Ballintubber Abbey stands at the eastern end of the Tochar, an ancient walkway and pilgrimage route that is one of the most important cultural landscapes in Ireland. Today it is one of the oldest catholic churches in use for regular worship. The medieval church, chapterhouse and cloister were extensively rebuilt and restored in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and it has long been our client’s objective to rebuild the ruin of the former dormitory in the east range. And so the challenge was set - how might a structure be inserted into the mediaeval ruins of a national monument; how should the new building be enclosed; and how should the remaining upstanding archaeology be treated?
Beginning with the premise that the new construction should be clearly distinguished from the old, we developed the structure as a glulam timber portal frame, arched in form to echo the arched stone structure of the mediaeval church. Stepping carefully through the archaeology, this frame supports a pitched timber and slate roof as well as the intermediate floors that are held back from the external walls. New enclosing walls of insulating clay block and local limestone are built off the upstanding ruins, that are consolidated and repointed. No attempt is made to repair the large break in the southern gable, nor to speculate as to the detail of the original opening for which no record exists - here we will consolidate the ancient masonry and drop an elegant curtain wall within the ruin, filling the new spaces with natural light and sunshine.
The new glulam structure is arched in form to echo the arched stone structure of the mediaeval church