West Cork Arts Center
location: skibbereen ireland
site: located in the center of the commercial district, on caol stream just off main street
client: west cork arts center
program: contemporary arts center
size: 1,500 sq.m
material: concrete, glass, steel
contribution: project coordinator, designer, researcher
project team: remon alberts, brandon clifford, harry lowd
The architecture of the West Cork Arts Center (WCAC) responds to the constraints placed on it in two manners; by deferring to the weight and pressures of the world surrounding it, while at the same time creating spaces that alleviate this weight through a clearing of the ground and spatial lightness. Lightness originates in the galleries and spreads through the dance studios, courtyard, and entry sequence, which are all pushed and/or folded by the context and programmatic requirements. The external constraints fold the building envelope, but at the same time free and elevate the space to mediate light and context enabling a clearing in an urban context that promotes creative work and collaboration.
The primary interest in the planning of the West Cork Arts Center (WCAC) is to encourage the interaction of all of the constituents of the Arts Center. The sequence from entry through the main gallery, up through the courtyard and performance space, and then to the secondary gallery folds the space through the mechanism of the stair and interior ground intertwining the public and semi-public spaces so that they are inextricable from one another.
- Wall/ Roof Construction: (super insulated rain-screen wall) allowing for excellent thermal retention. With a ‘thick wall’ construction the building will retain cool air in the summer, and warm air in the winter.
- Day lighting: Roof skylights, calculated punched openings, and large walls of glazing at the courtyard will disperse light throughout the building. Gallery light comes from the north, generating an even light conducive to viewing art works. Natural day lighting will reduce operating costs, as will the use of florescent lighting throughout the building.
- Flexible Shell: Spatially the WCAC is composed of generously accommodating and generic spaces so as to be adaptable, yet set a dignifying framework for, change over the generations. The intent is for WCAC to be a lasting part of the community of Skiberdeen now and to have the flexibility to change in the future.
- Site/ Context Sensitivity: The West Cork Arts Center is at a juncture in the town of Skiberdeen which is in need of a public pedestrian space. The intention is to create an architecture that does not homogenize but rather helps every Skiberdeen appreciate its richly differentiated architecture and environment by creating public spaces that are conducive to gathering and also afford views of the city that were never possible before.
- Structural System: The conventional structural system, be it stone, wood, concrete or structural steel, through historical conventions of orthogonal representation and construction, results in programmatic limitations based on the box. In structural steel, the beam and column are the pieces, or modules, that are assembled in various scales of length and depth to form smaller and larger boxes to satisfy a given program. Customization of structural steel generally manifests itself in a single unique framing geometry, fabricated and constructed repetitively for a singular purpose building. The site and scale of the surrounding buildings and the uniqueness of the program at the West Cork Arts Centre, offer an opportunity to use readily available technologies and techniques of fabrication to create a more intelligent customization of the structural framing. The scale of WCAC allows the perceived complication of customization to be offset by large scale prefabrication such that site erection work is reduced. For WCAC, we aim to develop prefabricated steel frames whose geometry is integrated within the envelope of the building skin and interstitial spaces between building programs. The resulting frame will help reduce total steel material while prefabrication will allow for greater speed of construction.