Road Trip Day 2-Our Lady of Lourdes

Day two of our architectural road trip followed on from Day one with a visit to another Liam McCormick church called Our Lady of Lordes in Steelstown. It’s amazing how each of McCormicks churches vary so much in materials, form, and spatial quality. Compared to the four churches we visited on day one, this one was completely different again.

 

The interior is dominated by the heavy wooden mass of the angled roof, seemingly floating above your head. In a completely different sense to the church in Cresslough, Our Lady of Lourdes resists celebrating any exterior views, and disconnects itself from the outside, with the only windows lining the base of the walls.

 

The ark made by Noah is brought to mind. Whilst sitting inside the church, any sense of the houses, road, or people outside, are forgotten. The pitched roof, wooden cladding, and dim lighting create a very incubated and inward looking atmosphere.

After the visit to Our Lady of Lordes, the rest of the day was filled with the drive down to Dublin, with a quick stop at the airport to look at de Paor architects cafe inside Terminal 2, a walk around Temple Bar, and an early night in before the antics of Day three began.

 

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Road Trip Day 1. Liam McCormick churches.

This week I am embarking on a short architecture road trip in Ireland. My Uni has been kind enough to allow us all an ‘outside week’ to explore and study whatever we like, on a kind of self guided learning trip.

Today we took a mini bus and set out to visit four of Liam McCormicks seven churches of Donegal. Unfortunately the Chapel at Burt was closed for renovation today, but If you would like to see a previous post I’ve written about it click here. 

First stop was the unique Star of the Sea Chapel at Desertegney, (again to see a previous post I’ve written of this church click here) with the next stop being St.Peters in Milford. Vastly different from Star of the Sea, this building felt very Aalto-esq to me, with wood and brick providing a sombre, dark interior.

Unlike Star of the Sea Chapel, this churches fixtures and furniture seemed much more considered and complimented the architecture. The varnished wood reflected the windows light and patterns up onto the ceiling, constantly holding your gaze upwards.


The final stop was by far my favourite. St.Michaels in Cresslough was completed in 1971. Set in a craggy landscape with Muckish mountain in its backdrop, it mimics its surroundings and landscape perfectly.

A beautiful exterior feature, similar to a detail at Burt chapel, was how water from the roof gutter reached the drains on ground level.

The collected water from the gutters is allowed to trickle down a spiked metal chain, and slowly collect in a still pool at the bottom.

Inside, the chapel takes on a curving fan shape, opening up on the right to take on the view of the mountain. Stain glass windows have not been used in the main chapel, leaving a clean, white light. The smaller side chapels instead showcase deep set, Ronchomp like coloured windows.

I could have sat in St.Michaels for hours it was just so serene and quiet! Let me know which of the churches you like most. Day two of the trip coming soon!

St Aengus (Burt Chapel) by Liam McCormick

So as I said in yesterdays post about The Star of the Sea Chapel by Liam McCormick, I loved it so much I visited another, St Aengus’ Chapel in Burt. Since this was just a spur of the moment thing and around 9pm, I couldn’t get inside, but I was able to get some lovely exterior photos as well as a quick one through the window! I also visited The Grainan of Aileach Fort, which the chapel draws it’s inspiration from.

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This is such a famous church that it’s exterior appearance was no real surprise to me, having seen it in photos many times, but what did catch my eye however was the rain drainage system!

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As you can see in the above photo, a shallow moat type trench surrounds the circumference of the church, and along the way are deeper pools, with a spout above each one coming out of the wall. These modern day gargoyles spit out rain water into these pools, and on particularly rainy days ( this is Ireland!!) the water simply overflows into the trench. I really liked how such a mundane necessity had been given so much thought! Despite the fact I could see some tell-tale conventional gutters on the inside of the church, I still found this a very nice design detail.

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This was the only decent interior shot I could get through the window panels at the door, but you can see that similar to the Star of the Sea chapel, coloured light has been considered and is the overriding attribute in the space.

Grianan of Aileach Fort which looks down on this church from atop a mountain was Liam McCormicks inspiration for this chapel in Burt, and it’s easy to see the Fort details he chose to transfer into his own design.

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The circular form has been mimicked in the chapel along with its curved bowed walls. The plan of the chapel also follows the ‘circle within a circle’ design which manifests itself in the Grianan of Aileach.

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Let me know what you think of this 2nd Liam McCormick chapel I’ve reviewed! I’ll leave you with the view from the top of the Fort.

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Star of the Sea Chapel, Liam McCormick

Situated in Desertegney in County Donegal is a beautiful, surprising chapel, designed by Liam McCormick in 1964. McCormick is regarded by some as the ‘father of modern church Architecture in Ireland’, and this isolated church by Lough Swilly certainly lived up to such a sweeping claim. I’ll start by showing you the interior photographs I took, since this is were the church really impresses.

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As you can see, the edges and pillars of the main chapel room have been rounded off and softened. The sheen off the polished pebble walls reflect and bounce the coloured light that streams through the windows, filling the room with a soft ambient light. I’m sure that as the days and seasons change, this light must change also.

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There is a very small and low balcony level with three rows of seats. From this vantage point you are right against the curved ceiling, and feel very snug and unseen.

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The exterior gives no hints to the surprising, curvy interior, and aside from its tall prominent bell tower, is fairly basic.

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You can even climb a ladder up to the first level of the tower and get the views out across the water.

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This little chapel is such a surprise of modern Architecture in the quiet little townland of Desertegney, I enjoyed it so much I went and visited a second Liam McCormick church later that day, but thats for another blog post! For now, let me know if you love the Star of the Sea church as much as I do.

The Giants Causeway Visitor Centre

Since this building is only down the road and has been nominated for the 2013 RIBA Stirling prize, I thought it was worth a visit. Unfortunately I arrived pre-disposed to not like it! Interior photographs I had seen on the internet looked bleak and un-inviting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the real thing!

The first thing I noticed is how un-imposing the building is, I think it sits very well in the landscape, not shouting for attention, but tucked quietly underneath a fold in the landscape. This ‘fold’ was the key concept behind Heneghan-Pengs design for the centre. One piece of land folds up, to allow the centre to sit beneath it, and a second portion folds down to allow for the car-park to nestle low and remain relatively unseen. The result is a very simple shape in plan form, and the centre is actually only one long room. It’s certainly nothing complicated or flashy.

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The result of such a simple, one storey building is that it doesn’t have much ‘wow’ factor, it just seems to work well, its pleasant and nice, but not amazing.

The polished basalt mullions mimic the Giants Causeway but thankfully in not a predictable hexagon shaped manner! They remain sleek and each one is individual and unique, just like the Causeways own pillars.

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The most successful feature I think is the roof. Because the centre sits underneath the folded landscape, you are able to walk along its roof on the grass and you could easily be forgiven for forgetting that there’s a building underneath you! It goes beyond being a simple ‘green’ roof, instead it’s actually part of the hill. From this vantage point the views across Portrush display themselves completely un-interrupted.

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The interior is a simple geometric room with slight variations in levels. Honestly I found it under-whelming, I didn’t really find anything wrong with it, but it wasn’t spectacular either! Maybe this is no bad thing since the visitor centre isn’t meant to be the main attraction, It’s simplicity helps to keep all eyes on the Causeway itself.

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All in all I do like this building, especially it’s exterior, however I think it just lacks a certain something to make it amazing and inspirational. Despite this, it was un-believably busy the weekend I visited, regardless of the wind and rain, and it served it’s purpose well!

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Image taken from http://www.fourth-street.com

Hotel Puerta America-Madrid

Recently I spent a few days in Madrid on a University field trip, and thought I’d share what I found to be the highlight, the Avant-Garde, luxurious to the extreme, Hotel Puerta America. On one of the last nights, six of us keen students decided to join our lecturers on this optional extra visit. It worked out for the better that most of the class didn’t join us, because the exclusivity of the Hotel surely would have burdened our attempts at seeing all of the private floors if there had been a large group.

Hotel Puerta Americas 12 floors are each designed separately by some of the worlds most famous Architects, resulting in an eclectic and surprising combination of designs. However, unless you are a guest at the Hotel, the lift will only open at the top floor, the bar, or the bottom, the lobby. So basically me and a friend Maria batted our eyes, and along with the rest of the group, blagged our way into seeing 9 of the 12 floors, we even managed to get into someones room! Its amazing what you get if you just ask!

Talking at length about every floor I saw would take too long, so here’s some photos and some quick thoughts of mine, enjoy!

Floor 2 -Norman Foster. In comparison to other floors, this design was a disappointment from such a famous name. It was basically a circular room with a sculpture in the centre!Image

Floor 6-Marc Newson. A shiny, dark, red plastic corridor with dim lighting. The first photo is taken without flash, the second with. Neither really show the effect very well!

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Floor 7-Ron Arad. A very womb-like, circular hub.

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Floor 8-Kathryn Findlay. A light, energetic space.

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Floor 10-Arata Isozaki. A japanese style interior

ImageFloor 11-Mariscal and Salas. In my opinion, a really tasteless floor!!

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Floor 12-Jean Nouvel. Another dark floor, which also seemed oriental.

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And I’ve saved the two absolute best for last:

Floor 1-Zaha Hadid. A futuristic, curvy, and intriguing place to be.

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Floor 4-Plasma Studio. A metallic, angular, completely imaginative floor.

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‘The House for Eccentrics’

Mullaghmore House in Co.Tyrone is not at all what you expect, it’s better. I visited this great house as part of the European Heritage weekend, just after visiting Parkanaur Castle earlier in the day. Unlike that sprawling, Jane Austen-esque castle, Mullaghmore House is modest, on more of a human scale, and from the outside, a lot less commanding.

Image used with permission

However once you open the door, the quirky interiors and the personality of Mullaghmores’ owner makes the house fascinating. You are greeted by a Scottish baronial style, wooden clad hallway, which marries well with the little studs and knobs that are also on the libraries original Adams fireplace.Image

Off to the right of the hallway, the library has its own bar, and a bust of Shakespeare, taken from the original terracotta one. Further down the hall and to the left is the Games room, obvious from the huge billiard table that dominates the room, whose wallpaper will be 189 years old this year, this room also has no windows, and leads into the lovely Orangery and Front drawing room.Image

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The Orangery is one of the rooms I’d spend most of my time in if I lived in Mullaghmore House. Glazed on two sides with views out into the garden, it has portions of stained glass window, plenty of chairs to lounge in and read a book, and just something very calming about it, it feels private and secluded, even though it’s completely open to the outside world. I think the dark wood surrounding the windows stops it feeling too open and light, almost anchoring all the glass, and therefore still allowing you to feel definitely inside, private, yet looking out and linked with nature. Full of oddities to keep you interested, it even boasts of housing a taxidermy bird that is now extinct! Besides the stuffed animals, this room is one of my favourites.Image

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The front drawing room is cheery, looking out to the front of the house. An interesting feature in this room is the fireplace, with its rare and unique marble, taken from a freak vein, very hard to ever find again or replaceImage.

The kitchen, towards the back of the house is much less formal that the other rooms, it feels loved and lived in, again, full of little items to keep the eye occupied. I instantly feel in love with the pretty little plates embedded in the wall around the hearth, placed there in 1745. The beams here are left exposed and are made from Oregon timber, and have proven to be a handy place to hang hats!Image

Upstairs, you find a surprising roof light on the top storey, made of stained glass. From such a seemingly un-opposing facade on the front, these touches of grandeur in the house are delightful discoveries. But upstairs, the most impressive room by far is the bathroom. My photos couldn’t do it justice but you can’t help but smile as you enter it. What I noticed first was the colourful bottles that line the tops of the walls the entire way around the room, next you realise that the bath is just in the centre, free standing. I think lying down for a soak in such a big bathroom, in the middle of the room, must feel very expensive! I’d feel like quite the lady of leisure!Image

This Georgian period home is just so quirky, and definitely a lot of that comes down to the owner, who bought it with his dad in the 60’s, restored it, and is an antique collector. As we got our informal tour around the rooms, the owner smoked his pipe, and after telling us of all the celebrities who had visited to take pictures, or who regularly stay, he laughed, ‘It’s the house for eccentrics’, and in the loveliest possible way, I agree. I’m so glad I visited this house, it was just so surprising and every room was different, I’d recommend anyone to visit it, or stay for a night, I think it’d be a lot of fun 🙂 Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!