skip to Main Content
Urban greening in action – MDO Architects

Urban greening in action – MDO Architects


McCauley Daye O’Connell Architects was awarded the Irish Green Cities Award 2021 for its ambition and innovation in the area of green landscaping and urban greening brought to its design of the Opus Building at Hanover Quay in Dublin 2. Here we catch up with David O’Brien, Senior Associate from the firm to explore their thoughts on urban greening and the More Green Cities For Europe campaign in Ireland.

Issues like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are driving the need and desire for more green spaces in our cities and urban areas. How aware are you of the public’s desire for more green spaces when you are designing new projects?

The public has, for a long time, been becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of providing space for nature in projects. This is driven by issues like the climate crisis and, more recently, the need to spend more time at home during the pandemic. Beyond this, having access to such spaces has a hugely positive impact on our health, well-being and enjoyment of our built environment.

When approaching our designs, we are keenly aware of the desire not only for communal green space, but for spaces at a variety of scales, that allow people to engage with nature on a personal level, too. The relationship between the buildings we work on, the balconies, private gardens, communal squares and public parks, is central to our design process. We spend a lot of time considering the ways in which people and nature co-exist in our designs.

The Opus Building at Hanover Quay is an excellent example of how green landscaping can be embraced as part of urban building projects. Did you face any challenges in incorporating green aspects to your design?

When working on the Opus Building, we were very lucky to work with a client who made these spaces a priority. We had an excellent team who recognised the opportunity to provide something very special, despite working in a tight, urban site. The design has a number of “layers”; there is a central courtyard, private balconies and an inhabited roof.

The central courtyard is overlooked on all sides, so the design became about forming a shared space with planting helping to provide smaller, more intimate zones within the courtyard. Carefully selected species of plants are included that will thrive in that environment. The balconies provide ample space for the residents to inhabit and make their own. The rooftop allows for a lush, verdant design comprising a number of private gardens as well as extensive communal spaces.

There were challenges here in making sure the plant species were suitable for the level of exposure they would face from the wind, particularly at this elevation. We looked at these “restrictions” as driving forces for the design development, seeking to work with them to enhance the spaces we provided.

The Opus Building will represent Ireland at the European Green Cities Award later this year. What would you like the building’s impression to be on the judges?

The Opus Building was designed to provide a diversity in unit types, catering for a variety of users. Similarly, the landscaping was designed to provide for a variety of different types of spaces, to best support the future community that will live in and enjoy these spaces. Time and consideration was given to making sure that the design provides for memorable experiences that are suitable for the intended use, from public through to semi-private and private. This “layering” of different experiences has really enriched the development and means the various landscape strategies have the maximum impact.

The More Green Cities campaign in Ireland is all about encouraging professionals to incorporate more urban greening in their projects. What words of advice would you share with your peers who are considering projects that embrace urban greening?

In our experience, it is clear that carefully considered, meaningful green spaces at a variety of scales makes for a really successful scheme and benefits the creation of new communities. These spaces need not be particularly large; a full understanding of the constraints and challenges particular to the development and a clever design response can lead to rich and project specific solutions. Incorporating these kinds of design approaches can enhance the value of the end product, in addition to improving the experience of them.

One more thing…

It has been an honour to see this project awarded by Green Cities Ireland. It is rewarding to think that the value added to the project for our client and the buildings inhabitants has been recognised by the panel.


Back To Top
The Green City uses Googles cookies and scripts to analyse your use of our website anonymously, so we can customise its functionality and effectiveness and display advertisements. We also use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google cookies and scripts, with your consent, to enable social media integration on our website. If you wish to change which cookies and scripts we use, you can alter your settings below.