Detail of the O'Reilly Theatre at Wexford

21 May 2009 : Wexford Opera House wins RIBA European Award

The Royal Institute of British Architects has announced that Wexford Opera House by Keith Williams Architects with the OPW has won an RIBA European Award. The six-strong list for the RIBA’s European Awards also includes Tony Fretton Architects for Fuglsang Kunstmuseum in Denmark 

The citation reads…”The incongruity of a major international opera house in a small Irish town is reflected in the boldness of Keith Williams’s design. The building itself, like its predecessor, is almost invisible from the surrounding streets, and even the unassuming entrance is a replica of what previously existed: a modest entrance foyer in a small domestic-scale street. From there however the building unfolds into an atrium space that links all three levels of the auditorium. This is a place for the audience to promenade, for people to see and to be seen, as they ascend an elegant walnut staircase that introduces the language of the auditorium itself. Ascend the last flight of stairs and you emerge in a restaurant that has extraordinary views not only over the town but the distant landscape and harbour beyond. At last you see where you are.

But it is the auditorium that provides the inner sanctum of the scheme, surrounded by layers of spaces front and back of house and in turn by layers of the city. Here the rectilinear geometry of outer layers gives way to the sinuous curves that are generated by sight lines and acoustics – a poetic allusion to the sound box of a cello with the rich resonant quality of timber lining not only the curved balcony fronts but the walls and even the ceiling above the grid. The richness of walnut, combined with the still new-smelling leather seats provides an appropriate sense of luxury akin to the sensuousness of the interior of an old classic car.”