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Architecture for Heritage 2022 Edition

Design of a Visitor center among the ruins of Athassel Priory, Ireland

Design of a Visitor center among the ruins of Athassel Priory, Ireland

The workshop, tutored by McCullough Mulvin Architects, concerned the design of a visitor center in the ruins of Athassel Priory, a Norman monastic complex listed among the most iconic ruins in southern Ireland. Immersed in an idyllic countryside and crystallized in a state of ruin for more than 700 years, the priory has been the ideal context where to measure the relationship between antiquity and contemporary architecture. Its uncertain boundary walls, the open aisles, the open Gothic pointed arches, and the abandoned cloisters represented a rare and charming opportunity to experiment with contemporary languages ​​and architectures capable of unique expressiveness both on a technical and a compositional level. A museum space, a cafeteria, a bookshop, a conference space, or even accommodations scattered through the countryside and ruins have been the suggestive elements of a program that could generate new experiences and perceptions of this historical architecture while adhering to a formula that is consistent with the Irish spirit: reserved and deeply deferential towards its ruins.

Athassel Priory

One of the hallmarks of Ireland is, evidently, its own ruins. With a population of a few million inhabitants, Ireland boasts a sparsely populated and mostly rural territory, scattered with the remains of architecture that testify the glories and calamities that have hit the country. Away from the influence of Rome - imperial rule stopped at Antoninus' wall - Ireland was a safe home for the survival of Celtic culture. Despite the Viking and Anglo-Norman incursions and the cultural revolution imported by the first Catholic monks (one of all the famous St. Patrick, the first evangelizer of the island), Ireland still retains numerous features of the ancient Gaelic culture, stratified in an unicum that has no equal in the world, and petrified in its many ruins. The Norman monastery of Athassel, built during the 12th century, is one of the most fascinating and evocative examples of Irish Gothic architecture: a symbol of that picturesque Ireland made up of romantic-looking ruins, surrounded by lush countryside. Open to the public and freely visitable like most of the Irish archaeological sites, Athassel represents an unparalleled location for those wishing to compete in the context of revaluation and regeneration of historical architecture.

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