Our proposal for the redevelopment of the renowned London Irish Centre looks to provide a fully accessible, bold new cultural and community centre. The 43,000 sqft project replaces much of the adhoc extensions to restore and extend the historic 19th century villa facing Camden Square.
Externally, the project presents a strong contemporary presence, a home for the Irish community in London that represents a beacon of hope and good spirit. It also addresses the multi-faceted requirements of the brief, including unifying multiple spaces and a variety of programmes. Internally, spaces are designed to encourage gathering, and the coming together of community. Contrasts in light and shadow, grandeur and intimacy were developed to evoke feeling of ‘home’, represented with a distinct material pattern language that embeds the project with meaning and significance.
A significant corner
The Murray Street/Mews corner of the buildings mass is carved out by the lines of south light that shine directly into the heart of the community hub. By opening up the corner of the building, our designs allow for an opportunity to harness a moment of light at midday when the sun will shine directly into the community hub. At night this significant corner will emit a soft glow, evoking a candle in the window - a reference to a speech by Mary Robinson, Ireland's first female president, which noted the Irish tradition of placing a lit candle on the window sill as a symbolic beacon to welcome loved ones home. Our new corner adopts the language of playful, characterful corners found throughout Victorian London, that through transparency, pattern & artificial ‘candle-lit’ interrupts this metaphor into a visible beacon to the Irish Diaspora.
A unique community hub
One of the earliest forms of gathering settlements is the Bronze Age ‘Fulacht Fiadh’. The settlements gathered around a well for fresh water and were formed from a crescent geometry to hold a fire pit, for cooking and warmth, and a protective low stone wall to provide some shelter from the wind. This idea generated the unique geometries of the proposed community hub that is central to the buildings layout and meaning. This new hub acts as an open living room for the buildings staff & visitors and will host the community café during the day, but at night can be used for events or performances which will be enriched by the double height mezzanine space that wraps around the space.
Interweaving meaningful stories of Irish culture
The new community hub, placed adjacent to the fully accessible main entrance from Murray Street, is the heart of the new Centre. This space is envisioned as a 21st Fulacht Fiadh, a place of gathering defined by a unique geometry, underpinned by the 32 segments that symbolically link Ireland to London – representing an all-Ireland Centre. Here, the community will gather to tell, and make new stories.
A moment of light
Inspired by the passage of light at Newgrange, the geometry of our gathering space is orientated to amplify a moment of light at 12 noon on March 17th, St.Patrick's Day. The light captured within this space will form a focal point for the community to gather around, allowing them to celebrate their successes as a migrant community and to reflect upon their place within 21st century London.