Office of Public Works with Keith Williams Architects’ new Wexford Opera House
Opera lovers across the globe have been flocking to Ireland for the Wexford Festival Opera for the past half a century. But in recent years, Madame Butterfly’s future in County Wexford had been looking shaky. Despite various refurbishment programmes, the Theatre Royal, the festival’s former home, had become a decrepit building in which it was becoming increasingly difficult to stage opera. Prior to the project’s inception in 2003, the festival contacted the Office of Public Works Architects, a 2,000-strong practice, which manages all state buildings in Ireland, for advice on yet another make-do refurbishment. OPW’s answer was: forget it – hereon, a new building on an expanded site is your only option. The festival then set about acquiring the Theatre Royal’s adjacent local newspaper printing works, and the architect put out a competition for a full design team. Enter Keith Williams Architects, BD’s 2006 Public Building Architect of the Year, and lighting designer Sutton Vane Associates. The architect and lighting designer had previously worked together on another Irish project, the Athlone Civic Centre, in County Westmeath, for which Sutton Vane won the 2005 National Lighting Design Award. For Wexford it has created a 350,000 (277,000) centrally controlled lighting scheme.