2008 – Ballyroan Parish Centre, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin

Architect: Box Architecture

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The existing church was designed in the late 1960s by Raymond F Mac Donnell. It is a very fine example of church architecture of that period, with an elegant structure and very impressive modern stained-glass windows. The combination of buildings creates an L-shaped site. The concept of three buildings was to create a new sequence of public spaces and draw people from the front of the church, by the community centre, into a shared central square and into the library.

The building is arranged around internal courtyards with a oak tree located in the largest courtyard. As it is a spiritual and sometimes private building, it was important that views in and out were controlled to avoid disturbances, and very selective openings where provided to maintain this privacy. Courtyards have opaque glass or are focused internally, while openings with clear glass provide glimpses from within and from the outside – the main entrance, fully openable doors from the main hall for use in larger gatherings, the flush square window to the west to the large meeting room, and the high-level sky-view window over the kitchen.

To signify that the building is open, a large timber pivot door leads people into a low, stone-lined entrance space, with a simple bench to sit on. The timber element continues as a set of fins to create an open yet enclosed transition entry space. The building materials are carefully limited to create a calm spiritual feeling – simple rendered walls, timber doors, stone floors, and glazed screens affording views into the inner courtyards

Photographs copyright Paul Tierney

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