Dunshaughlin Pastoral Centre

In 2005, the Roman Catholic Parish Council of Dunshaughlin and Culmullen decided to develop a new centre to complement the existing social facilities of St Patrick’s Hall and Community Centre in order to cater for the needs of a parish expected to double in size by 2010. At that time, church educational programmes, counselling and meetings were being held in schools and halls throughout the parish. The Dunshaughlin Pastoral Centre was designed to consolidate these spiritual, educational and counselling activities and to meet the social needs of family and friends coming together at times of celebration – Baptism, Communion, Confirmation, Marriage… and times of bereavement.  


The site, on the Main Street (N3) of Dunshaughlin village accommodated St Seachnall’s Church, the parochial house and an extensive church car park. The church from the 1980’s has a wide pitched roof with white pebble dashed walls and grey stone piers at the front. The parochial house, somewhat older than the church, is a square red and buff brick hip roofed structure complete with an enclosing garden wall and a prominent mature clipped hedge. The site had one pedestrian pathway leading to the church front door and two vehicular entrances off Main Street (NS). The car park having twin vehicular entrances, resulted in a pattern of movement which left the church in the role of quasi traffic island around which cars swept in and out.


For us, the issue was how to position a third building compositionally and contextually in a role both as binder between existing buildings and as a new destination while also neutralising this unpleasant “traffic island” characteristic.


The issue of building form posed a particular challenge and opportunity. Though the church is not of architectural merit, we consciously chose not to ignore it but to recognise its most obvious formal characteristic - the wide pitched roof. Our proposition was about resonance and a subversion of the traditional pitched roof into a three-dimensional form - independent yet neighbourly. The only material common to the church and parochial house was the dark grey slate of their roofs -  this influenced our choice of the natural anthracite grey fibre cement material for the Centre. 


In landscape terms in articulating the Centre as destination, we positioned it with its front entrance and newly landscaped space facing into the morning sun at the end of the new pedestrian route easily seen from Main Street – visually slipped between the church and the house. The new pedestrian route is bounded by the tall clipped hedge on one side and the north facing church wall with side exit. The congregation emerge onto the safe pedestrian space from this exit, gathering into the Pastoral Centre for refreshments and a chat after Mass. For us, a strong welcoming entrance was critical to the fundamental meaning of the Centre as an inclusive community resource - joyous, uplifting and full of energy.


The main spaces (entrance / social / multi-purpose) are “hollowed out” of the dark solid built form to create a fluid continuous space of varying height and width characterised by a vibrant yellow colour which extends outside over the front entrance. The east facing glass wall and south facing roof glazing ensures sunlight penetrates deep into the space. While its walls and floor are smooth surfaces, the acoustic ceiling is randomly perforated and has inset and pendant luminaries connecting to ideas of celestial joy and the stars. Timber constructs are strategically pressed into the surfaces of the yellow space to perform particular spatial tasks of separation and depth. Externally new trees were planted – tall dark cypress along the new pedestrian routes skirting the church and emerald queen maples which bear golden foliage in the autumn are freestanding in the new shared triangular entrance space. In the summer, with doors open, tables and chairs spill out onto this space while the community enjoys the sunshine, chat and fresh air.


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Building Activity

  • richiehatch
    richiehatch updated 63 media and updated 5 digital references
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  • Georgi Sokolov
    Georgi Sokolov updated 5 digital references and updated
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