Bull Island has evolved over the last 200 years as a result of human intervention in the construction of sea walls in Dublin Bay. It provides an invaluable natural amenity for the city - an important bird sanctuary and nature reserve, the island is central to the UNESCO designated Dublin Bay Biosphere, which is unique in its proximity to a large capital city. Biospheres are places where nature, culture and people connect. The aim of the new Discovery Centre is the sustainable conservation of the natural environment of Bull Island and Dublin Bay through education, research and interpretation by creating an educational facility for discovery and learning at the heart of the biosphere. It will provide a headquarters for the nature reserve on the island to inspire the values of UNESCO in promoting global citizenship.
Our design concept is to create a ‘beacon and gateway to discovery’ at the point where the man made causeway meets the island, located on an area of reclaimed land from the 1960’s. The building consists of a long, low horizontal form, nestled among the dunes, marking the entrance to the island with a contrasting ‘prospect tower’ from which to view and understand the full expanse of the bay. Our prospect tower relates to and is inspired by the wide range of vertical structures found in and around the Bay from lighthouses, to Martello towers, to coastguard towers and medieval tower houses. The ground-hugging building relates directly to its immediate context through its low, subtle form, mounded landscape setting and use of natural materials. To strengthen this relationship a brown roof is employed throughout using substrates from the site to support the self-seeding of native flora. Timber is used both for structure and cladding, designed to minimise both the visual and environmental impact of the building. The materials chosen will bleach and age beautifully over time ensuring they create a sense of local distinctiveness and become an integral part of the island.
The building consists of a long, low horizontal form, nestled among the dunes, marking the entrance to the island with a contrasting ‘prospect tower’ from which to view and understand the full expanse of the bay