Winner of the 2008 Royal Society of Ulster Architects Award for a recreational / community building in harmony with its site.
The Judges said 'It is what a good community building should be, reflective of the community, useful, a gathering place and an enabler of social interaction as well as being a joy to visit.'
Our brief was for the construction of a replacement members clubhouse with the added objective of attracting patrons from the wider public.
The awkward triangular site, the leftovers from the pitch development, potentially had four public elevations. It was also a client requirement that the recently completed changing rooms be retained.
The main asset of the site is that it sat at the top of the ridge of soft sandstone rock which gives its name to the Rock Streets below. This location gave any potential development extensive views over the city, views which were never experienced from the earlier clubrooms on a site below.
We viewed the project as an opportunity to reject the clubroom typology of fences grilles and shutters and firmly root the building in its community in a position which gives its respect to and allegiance to those around it, perhaps a post conflict precedent which could be repeated.
The building is essentially two main social areas; a members lounge with associated snooker separated by the service zone of bar counters, kitchens, storage and toilets from a function room with it's own access to allow it to be used in a semi autonomous way. Staff and public circulation are kept separate.
The retention of the existing changing rooms provided a means to create an external space hidden from view within which to locate the service and bins area.
The public entrance is approached from the carpark. Adjacent a bunker like slit window rests. It identifies the committee/board room on the elevations and signifies control of access not by a doorman behind grilles, or indeed even by the earlier military presence on the site, but by a seated accountable committee. Internally the folding partition around the board room cements their integration with the remainder of the membership.
Positioned along the side of the building when approached from the carpark the members entrance is given primacy by its projecting porch, its addressing the main road and by the light blue render adjacent.
The location of the building makes two critical views imperative, the city and its people and the GAA Pitch. These take pride of place on two elevations.
The other two most public elevations portray the form of the spaces within by demonstrating the building section.
They are a geometric framework within which a few simple elements are arranged; a door; a window; a porch; deliberately abstracted from their common forms to avoid the aesthetic of the 'traditional' Clubhouse.
The members lounge encompasses a view of the whole of the city over the tops of the terraced houses below. It is fitting that the member's are constantly reminded of their roots and origins. The bar elevation is open, its roof pitched away from the façade and invisible. The internal section through the lounge similarly directs the view upward and outward towards the city.
The function room repeats the section of the bar. Here the primary 'function' is recognised as the sport itself and so the function room is positioned to address the outside activity. Extensive glazing ensures it can be used for evening events as well as during match play on a typical Belfast Sunday.
This is a modest simple and low budget building.
As is always the case a trusting client is a necessary prerequisite to the creation of quality buildings. And while unfortunately the ubiquitous fence with turnspike remains the aesthetic of the building is primarily of openness and trust.
This is a modest and simple building which relies on the views to state openness and trust.. It celebrates the primacy of program and site in establishing the functional building upon which some of those extra layers that make buildings into architecture can be placed.