Neil M. Denari Architects


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Site Design: INNER IDEAL
©2024 NMDA_LA

Year of the Dragon

Visual Art Center / 2002
Carlow, Ireland

Site:                     St. Patrick’s College, Carlow, Ireland
Program:            Contemporary Arts Center with artists studios
Size:                    3,000 Square Meters
Status:                Open competition proposal

Carlow, Ireland, pop. 25,000, is located one hour by car southwest of Dublin. The Eigse festival is an internationally recognized artworld event that is the impetus for this competition for a 3000 square meter Visual Arts Center. A strict program of exhibition spaces, classrooms, and spatial adjacencies as well as a tight, limited site surrounded by a variety of edge conditions form the basic parameters from which to begin.

The building is designed to connect to two cultures, two scales. The first is of the local situation of the site adjacent to St. Patrick's College, to open public spaces, and to the center to town. The second is the global scale of the quality and types of art that this facility will show.

Since the program of the Centre virtually fills out the site, the adjacent open spaces must, including the proposed surface car park, flow into the building in order to make it accessible and more infrastructural. To enable this, a portion of the site has been lowered to –1.80 m. Not only does this produce a more continuous landscape, this sectional configuration allows the building to be reduced in apparent height. While the building at the lower levels is transparent and dynamic, the mass of the building above is organized into four opaque bands that respond to the program inside and to the site context outside.

The overall architectural goal is to combine the neutrality of a “kunsthalle” type building with a formal quality that helps generate community interest and global identity. Indeed, this pairing of pragmatic directness with tectonic vitality suggests that architecture is both a functional vessel and a medium of its own experimentation. The corrugated appearance, along with elements like the saw-tooth skylights, is intended to vaguely connect to “production” while the softer elements such as the higher central bay of Gallery No. 1 makes a contrast to the purely extruded nature of the corrugations.  This element in particular both blends into the front façade and simultaneously creates a large figure to the parking lot.  Its appearance is meant to be lively, informal, and yet institutionally strong at the same time.

Levitating Smooth Brutalism /

Project Team: Neil Denari, Maxi Spina, Duks Koschitz, Flemming Tanghus, Matt Trimble / Images: Jeff Chinn, Lillian Zeinalzadegan