VISUAL & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre
by Terry Pawson Architects


London firm Terry Pawson Architects have completed a new gallery and theatre in Carlow, Ireland, which opened on Saturday.

The building, called VISUAL & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, features a façade made of large panels of opaque glass on a concrete plinth.

The interior has a large gallery at its centre with smaller gallery spaces and a theatre arranged around it.

The architects won the contract in 2004 after entering an open competition organised by the Royal Institute of Architects Ireland.

See our previous story about houses designed by Terry Pawson Architects.

Photos are by Helene Binet.

Here's some text from Terry Pawson Architects:


VISUAL & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Carlow, Ireland

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 contemporary 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.

Project Facts & Credits:

Location: St Patrick's College, Old Dublin Road, Carlow

Gross External area: 4,679 sqm

Gross floor area: 3,726 sqm

Project value: €18 million

Construction value: €12.7 million

Architect: Terry Pawson Architects

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

Posted on Tuesday September 29th 2009 at 12:03 am by Sarah Housley. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • rully

    look like David Chipperfield

  • It looks familiar… something ive seen before…

  • Tyler
  • yo

    Reminds me a lot of the kunsthaus Bregenz by Zumthor!

  • Klaus

    With no plans I can’t really say if this is a good or a bad project, but the blocks’ composition seems nice, it remind me a mixture between the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City by Steven Holl and the Extension of the Kunsthaus in Zurich by Chipperfield.

  • AJ
  • Horta

    May I introduce you to.. Gigon & Guyer? Aside from that nice project though.

  • spielberg

    This is very beaultiful… and very Chipperfield!

  • gab xiao

    it’s beautiful, although a bit tributary to chipperfield’s language. i wish terry pawson find a way to differentiate his work, somehow. i look forward to other projects by terry pawson!

  • bob

    Davos: Gigon Guyer
    This is the Bjorn Again of Swiss mid 90s minimalism
    Perfect first time round. The cover version is quite nice also.

  • pacman

    …even though i agree with the comments here saying that this looks like Chipperfields work, i hope Chipperfield tries now to look like this, cause this is much much much better than his!… ha!

  • xinxinchai

    The architect has cladded the entire facade with opaque glass and yet the interior looks very heavy with lots of solid wall. Without showing any plans, one tends to figure that there’s some contradiction here between wanting a translucent spatial effect and the need for walls for display.

    Whereas in Chipperfield’s project featured slightly earlier, his scheme is more truthful to the programme with openings created only when truly necessary, with the vast amount of facade walls used as display surfaces for the art works inside.

  • graeme

    This looks like a world class art gallery – very nicely detailed with some really beautiful gallery spaces. Well done Terry Pawson – the practice has moved up a level.

  • Soupdragon

    Regardless of whether it bears a passing resemblance to other works, both client and architect should be appluaded for achieving such a high quality project, in both architecture and ambition. And all on a very modest budget, only 13m euros!
    Also great to see different types of concrete formwork and marking. If only every small town had such quality galleries and theatres.

  • inuki

    it doesn’t matter who or what does it resemble. it’s great. i love it.
    if it were me, i’d make more buildings like that : )

  • Ajax Harington

    I think it looks like a large public lavatory. Of course, judging by the following story, this is something that George Bernard Shaw would have approved of.

  • It is very nice architectural design for a theatre.

  • Andy

    @ xinxinchai I would tend to disagree, the opaque glass serves as a cladding system, and has functions apart from letting light through like any other cladding. I think in this case openings could be considered as those you can actually see through and therefore should to be considered separately.