What is noticeable about all the notable works of Grafton Architects co-founders Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara is that their designs are mostly conceived through the idea of interlocking spaces, creating healthy and interactive built environments that respect the boundaries of nature. 

Here are 8 built and unbuilt projects that mirror Grafton Architects’ concept of architecturally separate but visually connected environments: 

1 | Institut Mines Télécom (Paris, France 2019)

With respect to the architectural legacy of educational institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge & Harvard, Grafton Architects created an inclusive community of overlapping courts, halls, and spaces. The new 21st Century university building for Institut Mines-Télécom, Télécom ParisTech, Télécom Sud Paris is organized around six spaces, with five courtyards and a generous ‘garden room’ quadrangle.  

Grafton Architects - Institut Mines Télécom (Paris, France 2019)
“The master plan proposes streets, squares, and boulevards with the poetic integration of landscape and ecology,” said Grafton Architects. READ MORE about this project here.

“In order to adequately address the Place de Metro and to give the building a strong presence in this new public space, we have compressed the core educational uses into a compact form to make a strong urban presence addressing the square,” said Grafton Architects. 

2 | Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, School of Economics (Toulouse, France 2019)

“For us, Toulouse is a city of bridges, quay walls, city walls, ramps, promenades, brick buttresses, brick and stone towers, mysterious cool interiors and cloisters, archways and courtyards,” shared Grafton Architects. The new Toulouse School of Economics is positioned at a break in the wall, making a picturesque scenery in the city. 

Grafton Architects - Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, School of Economics (Toulouse, France 2019)
Grafton Architects see this site as a world without limits, with “the breach in the historic city wall is seen as an opportunity, to see boundaries not as limits, but as ‘thresholds’ to be crossed and held.” READ MORE here.

The key site is framed with the turning of the canal, directing gazes towards the linear, tree-lined canal cuts through the city. The architects created a sense of connection with the landscape beyond, reflecting the idea of universities as the life-blood of Toulouse. Interiors of the building are provided with large volumes that act as light, shadow, and shade control.

With a design that freely moves while firmly establishing its own identity, Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, School of Economics, proves that it is more than just a new educational building. 

3 | University Campus UTEC Lima (Lima, Peru 2015)

Structure and architectural spaces work together to form a new circulation landscape, with the connection of the site to the Pacific. The UTEC campus project acted as a new cliff defining the boundary between the city and the sea. “We have positioned the special rooms of the University: the auditorium, the conference rooms, the theatre/movie venue, at the base of the ‘cliff ’ face, marking the northern boundary to the highway, encouraging cultural interaction with the wider public,” said Grafton Architects. 

Grafton Architects - University Campus UTEC Lima (Lima, Peru 2015)
“Educationally, a vertically layered strategy connects ground and sky. The larger volumes are placed nearest the ground, with the teaching spaces stacked and administration and professors’ offices positioned on the higher levels.” Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan. READ MORE here.

The north face depicts the buzzing city life, with the sound of car honks and busy business centers. In contrast, the south faces cascade as a series of gardens. Once again, Grafton Architects prove how the interlocking of urban settings and nature is more than possible. 

4 | Medical School, University of Limerick (Limerick, Ireland 2012)

Unlike other remarkable projects of Farell and McNamara where the building is either framed or surrounded by nature, the University of Limerick is situated on both sides of the lower reaches of the Shannon river, the longest and largest river in Ireland. 

The construction of new buildings is intended to direct a center point for the entire north expansion. Through a pedestrian bridge connecting the existing campus to the north expansion, this new suite is neighbors with three existing institutions: the Sports Pavilion, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and the Health Sciences Building. For the interiors, Grafton Architects incorporated an open central stair connecting all of the primary spaces for better interactions.  

Grafton Architects - Medical School, University of Limerick (Limerick, Ireland 2012)
“In response to the deep plan, the roof-form is modulated to light multiple spaces, including the central circulation space, the clinical skills labs, the corridors, and a small roof terrace.”  Photo courtesy of Dennis Gilbert. READ MORE here.

The University of Limerick’s design turns around the idea that architecture is surrounded by nature. This time, architecture allowed water to freely flow in-between forms. 

5 | London School of Economics and Political Science

In beautiful London, there are three so-called ‘worlds’:  the world of Theater-land; the Lawyers’ world, and the informality of Camden. To bring an added value to the community, the architects placed Lincoln’s Inn Fields at the boundary of the three boroughs as the whole LSE campus’ new gateway. 

London School of Economics and Political Science
“As the building will contain the Marshall Institute of Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship, the ethos of the building and the spaces should represent a vision of diversity, openness, inclusiveness, and a ‘love of humanity.” READ MORE here.

According to Grafton Architects, this gateway can release the energy of the campus onto the square.  “The front face, although open and porous, will retain a certain formality to welcome visitors to the Paul Marshall Institute, yielding to a more informal world of gathering and exchange along the recesses and edges to the south and west connecting with John Watkins Plaza and the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre.”

So, how do you make a new development blend with an environment that has long been progressive? Farell and McNamara’s answer is that you make a new gateway that connects the entire public space. 

6 | Università Luigi Bocconi (Milan, Italy 2008)

The Università Luigi Bocconi is another one of Grafton Architects’ linking projects. The building’s hall acts as a filter between the city and the university, with the northern edge of the site acting as a three-dimensional-like access to the busy city of Milan. To control views and allow spaces to merge, a floating canopy filters light to all levels and allows the space to establish a certain relationship with the university. 

Grafton Architects - Università Luigi Bocconi (Milan, Italy 2008)
“This new deep ‘finger’ of space reaches out to the city and beckons the visitor into the heart of the interior. This public space continues into the building, bringing with it it’s stone surface, the floor of the city.” Photo courtesy of Brunetti. READ MORE here.

We saw this brief as an opportunity for the Luigi Bocconi University to make a space at the scale of the city. To this end, we have built at the scale of the site,80m x160m. Inside, our building is thought of as a large market hall or place of exchange,” said Grafton Architects, with another praise-worthy project that is consistent in form and landscape. 

7 | Loreto Community School (Milford, Ireland 2006)

The Loreto Community School is located in a town with sloping terrain. Sheltering 5 meters below the public road and overlooking three playing fields positioned 10 meters below, the school is organized into four main elements: a single-story Technology wing; a two-story classroom block; a dining or assembly area at the heart of the school; and a Sports Hall.

Loreto Community School (Milford, Ireland 2006)
“The Loreto Community School is similar is plan size to the original town with its main street and private plots.” Image courtesy of Ross Kavanagh. READ MORE here.

“Close to Mulroy Bay and exposed to the North Atlantic, the zinc undulating roof rises and falls, creating its own landscape, in response to the drama of the local typography,” said Grafton Architects. There are covered outdoor spaces that provide shelter from the winds as students arrive by bus from various parts of the Inishowen Peninsula. 

Tall plastered walls catch and reflect sunlight. The campus proves to be as bright as how an educational culture should be, where light and air are drawn in between the folds.

8 | Urban Institute of Ireland (Dublin, Ireland 2002)

Grafton Architects’ concept of interlocking spaces meets its perfect match in this place of exchange for collaborating disciplines. “A balance was sought between the academic tradition of the solitary scholar and the urgent need for interdisciplinary engagement if contemporary urban issues are to be addressed in a realistic way – between the conflicting desires to have both private individual research ‘cells’ and to make a place conducive to casual overlap and meaningful academic exchange,” said Grafton Architects. 

Urban Institute of Ireland (Dublin, Ireland 2002)
“The flexibility of this crafted skin allowed us to play with the surface, while at the same time preserving the monolithic, molded potential of the material,” said Grafton Architects. Photo courtesy of Ross Kavanagh. READ MORE here.

In a short time frame, the architects were able to create a new place at the edge of a cluster of diverse university buildings. The site is a low-lying and inadequate parade of 19th-century Masonic school buildings, so the project opted to be a stand-alone building that establishes layers of privacy. “The design of the building employs common sense, good-practice environmental control methodologies and has been supported by a grant from Sustainable Energy Ireland, “ said Grafton Architects. 

Information obtained from Grafton Architects.

READ MORE: The Design Philosophy of B.V. Doshi, 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate

Images courtesy of Grafton Architects

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