The site at Kildare is close to the town but doesn’t have the connectivity of a market square, being sited in a backlands area of post war residential expansion to the north of the town. In addition, the proposed primary use is different to Market square life being primarily residential rather than commercial. The question is how a Town Centre Living space functions in a residential scheme and links into the urban environment of a town like Kildare? Thus our focus turned to Urban Structure, Form and Character with the object being to create a place that complemented the existing urban character of Kildare and could be part of a series of interconnected spaces in the town. The primary thought for the urban structure was that of Square and Landscape. Because the scheme is inwards looking due to its backlands nature and lacks the commercial activities with drive primary Town public spaces, the design must form a different function, no less important, as an extended living space for the local and wider community. Leisure and interaction are the key drivers and as such the spaces are furnished and landscaped to promote this activity. The form of the central space is strongly influenced by its primary function, which is access. Access by car, parking, cycling and pedestrians needs to happen in this space. But it isn’t defined by this function and it’s materials, landscape and urban furniture come together to imagine a street where other vital social activities can happen whether that is just idling in the sunshine or hosting market stalls. It is necessarily social rather than commercial driven and as such, provides pockets of space for people to interact in with variety and flexibility. The landscaped space to the south describes a different type of communal experience – that of playing children, picnics or the simple experience of lying on the grass. It describes a space more with nature and sky, overlooked by buildings to the north and south, forming a sunlit wedge but private and enclosed. The character of the urban design therefore is one of the home and the human, but at urban scale, with variety of space for different functions, privacy balanced against community. It a reimagining of the market square,where county shop is etched large in the urban pattern of the square, but for residential use.
Town Centre First Approach
As a backlands site connectivity is more difficult than when formed in an urban block however there are many aspects of the Town Centre First approach that can be designed into the site that and these have been incorporated into the scheme to make it a successful place. Linkages - There is potential for sustainable modes of transport with pedestrian and cycle priority links through Chapel Hill, Fire Castle Lane and Market square to the centre of the town.
This linkage could connect easily to the site through Lourdsville and the adjacent park. In addition there is potential for links to the site at the north and through the petrol station to the south, should it be developed. Public Realm - From the outset the form of the spaces in the scheme took inspiration from successful town Market Spaces and are conceived as social and communal streetscapes with people at the centre. The central space of the scheme accommodates car parking generally but is multi-purpose and can be also used for market, cultural or social community use. The second space of the scheme holds the majority of the communal open space but is easily accessible for children or families to uses and is securely overlooked.
Hard and soft landscaping come together with facing buildings to enclose spaces where people can feel comfortable and safe. The communal spaces contain a varity of conditions with some spaces green and south facing suitable for playing or picnics and some areas hard landscaped, with tables with tree canopies overhead to allow people to linger and interact. The main carriageway is a shared space with an outer edge of buildings and an inner edge of trees and is used by pedestrians, cyclists and cars. Car parking spaces are situated to the rear of Building A and B and within the shared space. However in the shared space, carparking surfaces are treated the same way as the hard landscape of the space to reinforce the social ownership and to give subtle information to drivers that this is a pedestrian priority space
The buildings are sited to form the various spaces and allow views into shared areas encouraging community and social activity in the street. The materials are hardwaring and are generally a pale buff multistock brick with charred larch as the contrasting material with the exception of the front building that replaces the bungalows to Station St., which would be in rough lime render with a pale brick plinth. Despite the materials being similar, the building have very different forms which enhances the visual interest and spaces. Where possible apartments have been given their own door to the shared space thus allowing apartment residents to have ownership over their front door and activate the shared space.
Building A, contains four own door one bed units, of which two are Universal Design units. It replaces the bungalows to Station street with a two storey building but respects the historical form and streetscape by holding the hard boundary to the street pavement and recreating the window over window form of the original buildings. Finished in whitre line render, this building forms the entrance to the site. Building B, contains four one bed units and 5 two bed units, of which two of them are Universal Design units. It is a three storey apartment building with living spaces generally to the south overlooking the landscaped area. Bedrooms generally face to the north and the main access to the building is from the main shared space to the east. The balconies are deeply set and so benefit from south light but are protected from the summer sun. The is an addition communal space to the rear. Building C, contains five three bed terraced house, one two bed unit and two one bed units. The apartments are own door units with front doors to the shared space. The three bed units form a pedestrian terrace facing onto the landscaped area/playspace allowing for passive surveillance communal activity. There are refuse bins storage built into the garden enclosures while there is also pedestrian access to the rear, south facing gardens. This pedestrian link could potentially link across the petrol station site to the south in the future allowing for additional access to the Market Square and retail areas. Sustainability is paramount for the buildings and site orientation is plays a big part. The majority of the units have a south facing aspect while heat pumps are used to ensure efficiency. Water run off would be controlled with blue roofs to Buildings B & C while water can also be collected in swales and reed beds in the landscaping. Mobility for a broad population is paramount and the access across the site has been conceived with the idea of maximum inclusivity and community for all ages and abilities. Universal design units are at the ground floor of each building with carparking spaces adjacent. The site has been designed as pedestrian friendly and a shared space so that everyone can easily interact and enjoy street life.
Status : Competition Entry
End Year : 2023
Client : RIAI
Award : 3rd Place