where staff and visitors can be seen moving around the building, whilst internal windows from the reception area and first floor offices overlook this space, providing visual connectivity.

The materials to the external façade consist of aluminium cladding sheets and panels and aluminium windows and doors. To unify the façade, a series of fins run vertically across all elevations, including over the glazing system, which provides both privacy and solar shading. Rooftop plant is screened by these terracotta fins as a continuation of the façade system. The vertical fins are spaced sporadically, with viewer perception of the building changing depending on the angle of view, the time of day or the light conditions.

The fabric-first design incorporates a natural ventilation strategy, which has been combined with mechanical ventilation and air conditioning as necessitated by use, ultimately achieving a BER A3 rating. All main laboratories are double aspect bright working spaces, a key user requirement for the lab spaces to optimise working conditions, facilitated through the narrow architectural plan.



Michael McDonnell – Managing Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine & Plan Magazine


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