The project being exhibitied is about Ballybricken and is called ‘Living at the “top of the town”…. employing the concepts of ‘habitus’ and ‘sustainable urbanism’ as a design framework for new residential, community and urban public realm space within the Waterford city area of Ballybricken’. The project was run with 4th-year architectural students and led by the studio team including Dr. Sharon O Brien & Kirsten Simpson.
The Department of Architecture SETU is located in the Granary along the Quays in the centre of Waterford at the edge of the new Cultural Quarter. We have been ‘down town’ since 2011. We see it as part of our remit in the department to promote awareness of quality architecture and the positive contribution it can make to society. To this extent we have sought opportunities to work with local citizens, organisations, and authorities. Our students and staff have worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop sustainable ideas regarding the growth of the district for its residents and visitors.
Having a creative discipline such as architecture working, living, learning, and thriving in the centre of Waterford city has allowed a formerly neglected part of town play a fresh role in shaping its future. For staff and students, the institute’s location brings an immediate contact with urban issues and the potential impact of design. For residents and the wider local area, the public role of the department has brought new ways of seeing and thinking about the places they call home. For the local authority, the school can act as an incubator, a space to propose ideas that can feed into policy and real change. All these things, and more, are what a school of architecture – situated and alert to its surroundings – may be.
The urban village of Ballybricken is known, by those who live in this Waterford city centre quarter, as “the top of the town” and as “a town within a city”. This area of Waterford began in the late medieval period as common space outside the city walls for the archery butts. It then became developed and known as the ‘Irish Town’ or ‘liberties’ of Waterford, and eventually ‘Trinity Without’.
The open space in this urban town is called Ballybricken Green (originally Fair Green), where agricultural fairs (markets) were held. It was a thriving place of economic and social exchange (and less positive attributes such as bull baiting at the Bull Post). Having lost its original dynamic energy and potential, this unique space in what is now Waterford city centre, is currently dominated by the underused urban green space of Ballybricken Green which is ringed and isolated by traffic. The remaining public space is dominated by car parking.
There is a well-established low-density residential community with a strong sense of identity, supported by the typical amenities of an Irish town. The area has also many natural amenities: an elevated position with light, air, immediate proximity to the commercial centre of Waterford, and views to the River Suir and surrounding countryside.
The project aimed to explore how increased residential density, achieved through innovative and sustainable architectural design can counter residential suburban sprawl and achieve a more sustainable compact city for Waterford. The project also presents proposals for improving place-making and the urban realm which will serve new and existing residents of Ballybricken and surrounding areas. The challenge is to increase residential density and improve the public realm while not compromising the historic streetscape and townscape character, and sense of community identity.
The studio module in the first semester of fourth year has an emphasis on designing complex mixed-use buildings in a complex urban context. The studio promotes architectural interventions that respond successfully to issues of housing, the public realm and supporting the sustainable urban fabric. The studio has a particular interest in architecture, which explores the thresholds between city and community, and between public and private realms, through the creation of ‘hybrid’ projects of medium mixed-use designs which experiment with urban density and quality of live/work spaces within the city, merged with spaces for community, commerce, social and cultural life.
Máire Henry Head of Department of Architecture SETU
Dr. Sharon O Brien (year tutor for 4th year Architecture SETU
Kirstin Simpson (tutor 4th year Architecture SETU)