Reimagining the Courtyard at Salesian College, Celbridge
Posted by admin, June 19, 2019

The newly renovated courtyard at Salesians

Tell us about the project: what was the starting point, what was the process, what was the outcome?

We agreed that the courtyard was a space of huge potential which is currently unused by students in the school. We focused on considering what spaces were most needed by all the students, and explored how the space could be used from an educational and social perspective. We also discussed how the space could make the most of its central location in the school.

We used images of various courtyards from across the world as influence, and discussed their different uses from formal and traditional to informal and playful. We considered themes such as colour theory and sustainability, and looked at how the choice of materiality and planting impacted on the feeling of a space.

Tell us the step by step:

Following presentation of the project brief, in the first workshop we generated a mind map of ideas for how we could use the courtyard in a better way under the themes of education, social and play. The students were split into groups to sketch out their initial ideas of the types of spaces they would like to have in the school, using tracing paper on top of the School Plan. This exercise followed with students researching different spaces they liked and thinking about how they could be applied to the school courtyard. Towards the end of the session they developed their ideas in plan, section and elevation, with some groups also doing perspective drawings.

In the second workshop the students took their initial ideas and started testing them through digital modelling. Most of the students were new to the software SketchUp, but they quickly picked it up and started inputting various elements from the 3D Warehouse. Throughout this workshop the students tested different ideas, and gained a better understanding of the scale of the courtyard space. We were able to set up different views within the model, and the students were able to quickly see what their design would look like!

For the third workshop we moved back to the Art Studio, and started making physical models of their proposals. The students had to start thinking about the materiality of their designs, and be creative with representing these with the wide range of modelling materials available. Groups decided to model at either 1:100 or 1:50, and used their scale rulers, cutting mats and scalpals to create models which were accurate in scale. Students were great in focusing their efforts on key aspects of their design and considering how these are best conveyed.

In the fourth workshop, each group created presentations which they then delivered to the Principal and Deputies. The presentations comprised of their initial sketches and ideas, views from their digital models and the physical model. The proposals were so well received by the staff that they have approved funding for the project to become a reality!

We are now in the process of renovating the courtyard with innovative and resourceful improvements to the space which incorporate ideas raised by the students during this project. The students have rolled up their sleeves, so…quite literally watch this space!

What skills did the students gain?

The students learnt various design skills throughout these workshops, ranging from sketching techniques to modelling methods. However, arguably of most benefit they experienced the creative design process from initial brief to presentation.

Along the journey the students developed their ability to test and analyse their own designs, and became more confident in expressing their ideas. The culmination of this was at the final presentations, where they confidently explained the reasoning behind their proposals.

The students’ perspective:

‘It’s uplifting to be able to make a tangible change in the world around me, to see my ideas take shape into something real.’ Dylan Breheny — 5th Year

‘I found this architectural course enjoyable and it gave me an insight on what it would be like to be an architect. I felt this course also boosted my confidence as my group and I presented our model to the principal and this experience will help me in the future!!!’ James Fallon — 2nd Year

‘I have found this course very useful as I am interested in architecture. It has given me an insight into architecture and I absolutely loved it. I had a lot of fun, it was very exciting!’ Damian Farcas — TY

‘It was nice having the chance to change the school in a positive light and reviving a virtually derelict part of the school.’ Anonymous

‘I found this programme to be beneficial to my overall knowledge of architecture as I learnt a lot. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed making the model and digital model.’ Anonymous

‘I really did enjoy this programme. I enjoyed collaborating with our group and thinking of ideas for the courtyard. Although, I have no intention of being an architect in the future I still found it enjoyable and useful in a lot of ways.’ Anonymous

The architect’s perspective:

‘I learnt a lot throughout this programme, most notably the importance of having a focus for each workshop and preparing sessions which have a good balance. The students have been very engaging throughout, and I have been very impressed with their creative ideas. It is credit to their enthusiasm that the students now have the opportunity to actually make a change to their school – watch this space!’ Elliott Ballam

The teacher’s perspective:

‘I enjoyed every minute of this project. It was great to see students thrive in so many disciplines. Initially the project was envisaged to support student’s artistic interests and creativity, but ultimately gave us an insight into the needs and values of students in Salesian College, Celbridge. For staff it has showcased how students can utilise architecture to actively improve their learning environment. Students rose to the challenge and produced work that was mature, considered and skilled.’ Sarah Standing

Group leaders: Elliott Ballam (architect) and Sarah Standing (art teacher)

School website
Facebook page

Photos of the Salesians students in action by Ste Murray

Get In Touch
For more information contact:

Irish Architecture Foundation
15 Bachelors Walk
Dublin 1

+353 1 874 7205
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