The International Rugby Experience is a new cultural institution and visitor experience to honour the worldwide game of rugby. Located in the heart of Limerick, this ambitious project seeks to reinvigorate the city centre, complement the existing local arts and heritage attractions and forge links with Munster rugby.
The building is located on O’Connell Street which is the main shopping street in the city centre. Its prominent corner site sits on the edge of a conservation area within Limerick’s Georgian Quarter. On such a tight urban site, the challenge lay in creating a building with capacity for the intended use but that sits comfortably in the context of the finer grain of the Georgian Quarter. The design approach was to consider this as a special civic building rather than a townhouse and the architectural proposals were developed through research into historic civic buildings set in Georgian streetscapes, referencing the scale of churches and civic halls. We sought to create a Cathedral to Rugby in the “City of Churches”, as Limerick is known.
The 7-storey building provides state of the art, interactive visitor experience, ground floor retail area and first floor café adjacent to a double-height entrance hall, and flexible exhibition, education and event space in the basement. It is crowned with a public hall at the top that offers panoramic views and acts as a beacon, visible from afar. A grand entrance portico addresses the busy main street, providing shelter and creating a public space below where visitors gather and fans can meet on match days.
Both inside and out, structural forces are expressed through brick and concrete detailing to create a building that reflects some of the forces found in the game of rugby. The structural and brick expression provide a tangible link to the building’s function and will be key to the visitor experience. The façades are given a sculptural quality through the articulation of deep vertical brick piers, with horizontal pre-cast concrete elements spanning between these, creating a series of recessed bays. The proportions of these bays complement the surrounding Georgian streetscape while the balance of openings and solid wall is arranged to suit the building’s interior functions.
Níall McLaughlin Architects have worked closely with exhibition designer Event Communications to ensure a successful marriage between the architecture of the interiors, the fit-out and the interactive experience. In addition, a bespoke installation hanging above the main entrance was designed in collaboration with millimetre to provide visual interest on arrival and at the end of the visitor experience, and as a fitting tribute to the sport of rugby across the world.