All posts by Jacob A Tharp

Loreto Community School – Ireland – Yvonne Farrell/Grafton Architects

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This community school neatly “tucks itself into the steeply sloping landscape” of the town that surrounds it.  The school is made up of four elements: a single story Technology wing, a two-story classroom block, a Dining / Assembly area, and a Sports Hall.  Each of these elements “pin wheel around the Dining / Assembly area, forming sheltered outdoor ‘rooms’ are formed, each with a different orientation and character”.

While this isn’t my favorite building by Farrell and Grafton, I would have loved attending High School in a building as beautiful and well-designed as this one.  There is no mention of the budget, but I would imagine it was a modest one.  This goes to show that even public schools can be well-designed and aesthetically pleasing with intentional architectural elements that add to the educational process.


Urban Institute of Ireland – University College Dublin – Yvonne Farrell/Grafton Architects

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The proposition for this project according to Grafton Architects’ website was to “create an interdisciplinary place of exchange – with modest means, in a short time frame – at the edge of a cluster of diverse university buildings”.  This building is already impressive, but considering that it is especially so.

Another challenge for this project was the “conflicting desires to have both private individual research ‘cells’ and to make place conducive to casual overlap and meaningful academic exchange”.  The interior consists of two layers – the “ground” layer which consists of private office research spaces, and the “sky” layer of roof lights.  The two layers are designed as a grid with one layer being perpendicular to the other and “visually and volumetrically sticking the spaces together”.

The description of the campus as a “haphazard collection of 19th Century Masonic school buildings” reminded me of our own (albeit younger) campus.  This project proves that is is possible to create a beautiful building that blends in nicely with the campus but yet is modern and does not cheaply imitate the older buildings.


Offices for the Dept of Finance – Dublin, Ireland – Yvonne Farrell/Grafton Architects

A government building in Dublin, Ireland, this building was commissioned to provide office space to the Dept of Finance that would link into the adjacent Government Buildings complex.  The project also included a restoration of a historic Protected Structure – The Billets.  “The architectural challenge for The Billets – a long, two-storey ‘mews’ type building – was to incorporate new accommodation, within the character of the existing spaces”.  The entrance is “maintained by a handcrafted bronze railing  and gate and…of the grand staircase space held over a sunken area”.  The sunken area provides light to the lower ground level and also enhances security.

I love how Farrell and Grafton are able to add to the cityscapes that they work in without hastily attempting to imitate the surrounding 18th Century Architecture.  They are able to create something beautiful and modern that enhances the cityscape without sticking out like a sore thumb.  MER-Image-09 GRAF-ME-0031 GRAF-ME-0009 Dennis-Gilbert-MER-13

Medical School, Residences, Piazza and Pergola – University of Limerick, Ireland – Yvonne Farrell/Grafton Architects

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These buildings are all a part of the University of Limerick’s expansion north of the river Shannon which is assessable by a pedestrian bridge from the existing campus.  These buildings combine with three neighboring institutions that all connect to a large, open public space.

Limestone is used to “represent the ‘formal’ central medical school” while brick is used on the residences.  An open central stairway connects all of the primary spaces to create a “social space with enough room to stop and chat or lean on a balustrade/shelf and view the activity of the entrance of the other spaces above and below”.

All of this points to what is central to Farrell and Grafton’s work that create open, central public spaces that are conducive to social interaction, as well as the clean lines, zigzagging interiors and stark materials.


University Luigi Bocconi – Yvonne Farrell/Grafton Architects

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Located in the bustling metro of Milan, Italy, University Luigi Bocconi was built to fit perfectly into the cityscape like a game piece in Tetris.  However, it is not simply supposed to blend in – it is meant to be a “memorable image to confirm the important cultural contribution that Bocconi University plays in the life of this city”.  The building is set back from the surrounding buildings to create a public space that reaches out into the city, beckoning visitors inside.  The research offices at the top of the building act as a “grand canopy” which filters light to all levels of the building.

I really believe I lucked out by being assigned Yvonne Farrell – I simply adore pristine concrete, clean lines, zig-zagging structures that frame the space around it.


Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología – Yvonne Farrell/Grafton Architects

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Christ Church College – Oxford



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So, just like Professor Boeck, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and it also changed my life.  I really don’t know how I could have survived adolescence without it.  So, naturally I spent all of my high school graduation money on a trip to London as soon as I graduated.

It was totally worth it.

The gothic architecture is indeed beautiful, but even though I had never been to Oxford before, the feeling of being there was very sentimental because I had spent so much time imagining Hogwarts and while the movies don’t completely look as I imagined it, they are probably the closest thing I’m going to get in real life (except for maybe the Harry Potter amusement park in Florida which I plan to visit soon).

I really cannot describe the feeling I had when i entered the Great Hall.  I  did not want to leave.  It was also very cool to know that Through the Looking-Glass was written on this campus as well.

Twisting Torso – Malmo Sweden

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This is the very first thing you notice about Malmo, Sweden.  Years ago, I flew into Copenhagen, which is across a body of water.  As we were driving over a bridge, I saw this beauty rising up into the sky.

It’s by far the tallest building in Malmo, and it defines the city well.  It is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen, and its a bit quirky.  I love how it creates an illusion that makes it look thinner at the bottom than the top.  Apparently it’s a residential building, which makes it my dream home.  Really, though, it transforms the whole look of the city, which would be quite forgettable architecturally otherwise.

Burton Hall

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I’ve never had a class in Burton Hall, but it’s probably my favorite building on campus.  I love midcentury modern architecture and this is from that era.  I don’t know why it took me so long, but I admired it from afar for a while without taking a look inside.  I was parking in the Elm parking garage next door all summer (which I also think looks awesome) and I finally started walking through Burton on my way to the library.

The inside did not disappoint.  The hallway.  The stairwell.  The skylight.  It’s all very Star Trek to me.  The whole place, inside and out, looks very spaceship like.  The reading room is amazing and is now one of my favorite places to study.  The massive artdeco fireplace was a definite surprise – but a welcome one.  I love the geometric quality of the place as well.  All of the angles create different shapes as they interact with the space.

Yellow brick road parking garage

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This is another random treasure I found while driving in downtown OKC.  I don’t know exactly where it is, and honestly I haven’t been able to find it again.  I think I was going to the doctor when I just happened upon it.  I immediately pulled in to stare at it and take a few photos (making me late to my appointment).

Weirdly, I have a thing for parking garages.  Not the ones built now, but ones that are usually a few decades old.  I’m usually drawn to the shapes they make with their zigzagging lines – so this one was different.

I think I must just be attracted to clean lines or else swirling patterns, but this just did something for me.  It reminds me of the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz.  It doesn’t really seem to add a whole lot of space to park, so I like to imagine it is there for aesthetic value.  I even love the building next to it – the clean lines and dull color contrast well with the yellow, swirling design.

Buildings don’t live on their own in the real world, so I love seeing how buildings interact with each other.

Hopefully, someday I’ll find this gem again.