Bryan Roe – Senior Architect and Director Scott Tallon Walker Architects
Cork GAAhad put together a brief that was given to us through Malachy Walsh, the project managers on Páirc Uí Chaoimh. They requested a proposal from us and, from them, we received a written brief.
The design is our design – there was no preliminary design other than a draft section and a draft section is significantly different to the building now.
It wasn’t a design competition at the interview stage.
It was to show capability: how we would approach the Páirc Uí Chaoimh project and the availability of qualified people from our firm to carry out this work.
After we were appointed we looked at various design options. As far as I recall we conceived five. Each design was addressing a different issue. Then we made a presentation to Cork GAA about six or eight weeks after we were appointed, and then got sign off from them on how we would develop the design.
Our firm designed the Aviva Stadium. When we looked at Páirc Uí Chaoimh what we didn’t have was a railway line going through the middle of the site! Although, historically, there was a railway going through the Páirc Uí Chaoimh site. The agreement was to redevelop the existing Páirc Uí Chaoimh, it wasn’t to start from scratch again.
At that point Cork County Board had an agreement from Cork City Council with regard to the land the Board would be using. There was a requirement for an artificial practice pitch, and its location had been agreed from a “land use” point of view. A lot of due diligence was carried out before we got the planning application.
In our initial discussion with Cork GAA we did step back and ask, ‘if you were starting again, you might look at a few other things’, but that wasn’t an option available to us under our brief.
If we’d a vision it was to make Páirc Uí Chaoimh as good as it could be within the confines of what we were asked to do. Obviously the Aviva was a different animal; it was an international stadium that would be beamed across the world by the media. The budget for the new Lansdowne Road was bigger whereas the project in Cork was to address a lot of the shortcomings of the existing stadium, which was built in 1976.
As a result of changes in health and safety legislation and operational requirements, the capacity of the old stadium had been reduced. The tunnel under the stands was very tight and needed to be addressed.
The brief was to design a new South Stand, which would include all the additional accommodation that was required: media facilities, more corporate facilities and facilities for the Centre of Excellence and the players. All of that had to go in a single entity. These facilities would be used on match day as well as for training, conferences, meetings and concerts. The facilities going in had to have a flexibility to suit that.
And the terraces and the North Stand needed to have certain works carried out to bring them back up to the standard that they needed to be to comply with current regulation. So they were all extended by two or three metres near the top to provide extra capacity. The tunnels are gone.
The two major stadia that we’ve designed are Aviva and Páirc Uí Chaoimh. We’ve worked on some Premiership stadia and we’ve worked in the Middle East. The pinnacle ones will be these two – the Aviva and Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The Páirc is turning out really well; Sisks have done a fantastic job within quite a tight timeline. Hopefully
everybody will be happy.
As an architect you’re obviously showing your wares because everybody sees what it is. But, the other side is whether it actually works. When things work people don’t tend to notice the building, they just notice what it’s there for which is the match. The stadium becomes the backdrop, it becomes the enabler.
The atmosphere is a big issue. The more enclosed the louder the atmosphere will be because you contain everybody’s voice. If you go to Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, they have a facility where the roof can close and noise increases significantly. The more (noise) leakage you have – open corners etc. – less noise is contained.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is an open bowl. The three sides are as they were. The North Stand has a roof which will help but there is still has a certain amount of leakage. To get the volume everyone will have to shout that bit louder!
Of course there are things that could be done better. Everything is as a result of the circumstances that existed at the time the decision was made to redevelop the stadium. At the time, when we were awarded the remit to design a new stadium, money was tight.
Based on everything we had at our disposal the stadium is looking very well. Hopefully that will prove to be true when the people who matter - the people who come to visit it, to work in it, watch matches in it, train in it etc. - if they’re happy then our design has worked.
As far as Cork connections go, I have a few. My wife was born in Cork, my mother is from west Cork and my dog was born in Cork! Rugby was more dominant in the family than GAA. My uncle – Robin Roe - played for Ireland and the Lions..
SPICK AND SPAN: Some of the new spectator seating being installed in the South Stand during the Páirc Uí Chaoimh re-development.
Right: The finishing touches are put on the new stadium.
Below left: Bryan Roe. Below right: James Hughes.