We were commissioned by Antrim County Council of the GAA to design and oversee the construction of a Multi-Functional Control Point and associated ground works improvements under the Sport Northern Ireland's Stadia Safety Program.
The control point is a purpose-built two-story building comprising a Control Room, Steward's Assembly Area and First Aid Room. The key function of this building is to provide a hub for the safety management's communication network, to monitor and coordinate safety and public order. The control room elevation is therefore fully glazed to maximise views across the stadium. This glazed element cantilevers over existing tiered seats to provide sheltered accommodation for wheelchair bound spectators at a prime viewing position.
The building acts as a focal point for observation, announcement, stewarding and first aid. While in functional terms the building is about ensuring the facilities provide for the care and safety of the spectators, it is fitting that as a supplementary function the cantilevered control room provides cover to the disabled spectator area.
In architectural terms the building seeks to resolve the dichotomy between the need to assert authority while projecting openness and honesty. The horizontal metal cladding makes a suitable and recognisable reference to strength and control but this is clearly contrasted with the fully glazed elevation to the pitch showing the building is comfortable in its setting and has no fear from its audience.
Transparency is a commonly used architectural metaphor. In this instance it comes as a true functional requirement but seems appropriate in the context of Gaelic sports where supporters from opposing teams always mix and so crowd control is about open management rather than enclosed security. The glazed wall gives views in and out while reflecting quite literally the athletic community of which it is a part. The returning of the glazing at the corners while providing increased visibility also serves to further 'soften' the massing.
Such a building must reflect the integrity of those within. Externally materials differentiate between the constructional and functional needs of the differing portions. The upper level on a slightly cantilevered steel structure adds a dynamic statement about athleticism with horizontal cladding to suggest motion, as opposed to vertical cladding which would state defence. The lower level, in rendered block work, grows from the terracing and addresses the need for a robust solution at ground floor level while its colour, relating to the surrounding grey concrete terracing, allows the control room itself to read as commanding, separate and yet firmly connected to its roots.