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Carlow Art Center / 2002

Carlow, Ireland
Art Museum
3,000 Square Meters

The Carlow Art Center is a 3,000 sq meter building dedicated to presenting contemporary world art. In addition to large flexible gallery spaces, the program for this competition also called for educational spaces, offices, and a cafe connected to an adjacent public plaza. Since the program of the Center 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.
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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.

Neil M Denari Architects, Inc
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