Athlone’s art gallery - the Luan - has won a coveted Civic Trust award at a ceremony at the iconic Winter Garden in Blackpool, England.
The Civic Trust is Europe’s oldest architectural award ceremony, and has recognised over 6,000 buildings accross the world during its 55-year existence.
“The town council is delighted that this wonderful and exciting new arts venue which is superbly located at the centre of Athlone, on the majestic River Shannon has won this prestigious international award and congratulate all who were involved in its design and construction,” said town clerk Pat Keating.
The €3.5 million Luan Gallery was commissioned by Athlone Town Council and Westmeath County Council, and has also won the RIAI Best Cultural Building Award in 2013.
It was designed by London-based Keith Williams Architects, and is the first purpose-built venue for the display of contemporary art in the Midlands.
The gallery sits on a spectacular site overlooking the Shannon close by Athlone Castle, the Shannon Bridge, and the church of St Peter and St Paul, is centred around the remodelled historic Father Mathew Hall, a former Temperance building.
After a campaign by local activists to save the 1897 Father Mathew Hall from demolition was successful, the project involved its adaptation into a new gallery, and saw the addition of a new-build wing to provide temporary white box gallery spaces, and a river gallery overlooking the river.
“This project has radically altered the existing building with the accretions added over time having been swept away leaving the core form intact, and the elevations modified by the introduction of new large glazed panels opening up the building to the river and the Shannon bridge. The new wing has provided contemporary gallery space with black-out capabilities to enable multi-use gallery, lecture theatre/cinema for film exhibitions, meeting space for literature, music, drama workshops, and digital art exhibitions,” said Richard Brown, the director in charge of the project for Keith Williams Architects.
The two galleries are linked by a glazed entrance from the main road, and by a linear river gallery facing the Shannon.
The palette of materials for the new gallery wing is limited to limestone and zinc.
The Luan is Keith Williams’ third project in Athlone, having earlier completed the civic offices and library between 2001 and 2005, and the army memorial in 2009.