We have just completed Stage 1 for the UNESCO Dublin Bay Discovery Centre. The ambition of the project is the conservation and protection of the UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere, North Bull Island and the natural environment through education, research and interpretation by creating a powerful place for discovery and learning. The Discovery Centre will be the genesis for the resolution of management issues on Bull Island and Dublin Bay as well as inspiring the values of UNESCO in promoting global citizenship.
The centre is conceived as a powerful place for conservation, education and research marking the protected core zone of the biosphere with a contrasting tall ‘viewing gallery’ and a low ‘ground hugging’ horizontal form. The centre runs along the northern edge of the causeway road where it deflects subtly just beyond the end of the salt mash line, here the ‘viewing gallery’ creates both a marker and a gateway. Beyond lies the lower ground hugging building expressing the exhibition, entry and café along its front façade to causeway road.
As a gateway to the biosphere, the interpretation or ‘storytelling’ at the Discovery Centre will encompass the following elements: Natural Heritage, Human Influence, The Biosphere and Global Issues. Fundamentally, through the Discovery Centre we want to help people understand and appreciate this special place and inspire them to take care of it. As Freeman Tilden, one of the most prominent interpreters of environmental issues, stated:
“Through interpretation comes understanding; through understanding comes appreciation, through appreciation comes protection.”
Over time the building will become an integral part of the island, purposely designed to have a low impact both visually and environmentally. Equally, it will serve outside visitors to the island together with all of the local ‘communities’ that use the island with a sense of discovery and excitement, combined with a sense of welcome and the comfort of a public living room. The highly accessible centre located in the heart of Dublin Bay represents both a ‘gateway’ and a ‘lens’ through which to discover, conserve and protect the sensitive receiving environment of Bull Island and the biosphere.