The North Bull Island, a coastal sand spit in Dublin Bay, is an internationally important conservation area as recognised by multiple national and international environmental designations. In 2014, Henchion Reuter Architects and Urban Agency Architects developed a masterplan for the development of a Visitor Discovery Centre for this location.
The proximity of the site to a large urban centre creates significant pressures on its ecology, making it necessary to manage this resource carefully for the benefit of all without endangering the ecosystem.
A review of similar Wetland Centres in Ireland and abroad identified the benefits these centres have brought to their respective sites in terms of; increased recreational value, management of site access and human impact, increase in the public awareness and ultimately improved biosphere protection.
An appraisal of the site and its physical and cultural context has resulted in a simple zoned interpretation for the island comprising of; an ‘ecology axis’ running from Raheny and St. Anne’s Park across the causeway and reaching to the sea and an ‘axis of recreational activity’ centred on the North Bull wall, with the areas in between reserved and conserved for the protection of the flora and fauna particular to this special landscape.
This interpretation re-enforces the current distribution of activity on the site.
Within this context, and measured against a number of environmental, social and economic criteria, five potential sites were considered as a location for a discovery centre with a concluding recommendation for a site at the junction of the causeway and the Island, overlooking the wetlands and facing the city. The proposal to locate the Discovery Centre at this location will facilitate the management infrastructure for the wetlands and the island and will provide a new identity for the Biosphere as a whole.
The masterplan reviews the physical condition of the causeway access with a number of design intervention recommendations for the surface of the causeway, providing for parking as well and the reductions of vehicular access deeper onto the island.
The scale, scope and size of the proposed Discovery Centre was benchmarked against similar projects, presented as a review of international best practice.
The interpretative strategy; the story the centre can tell about the Bull Island and its unique landscape, history, culture and community, has been developed in detail; thereby making evident that there is no shortage of material for interpretation.
This report concludes with a sketch proposal of how the recommendations of the report could be executed, with a Sketch Building Proposal, Indicative Project Costing and an Indicative Business Plan.