Constructed in 1861, the Model School faces the Mall in Sligo. The brief for the project was to house the town's significant collection of Jack Yeats paintings under optimum environmental conditions, to facilitate international exhibition loans, and to host contemporary visual arts exhibitions. A small performance space was required for music and film.The project offered unique opportunities for dynamic intervention to make a modern gallery and public space, working with the existing section and geometry, completing its incipient pinwheel and creating new circulation patterns to link old and new work. In the new building, rear yards were enclosed with west facing rooflights to generate a central atrium- around which all activities are organised.
The Niland Gallery, a rectangular cedar and zinc clad box containing the environmentally stable gallery spaces at first floor, slides across the north side of the plan to enclose and animate the new atrium; a cafe is tucked under the gallery at ground floor. There was careful intervention into the existing fabric to block or open doors and niches and remove accretions to make better exhibition space, creating conditions for visitors to enjoy the texture and grain of the Victorian building.The entrance remains through the old front door. From this oblique view, the intent of the circulation is revealed, a diagonal route of staircases stepping up the steep slope of the site, mediating between the existing entrance and the new gallery.
Environmentally, the new galleries are designed to achieve Museum and Galleries Commission standards of environmental control without air handling or conditioning. Temperature, relative humidity and lux levels are controlled by a building management system which monitors louvres, dampers,humidifiers or dehumidifiers, windows and blinds in a continually changing equilibrium.
NOTE: The current extension to the Model Arts & Niland Gallery is not the work of Mc Cullough Mulvin Architects.
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