Hall of Fame
A government building 10 miles from Dublin put Bucholz McEvoy Architects on the map
Joseph Dennis Kelly II -- Interior Design, 2/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
When Fingal County officials announced an international competition for a new civic hall in 1996, Merritt Bucholz and Karen McEvoy responded in two ways. The first was to form Bucholz McEvoy Architects. The second was to submit a design that expressed the Irish government's new commitment to civic openness. BMA's innovative entry, which successfully addressed site, climate, scale, function, and aesthetics, captivated the selection committee and won the firm its first commission.
Completed in 2001 and located 10 miles north of Dublin, in the village of Swords, the 100,000-square-foot, concrete-framed Fingal County Hall fits its site like a jigsaw puzzle piece. Surrounding trees more than a century old played an important role, with a particular 150-year-old Himalayan cedar dictating the curve of the hall's five-story suspended glass facade. "The spine of the building reflects the geometry of the trees nearby, and the three office wings correspond to tree height," explains Bucholz.
Poetics aside, optimal dimensions—four to six stories, 42 feet wide by 118 feet long—were determined by computer. Architects and engineers made educated assumptions about temperature, heat gain, light, and humidity, then plugged the figures in to test them. On the building's exterior, terra-cotta tiles on the south-facing facade capture heat from the sun. Among related systems, vents that channel outside air eliminate the need for mechanical ventilation. Besides making a reference to the government's emphasis on openness, the atrium is a testament to BMA's commitment to lighting and heating the building naturally. Sunlight is projected inside by glass shelves and aluminum louvers on the facade; Welsh slate tiles on the atrium's floor are heated geothermally. "We designed for functionality as well as for aesthetics," Bucholz says, an assertion that, like Fingal County Hall's masterful design, is crystal clear.