The estate is contiguous with the R138 road into Dublin – one of the main access routes from the south of the city centre.
UCD relocated to Belfield in the 1960s, moving from its original city centre location as the University expanded. The Belfield campus is a collection of smaller estates, many of which contained period houses, with the original estate dating back to the 12th century. The University purchased the land in a series of acquisitions starting in the 1930s.
The first campus masterplan was conceived by Polish architect Andrzej Wejchert, the winner of a competition held by UCD in 1963. Wejchert’s plan centred on an arrangement of key campus buildings either side of a main pedestrian walkway, with the buildings sited to maintain a walking distance of about six minutes from one end of the walkway to the other. Wejchert also designed the Administration Building and the Arts Block. The Agriculture Block designed by Rooney Associates, the James Joyce Library by Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Ferguson, and the Restaurant Building by Michael Scott & Partners, were added in the 1970s.
Today, the campus covers 133 ha and contains over eight km of woodland walks, some of which are flanked by mature trees that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. There are ten listed structures on campus, including seven period houses, notably Ardmore House (a typical example of a 19th century country villa) and Merville House (originally a country villa built in the mid-1700s), both of which are the focus of an on-going preservation and restoration programme.
The campus is loosely divided into three character areas: education, research and innovation; residential; and sport and recreation. The long-term ambition is to co-locate all of the education, research and innovation buildings, as the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, the School of Civil Engineering and the School of Biosystems and Food Engineering are currently located in a separate area of the campus.
The current access to the campus is predominantly from Stillorgan Road (R138) – here, despite over a kilometre of frontage, the University makes no real impact, appearing largely anonymous. While the campus is elevated above the height of the road, it is mostly obscured by a heavy tree canopy. Through this project, UCD aims to increase the sense of arrival to the University by creating a highly-visible and welcoming entrance with greater presence from the road as well as looking to the future, creating an urban design vision that values high quality placemaking, architecture and public realm.
The masterplan area under consideration in this competition covers the area indicated on the plan below, and described in the Brief section. The masterplan site contains 23.8 ha of University land, with a further 5.35 ha of land under the stewardship of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. This area includes the main entrance and arrival network to the campus as well as the predominant route into the campus core. The Centre for Creative Design should be located in a prominent position within the masterplan area, taking into consideration appropriate adjacencies with the Engineering and Material Science Centre, the proposed Engineering and Architecture Precinct, and visibility from outside the campus.