Westmeath County Council’s new county buildings in Mullingar have won the 2009 OPUS Architectural and Construction Award for the category of buildings over €20 million. The new county buildings were opened on June 11 and marked the culmination of a two year construction project which has been completed on budget. The new buildings provide significant improvements in public services in an environmentally friendly manner.
The Awards concept is based on “a holistic approach devised to promote architectural design and build quality that rises above pure utility to combine all that is practical and necessary within a building that is meaningful, humane, and beautiful. It also acknowledges excellence in the construction process that combines management and teamwork with workmanship, ingenuity, creativity and performance against programme”.
“The drawings and photos submitted for this building did not do it justice. A site visit revealed a set of new and historic buildings interacting in an ingenious manner. The timber and glass atrium roof straddles various buildings, linking old and new in an engaging manner. The new complex is innovative, sustainable, modern and respectful of its historic setting. A credit to all involved,” commented the judging panel.
The Council has successfully provided an energy efficient building that provides comfortable working conditions, while working within its strict capital and operational budgets. The 74,900 square feet county buildings incorporate low-energy, passive design concepts relying on a natural ventilation strategy throughout the building and maximised the use of natural light.
In recognition of the historical significance of the site the original county buildings (built circa 1910 - 1913 ) and the Governor’s House built as part of the gaol (circa 1825 century ) have been retained and refurbished.
The remains of old gaol walls have been be made visible around the new building and are being incorporated into a landscaped park. Significant elements of the old gaol walls are also visible beside Blackhall Lane, beside the new housing section and to the north adjacent to Fitzsimon’s Yard. The wall of the female prison, which is the oldest structure standing on the site, is now prominently on view from gaol hill.