Irish Performing Arts Center

The Irish Performing Arts Center promised to be one of those rare settings that offered wonderful visual stimulation everyway one looked. The school was to be located on the Limerick Campus, surrounded by beautiful scenery from every direction. Its purpose as a performing arts complex on the interior also meant that nearly every activity in the building was oriented towards public delight, and therefore also worthy of display. Now, a traditional multi-story double loaded educational facility would effectively segregate every activity from another by introducing intervening floor plates and corridor walls. Not only have studies showed that human observation boosts performance, but particularly in a space dedicated to the cultivation of performing arts, it seemed essential that all interior activities be opened up onto each other and to any surrounding circulation. As such, we proposed a single expansive volume that would be bisected by a series of critical paths linking important views and settings along the exterior of the building. Within the polygonal volumes inscribed by these asymmetrical paths, we scattered classrooms with almost entirely glazed walls into enticing constellations of activity that allow one active space to see and be seen by many others at any one time.

Having proposed a design that engenders considerable centrifugal viewing within the building, as well as centripetal viewing out onto the surrounding landscape, we next needed to develop a building skin that would communicate the building’s identity to passers-by. Our solution was a continuous wall of LED lights sandwiched between glazing curtain walls that would produce illuminated patterns expressing the vibrations being generated by the performances within the building. This skin would collapse the distinction between program and building, envelope and activity, and offer instead an architecture that actively performs in concert with the actions of its inhabitants.

Though our scheme did not win the competition, Ove Arup were so taken with our scheme that they offered their professional services free of charge to help realize both an affordable LED skin and a tenable interior wall system that would maximize transparency without compromising acoustic quality.