A top prize for operation that transformed anatomy building

Gongs for UCC student hub and Student Civitas, Lee Point, Cork,  as strong turnout celebrated at RIAI Architecture Awards
A top prize for operation that transformed anatomy building

The Student Hub at UCC by O'Donnell + Tuomey Architects. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 

The slick operation that altered the anatomy of a Cork icon and gave it a 21st-century facelift has scooped a sought-after design award.

Adaptation and reuse of existing buildings is a sustainable approach to climate change and it was also a category that elicited a particularly strong response in the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) 2021 Awards, revealed this morning.

The Student Hub at UCC. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 
The Student Hub at UCC. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 

And it was O’Donnell + Tuomey’s impressive transformation of the former anatomy school at University College Cork into a vibrant student hub that has won the top prize in this section. 

An award for conservation went to the sensitive restoration of the Swiss Cottage in Co Leitrim, by Buckley Partnership Architects.

Also in Cork, further recognition arrived in this year’s awards as Student Civitas, Lee Point Student Accommodation, by Scott Tallon Walker Architects, shared the top prize in the “living” category, along with two outstanding private homes — House for a Gardener in Northern Ireland and Baltrasna House in Skerries, Co Dublin.

The Student Hub at UCC. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 
The Student Hub at UCC. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 

Overall, there was strong representation of Irish architecture at home and abroad as the RIAI announced the 2021 award winners, which acknowledge achievement in architecture and recognise the quality of work carried out by RIAI members and the contribution registered architects make to the built environment.

Projects submitted for the 2021 awards were practically completed between January 1 and December 31, 2020.

Marking the 32nd year of the awards, the RIAI announced 17 winners across all categories, including Adaption & Re-Use, Cultural or Public Buildings, Learning Environments, Wellbeing, Public Spaces, Workplace, Living, and International. 

The award winners include projects in Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Down, Leitrim, Limerick, Louth, Offaly, as well as Punjab, India.

Munster scored again as the award for wellbeing was presented to Healy Partner Architect’s The Padel Club in Limerick.


The work of RIAI architects overseas was celebrated with McCullough Mulvin Architect’s Learning Laboratory for Thapar University in Punjab, India, the winner in the International category.

Public projects amongst the winners include the renovation and retention of the original garda station building in Donegal Town by Rhatigan Architects which was a double award winner in both cultural/public buildings and the Sustainability categories.

Exterior views from the park of Lee Point. Picture: Philip Lauterbach
Exterior views from the park of Lee Point. Picture: Philip Lauterbach

A new extension to Scoil Uí Mhuirí in County Louth was given top prize in the learning environments category.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council Architects Department’s Covid-19 response for placemaking from Blackrock to Sandycove and in Dundrum was a joint winner alongside King John’s Castle in Carlingford, Co Louth in the public space category.

The open-plan living area, Lee Point. Picture: Philip Lauterbach
The open-plan living area, Lee Point. Picture: Philip Lauterbach

The quality of Irish workplaces was recognised with two awards this year —North Dock by ABK Architects and Babel Academy of English by Stephen Mulhall, nineteeneighty studio for fit-out.

A special award for Research through Practice was awarded to Ryan W Kennihan Architects for their work on Baltrasna House and Beach Road House. Finally, John McLaughlin Architects and Queen’s University Belfast were awarded for their research in “Keeping it Modern”.


The RIAI Public Choice Award was announced earlier in the week with over 10,000 online votes being cast by members of the public.

The winning submission was Field, Stonewall, House by Taylor McCarney Architects, which was in March the sixth house to go through to the final of RTÉ’s Home of the Year.

The design for the house was conceived as a series of parallel fieldstone walls that fit seamlessly within the rural setting in the west of Ireland.

The wide variety of projects included in this year’s shortlist demonstrates “the diversity of great work being carried out by Irish architects across the country and further afield”, according to Ciaran O’Connor, RIAI president.

“Despite Covid-19 having an impact on construction projects delivered in the last 12 months, we received almost 150 entries for work complete in 2020 and the quality was exceptional,” said Mr O’Connor.

“Architects are invaluable in how they enrich the communities we live in – our daily lives, our homes, schools and colleges, and the public spaces we enjoy.

“I would like to particularly congratulate the winner of our Public Choice award, Taylor McCarney Architects, for their exceptional design.

“Collaboration is at the heart of each of these projects so, we must also congratulate the clients and our colleagues on the design teams whose contribution is key in getting these results.”

  • Full details of all the winning projects are available at www.riai.ie


UCC opened its Student Hub in February of this year. Europe’s long-term lending institution, the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a €100 million loan agreement with University College Cork in November 2016 ensuring the completion of the transformation of the Windle Building into a state-of-the-art student hub, according to ucc.ie.

The Windle Building had until 2011 been home to the Department of Anatomy and had been known by generations as "the Medical Building" or in its earliest days "the Clarendon Buliding". 

UCC Students pictured at the new UCC Hub. Picture: Clare Keogh
UCC Students pictured at the new UCC Hub. Picture: Clare Keogh

This first phase of transformation included removing outlying buildings attached to the main limestone building. The mortuary building, ground-floor physiology laboratories and the main staircase were removed as were the 'Wellcome Rooms' research laboratories, and the old Anatomy Tea Room on the first floor, according to ucc.ie.

The Student Hub Project designed by world-renowned architects O’Donnell + Tuomey, saw the Windle Building completely remodelled to provide an area offering facilities for the students union, clubs and societies officers, and other student-led activities in one location on the campus for the first time. 

The interior of The Student Hub at UCC. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 
The interior of The Student Hub at UCC. Picture: Jed Niezgoda 

The new Student Hub at UCC is adjacent to the university quadrangle, at the convergence of routes through the campus core. 

"The refurbished anatomy school combines aspects of spatial change and careful conservation, transformation and renewal, according to O’Donnell + Tuomey.

"The linear plan of the 1850s building forms a baseline for a thickened wall of cellular rooms that bends around a central gathering space." 

Bridges and balconies animate the gathering space, making a brick-paved "market hall" atmosphere for student societies and events. 

A lantern tower of administration and student services rises over the roof-scape. 

A canopy leads to an open porch and public passageway through the building.

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