School as City

Mind mapping from the perspective of a child and bringing  a sense of wild landscape to suburbia

Project date


Project location

Dublin, Ireland


School of Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy


University College Dublin

Taking the idea of school as city,  this project sets about designing with the mind of a child at its heart—not as an issue of scale,  but of perception and mind-mapping.  The suburban green island site is revitalized and allowed to return to wilder routes. 


Following the natural level changes the site is broken into three conditions; low-lying wetland and nature preserve,  school and community facilities shrouded in forest, and sports fields at the upper-most level which connect onto the school’s green roof.  The school itself wraps its own ‘safe’ world with classrooms looking onto calm, landscaped gardens.  A pupil of this school is intended to leave with warm memories tinged with fantasy.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is subjective. How one recalls an event, route or place relies wholly on memory and therefore on personal experience

The child's mind is so free of experience that the memories formed at such an early stage inevitably  become warped and distorted, however this presents the opportunity to create meaningful impressions which can last a lifetime.


Suburban island

The site was an open green park with little character save for playing pitches at the upper-most level. Surrounded by low-lying suburban sprawl, it enjoyed an impressive view to the nearby mountains. The project proposed locating the school next to the stream running along the North edge on the middle level to take advantage of the opportunity to connect the various school programs with the landscape edge on the middle level to take advantage of the opportunity to connect the various school programs with the landscape under different 


Rather than surround the school with the usual open carpark, this is instead pushed back to the road and the school is shrouded in a new forest. A new path, paved yellow, leads pupils from the road or surrounding communities into the safety of the school courtyard. The surrounding site abandons manicured landscaping in favor of returning to a more natural park.

Extension of landscape


The gymnasium is sunken to form a court at the level of the stream, its roof becoming an extension of the playing pitches above.

The connection of education and landscape evokes memories of 18th and 19th century hedge schools whereby natural shelters often became places of learning.



The younger children's classrooms face inward into the school courtyard, each overlooking its own earth-formed outdoor classroom. Older children are located on the upper level - their classrooms looking through tree canopy and out to the wider city beyond.