The Christian Brothers School in Tralee is located at the southern edge of the town park known as the Green. The 1927 school, a red and golden sandstone building with dressed limestone features, was built to face north, addressing the Green and the town beyond, with open countryside, a floodplain and the Slieve Mish Mountains to the south. As the town extended southwards, the school was enveloped by mixed-use development and a ring road, changing the primary point of access, and emphasising the southern aspect. The brief was to redevelop the existing School (the protected 1927 building and four phases of extension) and to provide 2,400 sq m of new accommodation. A new main entrance from the town’s southern ring road was required to take school traffic off the existing inadequate access route along a residential road.
Site layout and circulation
The site layout provides a strategy for all means of access, staff and visitor car-parking and student drop-off. 4m high granite piers on the ring road and a canopy on the east side of the extension signal the new main entrance. Circulation through the school from the new east entrance is through the General Purpose Hall and along the east-west corridor of the 1927 building, to the rest of the school complex. The bell cote of the old building, seen from the brick hearth in the GP Hall provides orientation. A new doorway, with a large limestone surround, made in the south façade of the old building links through to the Green and enlivens the previously dark stair hall and corridor with southern light.
The extension provides specialist subject rooms (music and drama, woodwork, technical graphics, science demonstration), general classrooms, a staffroom and offices on two levels. These are arranged around a galleried and clerestory lit GP Hall, which is the new social centre and gathering place for the school community. The music and drama room opens up to the GP Hall allowing great flexibility for performance, open nights, parent-teacher meetings and all sorts of social occasions. Classrooms are visually open to the hall through glazed oak framed doors and screens, giving a sense of transparency and connection to the outside. There is an increased awareness of the varied activities in the practical subject rooms.
The new building is clad in golden granite. The south façade, with granite bris soleil, reduces glare and solar thermal gain in the warmer months and promotes solar thermal gain and reflects light deep into the classrooms in the colder, darker months. Opening windows at high and low level as well as electronically controlled clerestory windows (linked to a CO2 monitoring system) high over the GP Hall contribute to natural ventilation of the classrooms by stack effect. The curved and splayed concrete beam structure of the GP Hall evolved from initial thoughts about concrete vaults. The beams reflect light into the plan from the white vaulted clerestory space above. The exposed concrete and masonry structure provides thermal mass to regulate temperature. Generous corridor and stair widths allow comfortable circulation between classes and robust materials – concrete, brick, oak and stainless steel are used internally to stand the test of time. The staffroom and main stairs are expressed externally as curved elements to modulate the form of the new building beside the protected structure.
A mature horse chestnut has been retained with new pin oaks and cedars to match the trees on the approach from the Green. Golden gravel pathways are bounded by yew hedges, with birches planted nearer the school to allow daylight filter through. Future development of an all-weather, and all-important, football pitch will complete the site.