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Ratoath College

Jamestown, Co. Meath

McGarry Ní Éanaigh Architects

We sought to design and construct a large public building of character confirming the College as a legible community resource in an otherwise undistinguished built landscape. Responding to the only remaining site features - some individual trees, thus locating and fixing the school on its site in order to achieve a sense of place was important.The building is essentially a two-storey bar with a general purpose/social space deformed in response to a pair of existing trees and to make a south-facing garden. To achieve this major space which is the heart of the school and having a direct relationship with this new garden and the main school entrance was essential. Compositionally the scheme is one entity, articulated to form external spaces - main entrance court, school garden...and to define entrances.The main entrance with its low large-scale coloured soffit is also registered by a ground floor setback leading from the bus setdown area, similar more modest devices mark the secondary ones. Achieving an efficient building form (floor/wall ratio) while also meeting the detail prescribed individual room requirements in a DoES brief is challenging but critical for us in order to a make brick building within the budget - a distinguishing material for this public building in this place.The nature and character of the brick skin was a matter of major design detail as was the design of the “5th” elevation ie the ceiling/roof through which discs of daylight introduced shots and shafts of penetrating colour into the array of “public”/social and circulation spaces. The legibility and memory mapping hooks for students and staff to aid their navigation and ease of movement through this large building motivated our pursuit of this strategy as well as a childhood memory of joy at light streaming through coloured glass from a height.

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