First prize for the operation that transformed the anatomy building


The clever operation that altered the anatomy of a Cork icon and gave it a 21st century facelift won a sought-after design award.

Adapting and reusing existing buildings is a sustainable approach to climate change and it’s also a category that has garnered a particularly strong response in the 2021 Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) awards revealed this morning.

The student center at UCC. Photo: Jed Niezgoda

And it was O’Donnell + Tuomey’s impressive transformation of the former School of Anatomy at University College Cork into a vibrant student center that won first prize in this section.

A Conservation Award was presented to the sensitive restoration of the Swiss Cottage in Co Leitrim, by Buckley Partnership Architects.

Also in Cork, new recognition has arrived in this year’s awards as Student Civitas, Lee Point Student Accommodation, by Scott Tallon Walker Architects, shared the top prize in the ‘living’ category, with two outstanding private homes – House for a Gardener in Northern Ireland and Baltrasna House in Skerries, County Dublin.

The student center at UCC.  Photo: Jed Niezgoda
The student center at UCC. Photo: Jed Niezgoda

Overall, Irish architecture was strongly represented at home and abroad when the RIAI announced the winners of the 2021 award, which recognize achievements in architecture and recognize the quality of work carried out by RIAI members and the contribution of registered architects to the built environment.

The projects submitted for the 2021 awards were virtually completed between January 1 and December 31, 2020.

Marking the 32nd year of the awards, the RIAI announced 17 winners in all categories including adaptation and reuse, cultural or public buildings, learning environments, wellness, public spaces, venue of work, life and international.

Winners include projects in Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Down, Leitrim, Limerick, Louth, Offaly, as well as Punjab, India.

Munster scored points again when the Wellness Award was presented to the Padel Club of Healy Partner Architect in Limerick.


The work of RIAI architects abroad was celebrated with McCullough Mulvin Architect’s Learning Lab for Thapar University in Punjab, India, winner in the international category.

Public projects among the winners include the renovation and conservation of the original Garda Station building in Donegal Town by Rhatigan Architects, which won double awards in the categories of cultural / public buildings and sustainability.

Exterior views of Lee Point Park.  Photo: Philippe Lauterbach
Exterior views of Lee Point Park. Photo: Philippe Lauterbach

A new extension of Scoil Uí Mhuirí in County Louth received the first prize in the category of learning environments.

The Covid-19 response from the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council Architects’ Department for the creation of Blackrock Places in Sandycove and Dundrum was a co-winner alongside King John’s Castle in Carlingford, Co Louth in the space category public.

The open plan living room, Lee Point.  Photo: Philippe Lauterbach
The open plan living room, Lee Point. Photo: Philippe Lauterbach

The quality of Irish workplaces has been recognized this year with two awards: North Dock by ABK Architects and Babel Academy of English by Stephen Mulhall, a design studio of nineteen-eight.

A special research-by-practice award went to Ryan W Kennihan Architects for their work on Baltrasna House and Beach Road House. Finally, John McLaughlin Architects and Queen’s University Belfast were recognized for their research on “Keeping it Modern”.


The RIAI Public Choice Award was announced earlier in the week with over 10,000 online votes cast by members of the public.

The winning submission was Field, Stonewall, House by Taylor McCarney Architects, which in March was the sixth house to qualify for the finals of RTÉ’s Home of the Year.

The design of the house was conceived as a series of parallel fieldstone walls which fit perfectly into the rural setting of the west of Ireland.

The wide variety of projects included in this year’s shortlist demonstrates “the diversity of great works carried out by Irish architects across the country and beyond,” according to Ciaran O’Connor, President of RIAI.

“Although the Covid-19 has an impact on construction projects delivered in the past 12 months, we have received almost 150 applications for work completed in 2020 and the quality was exceptional,” said Mr. O’Connor .

“Architects are invaluable in the way they enrich the communities in which we live – our daily lives, our homes, schools and colleges, and the public spaces we enjoy.

“Special congratulations to our Public Choice Award winner, Taylor McCarney Architects, for his exceptional design.

“Collaboration is at the heart of each of these projects, so we must also commend the clients and our colleagues on the design teams whose input is critical to achieving these results. “

  • Full details of all winning projects are available at


UCC opened its Student Hub in February this year. Europe’s long-term lending institution, the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a € 100 million loan agreement with University College Cork in November 2016, guaranteeing the completion of the transformation of the Windle Building into a state-of-the-art student hub, according to

The Windle Building housed the Anatomy Department until 2011 and had been known for generations as “the Medical Building” or in its early days “the Clarendon Building”.

UCC students photographed at the new UCC hub.  Photo: Clare Keogh
UCC students photographed at the new UCC hub. Photo: Clare Keogh

This first phase of transformation included the removal of peripheral buildings attached to the main limestone building. The mortuary building, the physiology labs on the ground floor and the main staircase have been removed, as have the “Wellcome Rooms” research labs and the former anatomy tea room on the first floor, according to ucc. ie.

The Student Hub project designed by world renowned architects O’Donnell + Tuomey, saw the Windle Building completely renovated to provide an area offering facilities for the student union, club and company leaders and other directed activities. by students in one place on campus for the first time.

The interior of the Student Hub at UCC.  Photo: Jed Niezgoda
The interior of the Student Hub at UCC. Photo: Jed Niezgoda

The new UCC student center is adjacent to the university quadrangle, at the convergence of routes through the heart of the campus.

“The renovated school of anatomy combines aspects of spatial change with careful conservation, transformation and renewal, according to O’Donnell + Tuomey.

“The linear plan of the 1850s building forms a baseline for a thick wall of cell rooms that revolves around a central gathering space.”

Bridges and balconies enliven the gathering space, creating a brick-paved ‘market hall’ atmosphere for student societies and events.

A lantern tower for administration and student services rises above the roof.

An awning leads to an open porch and a public passage through the building.


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