Designed by Little in 2000-2003, while employed as project architect in Oppermann Associates, this 16-class extension to an existing 16-class national school was completed (afer a lull to do with funding) in 2006. At the time it was the largest national school in the State. Little took the project from first visit, through Planning, fire approvals and early tender stage. The existing building is one storey and at the start of the process the Department of Education was still insisting that national schools and their extensions should also be one storey. Little made a strong case for some first floor functions and the vertical drama that can bring.
A key early decision was to arrange a land swop with the Arch-diocese so that the extension could give a greater civic character tom this part of suburban Blanchardstown and so that corridor lengths could be minimised.
The front ten classes of the extension face due south, curving slightly with the road. These classrooms, their gardens and corridor to rear are raised 600mm, so that children can overlook the wall and passing pedestrians to the south and solar gain to classrooms is maximised.
The atrium within forms the heart of the school with classrooms, headmaster’s office, staffroom and the two storey library addressing it. Light from the atrium illuminates much of the GP Hall located behind it. A first floor galley provides spectators’ views into the Hall or Atrium.
The school was designed on passive-solar principles. There is an even spread of natural light everywhere. The classrooms are naturally ventilated using high level balanced-flue cowls: these damper-controlled stacks use buoyanmcy and stack effect to replace stale air at night with cool oxygen rich air, that is warmed by the buidling fabric and/or heating systems by the time children arrive: a robust, low cost system. The cowls also punctuate the roof line giving drama to the building.
The tall General Purpose Hall is located behind the Atrium to the north of the site. Together with the library and the atrium, it forms the large central 2-storey block of the school whihc can be seen to dramatic effect from the road. The changing rooms and stores for play implements are located between the Hall and the outdoor play areas.
The arrangement of large windows on all sides of the Hall ensures good natural light and a dynamic appearance. The external wall insulation that clads this block has 'ashlar cut' detailing that visually ties the windows and whole composition together.