The Confucius Institute For Ireland is a cultural forum; a place where Chinese culture meets Western culture within a purpose-built setting, tailored to facilitate exchange.
This principle informs and underpins the design approach to create a building that is inclusive, belonging to both cultures. The design solution gives physical expression to the ideals of cultural sharing and exchange. Fundamental to the design is a careful consideration of form and language for the new building to give an appropriate identity that makes reference to forms and arrangements found in many examples of traditional Chinese architecture. We believe this needs to be judged carefully in order to respect tradition and culture but to acknowledge too that this is a new building that reflects a contemporary sensibility, not a piece of historicist architecture. We believe the building should reflect contemporary culture and create a place where culture can be studied and reflected upon as a constantly evolving condition. In this respect the building has an open and timeless character not overly focussed on one point in history or one cultural reference but with an open attitude to history and culture.
The ground floor of the building is conceived as an open forum, very much connected to the experience of the landscape immediately outside. The space is laid out to en- courage walking; a sense of exploration and discovery. Functional accommodation is laid out around the perimeter of the square plan to enable natural lighting and natural ventilation of the spaces. At the centre of the square plan is another square; a courtyard open to the sky and the elements. This space accords with the cultural principle of ‘leaving the middle empty’ and provides calmness and serenity at the heart of the ground floor. The open space brings daylight and fresh air to the circulation, exhibition and informal meeting spaces that are laid out adjacent to the lecture theatre, canteen and the array of learning spaces.
The consequence is a series of interior spaces arranged to ensure the natural environment is always near and available. The principle of an open space at the centre of a building is common in traditional Chinese architecture. The central courtyard is typical of both secular and temple architecture and is often conceived as an open or outdoor room rather than an expansive space as more commonly found in western courtyard typologies. The proposal is influenced by Chinese courtyards and by cloisters found in western architecture, where learning and contemplation are often linked with the ritual of walking. This circulation strategy of movement around the central space is continued on the upper levels so the interior elevations of the courtyard are continually active and animated.