Conveying Space

SPIRIT OF Belfield

Plans to mark the 50-year anniversary of UCD’s move to the Belfield campus were interrupted but lots of interesting events still took place. UCD’s Eilis O’Brien explains

IN 2007, WHEN the University took its final leave of Earlsfort Terrace, as the last staff and students moved to Belfield, we organised a Farewell to the Terrace festival that included a garden party in the Iveagh Gardens for 5,000 alumni and friends of UCD. So, we thought, if the Earlsfort Terrace graduates could enjoy such a reunion celebration, then so too should the generations who stepped off the Number 10 bus, stomped at gigs in the restaurant, played Superleague on the far fields, sweated in the library, saw the cherry blossom come into bloom each April, cheered at debates and queued for the annual screening of The Life of Brian.

Belfield 50 was planned as a celebration for the generations of students and staff who breathed life into the campus over the five decades since the main body of faculties and administration moved to Belfield in 1970.

The COVID-19 lockdown forced us to pivot from campus events and gatherings to outdoor exhibitions, publications and online events. With the support of Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, the Belfield 50 team – Dr Ellen Rowley, Mary Staunton and myself – set about delivering some of the legacy projects that would mark the 50th milestone and to progress other projects that will take place in person later in the year.


Belfield became a very quiet place from March 13 2020 as its daily population shrank. In early summer, we called on photographer Daniel Holfeld to spend time on campus and create an exhibition Conveying Space to capture the atmosphere of the architecture in Belfield. An exhibition of 19 photographs were displayed by the lake between the Newman and Tierney buildings, from September 2020 to March 2021.

Working under cloudless skies with the sunlight casting strong angular shadows, Holfeld’s images focus on tightly cropped details of building structures to create stunning works of art in black and white that illuminate the subtleties of UCD’s iconic architecture.


With RTÉ producer Sarah Binchy (BA 1994), we chose voices from different decades for a special “Belfield Days” edition of RTÉ’s Sunday Miscellany, including those of Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (BA 1974, MPhil 1976, PhD 1982), Gerry Stembridge (BA 1979, MA 1980, HDipEd 1981), Professor of History at UCD Paul Rouse (BA 1990, MA 1992, PhD 2001) and Daisy Onubogu (BCL European 2015). Watch Shaping Belfield on our UCD YouTube channel.


Architectural historian Dr Ellen Rowley, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy co-authored, with Professor Finola O’Kane Crimmins, Making Belfield: Space and Place at UCD. It examines the architecture of the campus, chronicles and contextualises the steps involved in the move to Belfield, touches on some of the treasures in the Belfield collections, and looks to the future of Belfield’s changing landscape.


Originally developed as part of a practical module for architecture and engineering students. Ellen and Tiago Faria encouraged the students to create and build a beautiful structure for the lower ground floor in the restaurant that included video booths and a rising portrait wall that was punctuated with natural light.

With lockdown the physical exhibition was put into storage and architecture student Aisling Mulligan designed a doublesided graphic set into the windows so that visitors to campus could enjoy it from outside the building. The Timeline Exhibition reflects the evolution of Belfield, from the turning of the sod on September 29 1970, to the vision for Future Campus and the Centre for Creativity, currently under construction. To go with the Timeline Exhibition, Dr Rowley produced a short film, Shaping Belfield, which tells the story of the architectural development of Belfield from its early use by the University to Future Campus. Learn more:

In 1970, the President of UCD, Dr Jeremiah J Hogan, said: “The opening of this new building … is a capital occasion in the history of University College. We shall now have between seven and eight thousand students here at Belfield, while about 3,000 remain at our various older centres. The greater part of the College will be here and it is a matter of time until all is here …” Fifty years on, Belfield is its own world – come on in and spend a while …

■ For details of all Belfield 50 events and exhibitions, visit