Reimagining a new sense of place
Located very close to Market Square which sits at the eastern end of Main Street in the centre of Castleblayney, the former open green space known as ‘The Commons’ has been taken over by the car. The original setting of the historically significant stone structure which addressed this space been eroded and the use of the space as an active public realm has been effectively lost. This design proposal seeks to reimagine a new sense of place for the site of the former fire station and ‘the Commons’. In doing so, it seeks to enhance the setting of the existing protected structure by creating new spaces and routes which, as well as improving connectivity and the built form, will reconnect the town’s historical spaces and assist regeneration while protecting its heritage.
Central to creating a new sense of place, a vibrant new courtyard space for people to live, play and share is envisaged, fostering a new environment that connects the old with the new and enhances the setting of the Protected Structure. This new southerly orientated courtyard garden connects ‘The Commons’ to the north of the site to any future development greenfield site and is formed by the addition of 2 new simple elements and their juxtaposition with the existing historic (Protected) structure. The 2 new elements comprise (i) a 2 storey L-shaped block which wraps around the southern and eastern edges of the new courtyard and (ii) a 3-storey wedge-shaped rectilinear block which makes a new edge to the existing car park and forms the northern edge of the courtyard. The existing Protected structure completes the western edge with a linear planting edge offering privacy and screening to the main communal open courtyard space.
New Build Elements
The 2-storey L-shaped block contains 7 duplex units with 6 no. 2 bed units and 1 no. 1 bed unit. All living spaces are located at the first floor level with the bedrooms below at the entry level. The block is carefully sculpted to create private garden and terrace areas at both upper and lower levels to ensure that there is no overlooking of the rear of the existing properties on Church Street.
The 3-storey wedge-shaped block contains 11 units, including 5 no. 2 bed units and 6 no. 1 bed units. The simple plan arrangement at the first and second floors comprises 4 generous apartment units organised around a central core with 3 apartments located on the ground floor in addition to a centralised bin store.
Scale and Massing
The proposed scale follows the existing historical streetscape of Castleblayney which is 2-3 storey. The 3 storey element addresses the former open space and the current existing car park (and possible future new public realm) and this steps down to 2 storeys towards the backlands area of the site. The mass of the 3 larger storey element is broken down into two distinct elements; the taller pitched roof configuration whose plan and form respects the adjacent Protected structure and the lower green roof element which wraps and folds to follow the geometry of the site.
Connections and Permeability
The new elements are sensitively arranged to provide new spaces, courtyards and pedestrian linkages, recalling the original architectural heritage of Castleblayney with its squares, courtyards, parks and alleys. The proposed north-south pedestrian route provides for a future new connection from ‘The Commons’ through the new Courtyard to any future development of the greenfield site beyond the southern boundary of the site.
Vehicle access, car parking spaces (5no.) and bicycle parking are all contained within the north eastern corner, with the remainder of the open space for pedestrians only andith an emphasis on providing a protected and high quality open soft landscaped space for families, children and older persons in particular. The remaining car park spaces are accommodated within the existing car park.
Protected Structure and Future Development
The protection of Castleblaney’s heritage and natural and built environment is at the centre of Monaghan County Council’s Strategic Town Objective. The proposed new Courtyard, the arrangement of proposed structures and their architectural form recognise the existing Protected Structure as the integral component in part of this proposed site strategy.
The new elements are sculpted in brick, recalling the brick on the gable of the adjacent Protected structure. Typically, the openings are 2 bricks deep to accentuate the modelling of the forms. Alternating courses of projecting brick articulate the base of the new L-shaped courtyard structure while charred vertical larch slats provide further modelling at the upper floor level.
Status : Competition Entry
End Year : 2023
Client : RIAI
Award : 3rd Place