21 June 2021
By Tom Collins
UCC transforms its Old Bar into a Calm Zone for students
University College Cork (UCC) announces today that its much cherished Old College Bar has been transformed into dedicated space of respite and calm for students, and in particular students on the autism spectrum.
The Calm Zone (An Ceantar Ciúin) has been designed using universal design and autism-friendly principles and is currently being featured as an example of autism-friendly design in the prestigious 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale.
UCC’s Old Bar was a space that held many fond memories for former students and the bar closed in 2016, after 30 years at the heart of the student community. Now the Calm Zone will sit at the heart of a UCC initiative to promote inclusion and to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population.
The Calm Zone is laid out across two levels and every facet of the space, including acoustics and accessibility, has been considered to maximise autism-friendliness and designed to global design guidelines for built environments to be used by individuals with autism. An open plan area includes flexible seating, sensory and respite rooms are included as are universal access toilets and lift. The space will also be used to facilitate workshops that promote student wellbeing.
The final configuration of the space is the result of consultation with both students and staff, including universal design and accessibility experts, and the team at Butler Cammoranesi Architects. The Calm Zone was funded by the UCC Student Charges and Fees Forum and a donation from the Lauritzon Group.
Transforming a campus to meet diverse student needs
UCC is transforming its campus to meet the diverse needs of its students and recently developed calm outdoor spaces including the Boole Courtyard and the Hawthorn Garden. These projects were sponsored by Bank of Ireland, and form part of a wider Autism Friendly Initiative which is being rolled out across the university and supported by the Students’ Union.
Interim President, Professor John O’ Halloran welcomed the opening of the space, “We celebrate diversity at UCC and we are making our campus and our learning environments accessible for all.” Naoise Crowley, former President of UCC Student Union who led out on the project, highlighted that “the Calm Zone is a wonderful resource in the centre of campus which will provide the support that some students need to succeed in their learning journey.”