What at first appears to be a fluid transition between earth and sky is, on closer inspection, a reflective upper floor made of high-gloss aluminum which allows the building to meld with its surroundings. The West Limerick Children’s Centre, located in the southwest of Ireland, supports children with mental and physical handicaps and promotes their integration into society.
Architect: SATA, Limerick, Ireland
Location: Newcastle West, County Limerick, Ireland
Team: Mark Thompson, Kristoffer Norrinder, Michael Pledge
Usable space: 765 m²
Construction engineer: Kennedy Associates
Building technology: Fahey O’Riordan
General contractor: Scanlon Construction
The organization of the centre’s floor plan is based on the ‘onion principle’: an interior infrastructure is surrounded by a corridor lit by skylights. This corridor provides access to the spaces of the outer layer, where therapy rooms, waiting areas and offices are located. In every room, a ceiling-high glazed façade creates a fluid transition between interior and exterior. All children, regardless of height, age or physical limitations, have the opportunity to enjoy the view of the garden. The base of the structure, glazed on all sides, is given an irregular rhythm by means of black window frames. The interior distribution of space cannot be determined from outside; the building creates an impression as a single unit. Above the glazing, the surrounding landscape is reflected by a high upper floor of glossy aluminum: trees and cloud formations are mirrored, integrating the building into its environment. On the south side of the structure, the jutting roof ensures protection from the sun and prevents direct sunlight from penetrating into the therapy rooms. In order to prevent any potential negative effect on individual patients, the interior spaces have been decorated in light, neutral colours. Furthermore, the architects place great value on the best lighting for the interior spaces, with as much natural light as possible. Besides profiting from the direct light that shines through the glass façade facing the garden, the therapy rooms and offices also take advantage of the diffused illumination from the skylight in the corridor. A meticulously selected combination of materials has helped the SATA team of architects create an unusual and surprising effect: while the floor-to-ceiling glazing on the ground floor allows the interior to meld with the surrounding garden, the reflective aluminum façade becomes part of the natural environment, changing appearance according to the season and weather.