In an email circulated to staff, and obtained by the University Observer, Acting President of UCD, Prof. Mark Rodgers, announced that due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, the construction of the Centre for Creativity will be paused and reassessed.
The Centre for Creativity was to be a key part of the future campus masterplan, along with an accompanying centre for future learning, which will now progress as a standalone project. At most, students will have only 15% of their classes in this new building.
Further to a meeting on the 15th of December last, at which a report on the university’s capital
projects was submitted by Acting President Rodgers, the University Management Team (UMT) recommended that the Governing Authority take the decision to not proceed with Future Campus plans as originally envisioned.
A number of factors were cited as being behind the decision, namely the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, supply chain issues, and general inflationary pressures, which led to tender costs being “very significantly above the pre-tender cost estimates”. Tenders for Future Campus Phase I were issued in December 2021, and returned in September 2022.
In addition to the aforementioned reasons behind the decision, it was noted that “the unique design of the Centre for Creativity presents particular construction challenges, and consequently a disproportionate share of the additional cost”.
The centre, announced in 2018, was intended to provide bespoke facilities for the college of engineering and architecture, close to the existing engineering centre. It was also hoped that the striking design of the building, by New-York based Steven Holl architects, would “announce a signature and memorable entrance to UCD and open a connection to the heart of campus”.
It was conceded by Prof. Rodgers that the shelving of the centre will have “implications for target growth in student numbers for the college of engineering and architecture”. In order to mitigate these effects, a group has been commissioned, chaired by Principal of the college of engineering and architecture, Prof. Aoife Ahern, to consider and make recommendations to the UMT capital projects group.
Speaking to the University Observer, Prof. Ahern noted that “It is disappointing that we cannot go ahead with the Centre for Creativity at this time, but the decision to pause the development needs to be taken in context with the wider programme for capital development with the University”. Continuing, she detailed the decision making process, stating that “The impact of inflation on the construction cost of the Future Campus Phase I led us to reassess the two proposed buildings in this project, and to prioritise the Centre for Future Learning, as this will be a facility used by students throughout the University.”
Prof. Ahern concluded by commenting that it “is too early to list specific recommendations 7that may be proposed” by the advisory group she now chairs.
The university’s overarching capital development plan is a highly ambitious scheme, with a number of different projects, of which four are currently at an “advanced stage”, according to the email. These are listed as Science Phase III, The Sports and Amenities Precinct, Future Campus Phase I, and the Student Residences Phase II.
The shelving of the centre for creativity comes as a major blow to the trajectory of the Future Campus Phase I project. As reported by the College Tribune, the Student Residences Phase II project, which would have provided 1200 beds for students, was shelved last year, amidst a deepening accommodation crisis.
However, the email concludes that the UMT are “confident that Science Phase III will proceed as scheduled”, noting that inflationary pressures were able to be taken account of prior to tender.
UCD’s press office has not responded to our request for comment at time of publication.