Site Visit

More than a decade in the mak­ing, a unique con­crete cin­ema opens in Ire­land

Azure - - CONTENTS - WORDS _Gio­vanna Dun­mall PHO­TO­GRAPHS _Ed Reeve

In 2004 – a decade be­fore Gal­way was des­ig­nated a UN­ESCO City of Film – a group of lo­cals launched a plan to cel­e­brate the Ir­ish town’s love af­fair with cel­lu­loid via a new art house cin­ema. One re­ces­sion, a change of con­trac­tor and a new owner later (among other hic­cups), the Pálás the­atre has flick­ered to life. Built on the site of a for­mer Ge­or­gian house, the Pálás hosts three screens, a restau­rant, a café and of­fices in a cast-con­crete tower whose many sides make the most of a com­pact cor­ner lot. Along Mer­chant’s Road, the fa­cade of the 1820s build­ing has been recre­ated (a plan­ning re­quire­ment) and re­cast as an arched en­trance. Ar­chi­tect Tom de Paor says he wanted the project to be provoca­tive, to chal­lenge the dis­course in a town un­ac­cus­tomed to con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture. But he also wanted to cre­ate some­thing that was of its place. “Much of the town is made out of Bal­li­nasloe lime­stone from quar­ries nearby,” ex­plains de Paor. “The ag­gre­gate of the con­crete we used – a re­con­sti­tuted stone – is from the same place, so it has the same look and feel.” The stoney ex­panses and smaller win­dows are also rem­i­nis­cent of the solid grey ware­houses and res­i­den­tial tow­ers that can be seen around Gal­way. Be­spoke dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments abound and in­clude the ex­te­rior sig­nage, which was cre­ated by punch­ing a cus­tom type­face into the build­ing’s fa­cade and lin­ing the let­ters in neon. “In re­al­ity there are two type­faces; the first is a 75-mil­lime­tre con­crete re­lief, the other is made from 10-mil­lime­tre glass tube. Both are hand­made – one cast, the other bent,” ex­plains de Paor. In­side the seven-storey tower, vis­i­tors are drawn through raw con­crete stair­wells lined with in­dus­trial light­ing and ex­posed elec­tri­cal con­duits be­fore ar­riv­ing in pol­ished and op­u­lent au­di­to­ri­ums and eat­ing spa­ces. De Paor de­signed all of the build­ing’s light­ing, in­clud­ing the flat­tened steel chan­de­lier in the café. The ar­chi­tect col­lab­o­rated with late Ir­ish artist Pa­trick Scott on what is un­doubt­edly the tower’s most dra­matic flour­ish: its resin-coated win­dows. In­spired by the gel fil­ters used on cam­eras and stage lights, the 22 small, sapele-framed open­ings fea­ture geo­met­ric pat­terns – painted be­tween glass lay­ers – in cap­ti­vat­ing shades of am­ber, orange, pink, red, green and blue. Scat­tered at var­i­ous un­ex­pected heights, they add colour and de­light and are a coun­ter­point to the mass of the build­ing, says de Paor. “They’re like lit­tle pro­jec­tors that play off the con­crete.” Dur­ing day­light hours, vis­i­tors emerge from screen­ings to meet flut­ter­ing com­po­si­tions of colour re­flected on the walls. At night, the multi-hued win­dows and red-and-green neon signs be­come a kalei­do­scopic in­vi­ta­tion to en­ter this rich and un­usual build­ing.

LEFT: The three screen­ing rooms are draped in red fire-rated vel­veteen to im­prove acous­tics. The plush seat­ing is from Quinette Gal­lay, in France.

RIGHT: The bar is one of the best in­te­rior spa­ces from which to ex­pe­ri­ence the win­dows (by late artist Pa­trick Scott) and their play­ful pro­jec­tions.

ABOVE: Con­crete stair­cases zigzag up seven storeys, cast­ing saw­toothed shad­ows amid colour­ful re­flec­tions from the win­dows.

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