Text description provided by the architects. The brief was for a Pastoral Centre situated within the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church, Donegal Town. For years, church educational programmes, counselling and meetings were held in local schools, the parochial house and hotels throughout the parish. St. Patrick’s Centre was designed to consolidate these spiritual, educational and counselling activities and to meet the social needs of parishioners coming together for celebration and bereavement.
Elevated above the towns busy Main Street, the tranquil site accommodates St. Patrick’s Church, the former curates house, the parochial house and extensive sloping gardens. St. Patrick’s Church (1935) known as The Memorial Church of the four Masters. Built with Barnesmore pink granite and Mountcharles sandstone in a Neo Irish Romanesque style, the church is one of the most photographed landmarks in the area. The new building had to be placed sensitively to sit side by side with the domineering edifice, respecting its elder.
The R.C. Parish Council identified an elevated overgrown garden area to the rear of the former curates house located to the west of St. Patrick’s Church as the preferred location on the site for the new centre. The client requested that a physical link be made to the former curates house as it had been recently renovated as office space for Accord, Catholic Marriage Care Services and was providing an income. Commercially, it made sense that both buildings were linked and would complement each other.
The new centre is placed at the edge of the church grounds and quite intentionally it acts as the backdrop to the church gardens. The requirement for a large multi-purpose hall posed particular challenges and opportunity in such a sensitive location. The building is tucked into the excavated hill, the hall is a double height space entered from the lower level by a processional pedestrian route from the church. One can also enter from the upper car parking level and descend into the main space along the granite spine wall. Meeting rooms, and kitchen are ancillary and more intimate in scale.
The sweeping curved granite wall physically ties the building into the hillside, varying shapes of windows are used to highlight the movement of light and frame views of the church, again signifying the spiritual nature of the building. A large corner window is placed to entirely frame St. Patrick's Church upon entry to the main hall, on completion of the processional journey. The building materials are carefully limited to create a calm spiritual feeling, simple rendered walls act as a backdrop to the main stone walls, a dramatic aluminium over sailing eaves is a metaphorical response to the halo the spiritual building deserves.
A curved stone cross reflective of the stone church tower stands to attention in front of the former curates house a 1970’s bungalow structure reducing the domestic impact of the house, and helping to increase its scale, in keeping with the new centre.
The fundamental meaning and vision of the centre is an inclusive community resource where people can gather to celebrate, learn, share ideas whilst rooted in a calm sense of composure.