Letterkenny Area Offices for Donegal Co. Co.
Antoin MacGabhann Architects
- Award Type:
Regional Award 2003
- Location: Ulster
Northern Over €3,000,000
This symbol of public service delivery in both town and county takes the form of a 'folded landscape' on the outskirts of Letterkenny. The architectural concept is given dramatic effect by a simple device an exaggerated ramp that gives the building its unprecedented form, one which mediates between town and country in an unexpected way. The building has two faces: its constructed front looks towards the town,, while to the countryside it presents the unexpected, yet striking, appearance of a manufactured landscape..
Architect s Comment
A tapering ramp brings cars from the external ground level to the first floor of the building s open urban face, and provides the majority of the parking required. This same ramp passes into the building to form the main public concourse; its continuity is strengthened by the extension of the exterior aluminium cladding to provide an interior wall finish, and the similar detailing of timber counters, benches and metal balustrades both inside and out. Directly ahead, a swath of green roof drops into the building to meet the rising level of the ramp, continuing its line and slope and providing an immediate view through the building to the hills beyond. The axis of the building and ramp points directly at the towns hill-top Cathedral.
The strong visual connection between the concourse and the surrounding landscape continues as the ramp turns back towards the city centre. At its highest point, the concourse connects to the buildings canteen, where the roof is lifted from a single point, allowing a wedge of glazing to reveal both the sloping expanse of the roof and the landscape beyond. The ramp culminates in the timber lined Council Chamber, which is expressed externally by its cantilevered projection adjacent to the entrance. The pivoting wall of the chamber can be closed for Council s meetings, or swung open to reveal the Chamber s single vast window trained between Letterkenny s hills and the Swilly Valley beyond.
Inside, as well as out, the continuous surface of the roof is the buildings unifying feature. Most interior walls are glazed above 1.6m, and the outer edge of the floor plate on the first floor level has been pulled back as a gallery, allowing the underside of the roof to be read a single complex surface. Ceiling tiles and lights conform to a building-wide pattern that may put them at odds with a particular room but that allows the ceiling to be read as a continuous whole. This lighting pattern is continued to the exterior lighting over the ramped car park, which is kept on the same level and height as the internal ceiling lights.
In 1996 Donegal County Council decided on a decentralisation, which has as it s core objective the provision of quality services available at a convenient location. Taking into account the geographical spread of the population in Donegal County Council decided to build a Public Services building in each of the six electoral areas and that all Local Authority services would be available to customers at each of the Electoral Area Offices.
As an integral part of Donegal County Council s decentralisation strategy, it was also decided that Donegal County Council would provide, over and above it s own needs, accommodation for other agencies to facilitate customers availing of many public services under one roof, i.e. a shopping centre for public services. As the Planning Authority for the County it was a goal of Donegal County Council that each of the six buildings would be a landmark building and would be of a high architectural merit and an example of "good planning".
The building was to be designed in such manner that it would facilitate the integration of services within Donegal County Council and also would provide the requisite working environment to facilitate interagency integration. The concept of a friendly building was regarded as an important part of the brief, i.e. the "building" should be a friendly place for customers to visit and for staff to work in. Finally, in order to facilitate change within the lifetime of the building the brief stipulated the need for a flexible building.
It is very obvious from the building that the Design Team went to great efforts to get a full and comprehensive understanding of our brief. Donegal County Council believes that the brief has been met and that we have a landmark building, which will be an enjoyable place for both customers and staff and should facilitate the delivery of quality services.
In conclusion, a building can be compared to a suit of clothes to house an operation and I am satisfied that this suit of clothes was designed and supervised by a firm of master tailors.