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Galway Harbour Pier

Date: 2009

Result: Shortlist

Services: DKAD entered this architectural competition jointly, with Tralee and London based architecture- graduate, Timothy J. Hartnett. The entry was one of ten shortlisted entries to be selected.


The brief of this competition was to propose ideas for the regeneration of the Harbour Area of Galway City. The brief was for a mixed use cultural building which would house a theatre, public spaces and also provide new office accommodation for the Harbour Authority. The design sought to create a profoundly theatrical space, and used an innovative and potentially controversial approach to theatre- design which was fully resolved in this proposal, yeilding new and unexpected benefits to the overall regeneration ethos of the project.

Theatres are very complex building types which must achieve a balance between a well presented public area, or front of house, and a highly organised and functional back of house area which is essentially a complex machine for preparing and organising theatrical productions. The stage is the nexus point between these two coexisting entities. Most theatres either have the back of house behind the front of house on the same level, or they raise the theatre on a plinth or basement and carry out the production work below. The stage is then connected by stairs and elevators to the basement.

This project proposed a third way, and resolved the design to good effect in our opinion. This design housed the back of house areas in a raised slab above the stage, and used stairs and lifts to connect to the stage from above. This had numerous functional and architectural benefits. The main aim of the brief was not primarily to create a theatre, but to regenerate the area. This strategy made the ground plane of the peir into a stage, and left it open to passers- by to look in when the theatre was not in use. This connection to the context overcame a common problem with theatres in regeneration projects; unlike many cultural buildings, it was not closed and insular, it was open to the city streets and added to the theatricality and vibrancy of the architectural context it sought to improve.

The ground plane within the building was completely accessible, and the richness of the section was achieved by creating stepped openings and variations in the height of the undecroft of the slab element.

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