Galway is an ancient walled city with a unique legacy of stone buildings with carved decoration from the medieval period. The museum occupies a modern building beside the city walls at the Spanish Arch. We were asked to design an extension for the museum on the adjoining archaeological site where excavations in 1988 exposed the foundations of the city wall, a cobbled roadway which adjoined the city’s mediaeval market, and a sally-gate leading to the shore.
Casket (noun): a small ornamental box or chest for holding jewels, letters, or other valued objects.
We came to see the new building as a bronze casket containing precious items (the museum’s artefacts) with segments sliding open to reveal the contents within. Clad with anodised aluminium panels perforated to varying degrees of openness with a pattern abstracted from the pattern of the stone to the monument, the facade will alter in colour with the ever-varying light of the sky over Galway Bay. At street level these panels are more open in their perforation to permit views into the archaeological site at all times, sliding back to create the building’s entrance. Once inside, the architecture entices the visitor to take an archaeological promenade - across the lightweight deck that hovers above the medieval market place, bridging delicately over the sally-gate, upwards past the upstanding portions of the monument via a perforated steel stairs, and out onto the wall walk above the Spanish Arch. This offers the visitor a unique vantage point from which to understand the city of today and its relationship to the historic city walls. The form of the new building steps from the main volume of the new galleries which adopt the scale of the adjoining city architecture of Spanish Parade, through the lower mediating form of the circulation core, to the smaller domestic scale of Comerford House which retains its prominence on the historic Fishmarket.
Clad with anodised aluminium panels perforated to varying degrees of openness, to a pattern abstracted from the pattern of the stone to the monument, the facade will alter in colour with the ever-varying light of the sky over Galway Bay