Landmark Building on Cork City Quays
Finding the right architectural firm for the design of the building that would ultimately pave the way for the regeneration of the Cork City Docklands was never going to be an easy task. NSQ1 is the first phase of a 4 -building office development, Navigation Square, located on Albert Quay. The brief from developers O’Callaghan Properties was the design of an iconic building that would seamlessly integrate into an area of rich maritime historical significance, with aspirations to be the future hub of commercial activity in Cork.
With its reputation for delivery of buildings that are unique and uplifting to both the end users and the public, whilst specialising in sustainable buildings that make a positive impact on the built environment and the community, Henry J. Lyons Architects met all the criteria.
With a 100-year history, the firm is a leader in architecture, interior design, master planning and heritage projects. Recently awarded Architectural Practise of the Year 2019, at the Building and Architect of the Year Awards, Henry J. Lyons has previously partnered with O’Callaghan Properties on Lancaster Quay and Liffey Valley Shopping. Finghin Curraoin of Henry J. Lyons cites the collaborative approach between the two as key to its success. NSQ1 replaced a derelict site with a new purpose- built development designed to meet and surpass existing contemporary standards and to activate the beginning of a new generation of commercial construction in Cork City.
The 7-storey, over 2-storey basement building enjoys a prominent position along the River Lee and has quickly become a landmark building for those entering the City. The site was previously occupied by five industrial buildings including Navigation House, which had one of the most distinctive front facades on the city quays, consisting of unusually good quality cut stone.
In addition to commercial viability, central to this project was its position as a milestone step towards the extension of Cork along the River Lee. This made both architect and developer mindful of the role the building would play in the regeneration of the area. According to Finghin Curraoin, ‘Along with our focus on restoration and retention, for this project, we pushed for innovation, always cognisant of the vision for the future of the area. Materials had to respect the history of the area while ensuring the building does not age as the rest of the docklands continues to develop. Elevational compositions had to break down the overall massing of the building. Sunlight and daylight issues with adjoining buildings had to be addressed.’
NSQ1 is entered through the retained historic façade of Navigation House. The retained façade is set apart from the rest of the building by a glazed envelope, allowing both new and old to connect in the lightest possible way. The north elevation consists of large format glazing allowing uninterrupted views of the River Lee and back towards Cork City itself. The east and west elevations feature precast concrete panels and inset glazing, directing views towards the estuary and city. The building is capped with a distinctive bronze canopy which projects over the generous rooftop terrace on the 6th floor.
The detailing of the project involved large precast elements together with a main primary steel structure above lower ground level. Precasting was selected with regard to speed of erection and an ability to provide for quality control of the finishes and jointing, which were all obtainable in an indoor factory environment.
The first partial pour for the project was the largest in the history of Cork City, and a number of other pours were staged to complete the basement. The pour involved 27 concrete trucks with 65 people working full time across a ten-hour period.
BAM Ireland managed construction and project delivery as the main contractor, completing the project before its expected delivery date and allowing a partial handover to an occupier. All main construction elements were controlled and planned to allow for seamless construction to a tight timeframe. According to Finghin Curraoin, ‘Sustainability was at the heart of this project from the outset. The building underwent rigorous testing and design throughout its development stages to ensure a highly efficient and sustainable design achieving BER A3 and LEED Gold V4 Standard.’
He said, ‘During the design process we were mindful of the need to carry out improvements to the public realm of the local area, creating not just office space but a public plaza which was also completed as part of the construction of NSQ1.’ Repaving of the Quay area and extensive planting throughout the new Navigation Square development were at the core of the public realm design.
The sustainability design approach for NSQ1 impacted decisions at every scale of the building from overall energy strategy, facade design and materiality, to how the development is used and maintained during its intended design life. To attract international and national tenants, the LEED method of assessment was chosen to provide a framework for the incorporation of sustainable design features into the project. The BER A3 energy rating resulted in a reduction in energy usage and carbon emissions when compared to a Building Regulation Compliant Building. Bright, expansive floor plates are largely column-free with natural light from all elevations. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of Cork City, the River Lee and Navigation Square, flooding the interior with natural light. Changing, drying and shower facilities are provided for bicycle users. Onsite charging points are provided for electric car users. The new public realm provides an external environment for building users to relax and engage during the day.
Overall this is a carefully considered and dynamic development with a strong focus on sustainable and responsible construction. The quality of design and attention to detail is reflected throughout. NSQ1 is testament to this ethos, and with it, Henry J. Lyons has delivered a building that will stand the test of time and inspire the regeneration of one of Cork City’s most iconic areas.
Henry J. Lyons
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