St. Paul's Church, Community Centre

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St Paul's Glenageary is one of the largest Church of Ireland Parishes in the Republic of Ireland. The original church building was completed in 1864 but was subsequently extended three times over the following 45 years. In 1912, a Parochial Hall was erected some 250 metres from the church on Adelaide Road, a physical separation that continued to concern parishioners until 1996, when a decision was taken to explore the possibility of placing it’s community centre on the same site as the church. The planning process took some time as the church is a Protected Structure, located in an Architectural Conservation Area. The new community centre finally opened in Spring 2007. The brief for the centre was very straight forward - to provide flexible and welcoming space for use by both the parish and the wider community and so promote social interaction in an atmosphere of peace and friendship. The challenge was to create a new building within the restricted parkland setting, that would both complement the existing neo gothic stone church yet create an identity that reflected the many cultural functions of the Community Centre. The church building expresses clearly its internal spaces through its external form, a language adopted for the new centre. However, the centre does not seek to mimic or vie with the church, but uses a series of screens and volumes, to create their own dynamic in a manner that enables the centre to have its own identity. The finished building comprises three volumes - the main hall, the two storey block with meeting rooms and services, and the interconnecting glazed entrance hall, so creating a building that is instantly comprehended by any visitor. This approach allows the new building to integrate with the existing, as well as to project the confident image of the parish in its vision of the future of their community. The new centre is a building of its time – designed using painted aluminum framing and cedar panelling, with classic proportions. The granite walls and high windows of the church create a private and respectful interior, whereas the spaces within the new centre have full height glass walls opening onto the landscaped grounds, so inviting the participation of all. The external spaces flow into the interiors, with the simple palette of finishes and the architecture acting as one. The centre was opened by Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland, in April 2007, and has been a great success, with all users feeling refreshed by the architecture, welcomed by the facilities and comfortable in the unassuming style of accommodation that compliments the setting of the church building on the site.


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