Terry Pawson Architects’ VISUAL & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre provides Ireland with a significant new arts space to showcase contemporary visual arts and theatre of national and international importance.
Unique to Ireland, the new building features an expansive gallery space with a ceiling height of 12m to accommodate large-scale sculpture and installation, the scale of which has not been easily accommodated in Ireland to date.
Terry Pawson Architects won an open Royal Institute of Architects Ireland (RIAI) architectural competition for the contemporarry arts centre in 2004. The 3,726 sqm 3-storey building occupies a much larger footprint than the original competition proposal, a strategy which was made possible by the council’s approval to remove a neighbouring ruined stone wall. The larger site affords sufficient space for the two characters of the centre – the gallery and theatre - to be expressed and unified within one coherent form.
The building presents itself as an assembly of different sized volumes clad in opaque glass raised on a concrete plinth, with the largest gallery at its centre and smaller galleries and theatre spiralling around it.
The muteness of the opaque glass harmonises with the neutral grey of the town’s local
limestone. The glass provides a blank canvas to absorb natural light in the day and project more dynamic low-level lighting at night. During the day natural light filters into the main galleries creating a calm introspective environment conducive to the production and appreciation of visual art. At night the façade is illuminated, projecting a more exuberant glowing presence for the theatre and performance space.
Commissioning Client: Carlow County Council
Project Funding: Carlow County Council, Department of Arts Sport & Tourism
Structural Engineer: Arup, Dublin
Services Engineer: Arup, Dublin
Theatre Consultant: Theatre Project Consultants, London
Acoustician: Acoustic Dimensions, Coventry
Gallery Consultant: Bruce McAllister, Bembridge
Contractor: BAM (formerly Rohcon), Kill