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2002 – Market Place Arts Centre, Armagh

Architect: Glenn Howells

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The Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre is Armagh’s state of the art cultural and conference facility in the heart of this historic city, in the city’s old Market Place. On a steeply sloping site, where an old cinema had existed until its destruction by terrorists, the centre continues the parapet line of taller buildings at the foot of the slope. It maintains a low profile against the top of the hill and is barely visible from the Church of Ireland Cathedral above.

Well received by the architectural community its nomination for The Stirling Prize for Architecture was followed with a high commendation from The British Construction Industry Awards. The British Construction Industry Awards are open to building projects that demonstrate all-round excellence. Judges were looking for buildings that gave benefit to the community, that showed environmental harmony, and that showed enterprise and ingenuity. The principal aim of the awards is to recognise excellence in the overall design, construction, and delivery of buildings.

In receiving its high commendation the judging panel said of The Market Place Theatre: “It is a quite exceptional temple-like building spliced into the urban fabric of Armagh on the steep slope to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Enormous efforts went into keeping the external profile of the building low so it would not affect vistas of the cathedral.”

They continued: “Smooth stone and plaster finishes inside the art gallery, cafĂ© bar, restaurant and main circulation areas are elegantly Spartan. The near 400 seat main auditorium is a joy with intimate sightlines and acoustics. Swivelling seats along the side balconies are a particularly delightful detail. All looks perfection, reflecting the care of those who designed and built it.”