These two buildings are contemporary in design, serving the needs and conditions required for the modern office worker as well as expressing an optimism for the future. They adopt a progressive approach to sustainability, involving a pedestrian / cyclist-friendly attractively landscaped primary access road, universal design and energy conservation that surpasses the imminent ‘nearly Zero Energy Building’ or nZEB standard as ‘energy positive’ buildings.
This proposal comprises two four-storey buildings, namely, Office Building 1 and Office Building 2, set out on the east or up-slope side of the main access road currently under construction. These two buildings are designed together to relate positively to the stately Victorian St. Senan’s Hospital, one of the cultural treasures of the locality, while maintaining adequate distance: the closer of the two, Office Building 1, is located at approximately 275m distance from the old hospital and both proposed buildings are viewed from the opposite side of the River Slaney as being more or less at the same level on the hillside as the hospital.
While each building is designed with a particular architectural expression, they are both based on a regular grid structure forming a rectangular box that is cut into the hill and which is, accordingly, entered from the east via a bridge on the First Floor. The relatively steep site profile was the starting point for the design concept, engendering a response in building section to the sloping westward aspect. A powerful dynamic, generated by light and vista, is created in terms of entry over the bridge and movement through each building, leading to a balcony.
These two proposed buildings constitute variations of a rectangular block shape, with the long axes running in parallel to the contours and their long facades facing eastwards up-slope and westwards towards the River Slaney and N11. The top floor in each case is treated as a recessed penthouse to the north, south and west in order to mitigate the perceived mass.
Office Building 1 is located to the south of the site, and is slightly angled in relation to the N11 in order to present something of its west façade towards the site entrance rather than simply a gable. This position also aligns more with the original contours. The building comprises 4,634 m2, 3,420m2 of which being either office or meeting space. Office Building 2 comprises 4,183 m2, 3,169m2 of which being either office or meeting space. Car parking is located mostly on the west side of the buildings, thus screened from the N11 and town by the buildings.
The design approach to these buildings can be considered in regard to the office area facades and the central bay. The office areas comprise mostly horizontal strip windows running across an otherwise white elevation. This Modernist style approach, with its roots partially in nautical design and alluding to river boats, affirms the relationship to the river. This reference is reinforced by the wooden balconies that project westwards, raised on steel s tilts as if a riverside wharf.
In both buildings the ‘white box’ is broken by the central bay which projects in plan and which rises in section from the long facades. This increased height is emphasised by mono-pitched roofs tilted towards the south in order to increase solar energy gain through photovoltaic panels.
The central bay in Office Building 1 is presented as a ‘floating’ roof plane, a concept that is also translated to the east and west facades as angled wall planes detached from the ‘box’. This geometric configuration on the east side allows the building to open southwards in relation to the access bridge. On the west side, the combination of an angled wall and cranked footprint makes a gesture of openness towards Enniscorthy Town. In juxtaposition to the horizontality and flatness of the two flanking facades with their horizontal strip glazing, this central bay comprises an emphatically vertical facade. It reads as a thick freestanding wall, ‘encrusted’ by vertical photovoltaic panels that are angled to optimise solar energy gain. Thus, similar to the roof, this wall is presented as a major energy capturing component. On the east side of the building, however, a single vertical photovoltaic strip projects from the freestanding wall, framing the main entrance. Otherwise this wall plane is finished in vertical wood cladding, again an allusion to boats and complementing the strong horizontality of the fenestration design.
The south gable of this building steps back with ascent (ship-like), providing scope for cascading landscaping in response to the sunshine and to St. Senan’s and also acknowledging the contiguous main site entrance. Solar control is achieved partially through the use of photovoltaic panels that have the double-function of brise soleil. In essence, besides the nautical references, the building is a powerful and progressive metaphor for energy capture.
The central bay in Office Building 2 comprises a different character, drawing from the local history of mills and grain storage. The proportions of this central feature facing westwards, with its vertical proportion (articulated by the wood cladding), alludes to the mill on Vinegar Hill and those of its window opes refer to the grain structures in the town. Solar control is achieved partially through the use of tall vertical fins on the south side of these window opes, which double as photovoltaic panelled strips facing southwards. Solar energy gain is further achieved on the main south facing façade by solar panels that also double as brise soleil. In addition, photovoltaic panels run across the roof east-westwards, creating a serrated roof form as a single integrated building ‘cap’. Thus, here again, a metaphor for energy capture is made manifest.
Given that the two proposed buildings stand as pavilions on the site, as is appropriate to this kind of Technological Park, there is an abundance of open space provided. The landscape proposals celebrate the opportunities offered by the site in terms of its visibility from the town and N11 as well as views from and the sequential journey through the site.
Provision is made for passive recreation or sitting, involving amphitheatre-like grassed terraces and benches. These are positioned to benefit from south and west sunshine while affording views over the River Slaney. A space is created between the two proposed buildings, partially enclosed by Weeping Willow and grassed terraced seats, involving a grit surface, for informal ball-play.
The approach to landscaping reflects the Enniscorthy Business Park Appropriate Assessment (2018), with the majority of plant species selected being native or naturalised varieties (Figure 6). Perimeter landscaping along the eastern and southern boundaries, in particular, comprises species found in Irish hedgerows (Southern Hedgerow) and coniferous species also common throughout the landscape (Coniferous Banks), so functioning to mediate between the site and its surrounds.
Access to the site along the primary road is articulated by a series of fastigiate Poplars that literally reflect the internal building structure. The horizontal connection of the two buildings is complemented by a Feature Pathway running on an east-west axis down the slope between the Upper Oval and Lower Oval, as if a ‘dry river bed’ between two’ ponds’. This central feature acts also as a unifyer of the site, providing an amenity shared by the two buildings. In the same spirit, the ovals provide two common spaces, although each of a distinct character, with the upper one prompting passive use (sit and view) and the lower one and its gritted surface accommodating informal ball-play.
The terrain profile extending westwards from the two buildings towards the main access road is to comprise a rolling landscape or a series of waves, conceptually referring to the fluidity of the river below. This west-facing open space also includes groves of food producing plants, namely, fruit and berries, that flank amphitheatre-like grass covered terraced seating at the foot of the wooden balconies. Also, nut-ptoducing Hazel clumps are proposed along with separate clumps of Hawthorn.
Low hedges punctuated by small trees (Mountain Ash to the north and Hornbeam to the east), incorporating wire fencing, wrap around the two buildings on their respective northern and eastern sides, for both enhancement and protection of people due to changes in ground level. The interface between the buildings and carpark to the east is mediated by four tall fastigiate trees per building: Oak for Office Building 1 and Beech for Office Building 2. These establish a certain formality and grandness on this primary access side of the buildings from the car park, in particular, flanking the two bridges.