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Cherry Orchard School

The location of this primary school for 500 children is in a large suburban housing area with few facilities, where social deprivation is widespread. The social conditions in this area of Dublin led to the inclusion of special facilities for pre-school children, children with special needs and facilities for the care of children outside school hours, and it is the first school of its kind in Ireland to include this broad range of functions. These special functions are a preschool nursery, a special care unit, an early start centre, a home-school liaison room, a number of multipurpose rooms for teaching special needs pupils as well as general catering facilities.

Given the neglected condition of the public open space and the lack of civic amenity in this socially deprived area, the architectural intention was to treat the school as a haven, a cherry orchard, enclosed by brick walled gardens and vaulted roofs.

This is a pilot project for the Department of Education and Science – a new type of school which will play a wider role in the local community and is open all day.

Cherry Orchard Ave, Cherry Orchard, Dublin, D 10
53.3371° N, 6.3735° W
End Year:
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters 2015 Awards: O’Donnell + Tuomey
    Dublin, 29 Oct  – 9 Nov 2015
  • RIAI Awards 2007

The predominant feeling in this part of Cherry Orchard is one of anonymity or lack of identity. Other public and commercial buildings in the area have been subjected to considerable vandalism and are hidden behind palisade fencing. It was part of our briefing from the Department of Education and Science that the school building should be designed in such a way as to minimise its vulnerability while retaining an architectural expression appropriate for a primary school.

The scheme takes the form of a school within a walled garden planted with cherry orchards. The school is arranged between a series of courtyards within a 3.6 metre high brick garden wall. The brick wall provides shelter and protection to the school and the outdoor play areas, whilst giving the building a strong architectural form on the site. The height of the garden walls has been carefully gauged to allow the trees to be visible from outside above the walls. The vaulted concrete roofscape with projecting rainwater gutters reinforce the distinctive form of the building whilst deterring unauthorised access to the roofs.

All of the accommodation is two storeys high and gives on to the garden/playgrounds. The rooms take their light from the courtyards, and perimeter walls are generally without openings, with the exception of the main entrance, the rear entrance to the ball court play area and a number of openings which give low level views into and out of the gardens.

The plan is a pinwheel with ranges of building opening into the courtyards. The brick floored entrance wing contains publicly accessible facilities. This leads to the wide central school corridor/street. On each side classroom entrances are paired and recessed with shared seats. Classroom wet areas with lower ceilings have windows overlooking the corridor. The pre-school nursery and special care unit are in a separate wing with rooms opening on each side to play areas and garden.

The concept of the walled garden/cherry orchard is central to the project and provides a strong sense of place whilst also affording a degree of shelter. The brick boundary wall is the defining element here. The brick and lime-rich mortar has been selected to provide warmth, colour variation and a richness of texture, which softens the impact of the large areas of brickwork. Three elements, brick, concrete and hardwood, form a palette of materials which are robust but which will weather naturally and give the building a sense of being rooted in its site.

The trees in the garden playgrounds are planted as mature specimens to minimise the risk of vandalism. In this way the trees will be increasingly visible from outside the perimeter walls confirming the character of the school as a walled garden and its image as a place of welcome. The perimeter walls are planted with native hedgerow species in order to re-establish some plant types that would have originally flourished in the area.


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