Next Project

I-Hub: Innovation Centre for Sustainable Development

Part 1 Project 2009
John Butler
Queen's University Belfast, UK
The urban site was a challenging mainly due to the surrounding busy roads on two of its three side creating access difficulties. Dunbar Link in south west is a primary route in and out of the city with six lanes of traffic using it. The introduction of this roadway in the 1960s completely severed all pedestrian connections between the Docklands and the Cathedral quarter having a negative impact on the Docklands area.

The streetscape along this prominent route from the city also disintegrates and lacks definition at this point. What I wanted to achieve was a building which gives a definite edge to the street while providing the enticement and then filtration of people to and through the site to reactivate the derelict area to the east.

The building which protrudes to all corners of the site gives the desired visual edge to Dunbar link, which is exaggerated through the dramatic cantilever and the sharp angular cuts at the ends of the three story blocks. Although the individual blocks appear standard and uninviting, their configuration and external landscape is quite the opposite. The south facing landscaped roof provides views out of the city as well as an external social area which has previously not been in this part of the city. The new landscaping directly across the road attracts people from the active city centre, and allows views and entry onto the pedestrian bridge way, that crosses the road. From this bridge there is the option to enter the building at ground or first floor level, enter onto the landscaped roof, or carry on through or beneath the building and into the adjacent streets.

The three functional blocks are linked with a large inviting glazed overflow entrance space making access to all parts is obvious and available. The single use of grey concrete in both the landscaping and the buildings is to give the form enough definition and beauty without the need for superficial decoration. The overall sustainable agenda is to re-activate, and reconnect what has become a derelict area and provide activity and prosperity there right into the future.

John Butler

The I-HUB project aimed at enabling the students to gain an understanding of how to design an exemplar iconic architectural building within an existing urban context. The project was to provide accommodation for the University’s Knowledge Transfer Network Centre where issues and opportunities surrounding climate change and carbon reduction were to be researched, explained and exhibited.

The nominee’s project was considered because of sustainable strategies employed to use mainly passive systems and to employ a narrative to integrate the project to the context. The project was divided into three buildings rather than a large single building thereby reducing depths. This makes use of natural lighting and ventilation possible. At the same time the building embraces the busy road link that divides the sites from the Cathedral quarter, thus integrating it back to main city.

The narrative technique is employed to create opportunities for varied experience of both the users of the buildings and the local community passing through the project site. It provides for a journey above the busy road via ramp and steps, creates viewing point across to the city and the river. On progressing further on has choice of resting on the new elevated south facing public performance space on the roof of auditorium and also being able to look down at the discussions and exhibitions at the site. One is able to walk through the building experiencing not only change in exposure from the elements but also a glimpse of what transpires in the research laboratories.

The plan configuration and the materials selected allows for reduced energy use most of the year and the roof has solar panels and is also used to harvest rainwater for use in bathrooms. Ground source heating is employed and gains heat from the former covered river running just below the site.


• Page Hits: 3189         • Entry Date: 27 July 2009         • Last Update: 27 July 2009