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Michael Davitt Museum

  • Architect:
    Angela Rolfe & Edel Collins - OPW
  • Award Type:
    Regional Award 2001
  • Location: Connacht
Michael Davitt Museum

Citation

Western (over £100,000)

A project which takes a modest everyday building type and through skilled design and use of materials transforms it into something exceptional. 

Clients Comments
The Michael Davitt Association is extremely proud of the Museum in the restored Penal Church at Straide, Co. Mayo. The atmosphere created by the optimum use of natural light, the retention of the original pointed arched windows and the limestone floor contrasted against pristine walls greatly enhances the collection we have on display. The retention of the church layout and the feeling of space and peace achieved in the building are most conductive to study and reflection. The building blends effortlessly with the adjacent 13th Century Abbey - the effect making Straide a most attractive village. 

Architects Comments
This simple t-shaped church, dating from the 18th century was built into the ruins of an early 13th Century Franciscan Abbey. Use of the building as a church ceased in 1906, and it was reopened as ‘St. Mary’s Hall’ in 1940. Significant alternations were made to the fabric of the building, which was left unused when a new hall was opened in 1981. The major works of the restoration included the demolition of the 1940’s addition, reconstructing the north transept, reinstating the original pointed-arch windows throughout the building, the original entrance at the west gable and a coved ceiling. A simple clear plan retaining the simpility and irregular geometric qualities of the original building was adopted. Walls are not straight, plumb or parallel.

The position of the Abbey walls is indicated on the new floor with the textured limestone slabs, while the reception desk was designed as an extension of the underground medieval wall. A decorative screen, designed as an abstraction of the window fenestration, divides the mail exhibition space from the rebuilt transept to define the audio-visual area. There has been tendancy in the past to consider this building type a grim reminder of poverty and oppression and,as a result, few have remained intact. Fortunately, there is now the opportunity for this Penal Church to be experienced and recognised as an important part of our heritage.