Clane Parish Centre

Co. Kildare

The complex of buildings at Clane Parish Centre, adjoining the church of St. Patrick and St. Brigid in Clane, comprises the former 1930’s three-storey convent building, the single storey former national school building, and a later nineteenth century single storey ancillary ‘link’ building physically connecting both structures but not originally allowing inter-connecting circulation, all of which buildings are protected structures under the current Kildare County Council Development Plan.

Paul Arnold Architects were engaged to prepare proposals for the conversion of the buildings to form a new parish centre and the developed scheme proposed the sensitive refurbishment and upgrade of the existing buildings. The design philosophy was to ensure minimal intervention and maximum retention of existing historic fabric; where possible a restoration of the historic character of the building through the removal of modern accretions (such as the convent fire-escape and two storey entrance extension); and reinstatement of removed historic features. It was envisaged for the main parish centre activities to occur in the former school building with the main parish hall located here, and for the link building to accommodate a parish office/shop. In addition to this, a new lift was proposed to serve the various floor levels of the convent building and rationalize a link in levels to the school buildings. This lift facilitates universal access of the convent where supplementary community meeting rooms/offices are proposed as part of the scheme.

The existing school and link buildings were extensively refurbished and upgraded in 2008, together with the re-landscaping of the internal courtyard between the buildings, the re-landscaping of the church forecourt and the redevelopment and re-landscaping of the original informal car-park area to the rear of the convent as a modern ‘pay for parking’ car park. The convent building was re-roofed and served with new service connections, but the main renovation of the convent and construction of the contemporary styled lift shaft extension are currently on hold.

The main works to the school comprised re-roofing with associated repairs to existing roof structures and renewal as necessary of existing cast iron rainwater goods; hacking back and replacement of almost all internal plaster which had suffered heavy deterioration due to extensive interior paneling which together with previously applied external cement render had trapped water moisture within the walls; re-wiring; re-plumbing; new kitchen associated with the parish hall: all-new sanitary facilities together; and total internal re-decoration. Joinery elements were repaired or replaced as necessary and original features such as the cast iron fireplaces of the school-room, were restored. An opening at the ‘link’ building to allow for the necessary circulation connection to the convent was also added.

An important historic feature of the convent, the original fine cut-granite gateway forming the original entrance approach from the main road, was carefully dismantled and re-erected in its entirety with screen railings to either side to form a new entrance to the courtyard between the convent and the school, lending this space the atmosphere of a ‘cloister’ while maintaining its symbolic association to the convent. This opened up new through-access from the main road enabling a circulating vehicular one-way system to be installed around the buildings, while helping to define an enclave of the parish centre and providing a semi-enclosed ‘child-friendly’ external space. The dividing wall beside the church was demolished allowed a new civic ‘piazza style’ spatial connection for parishioners.

In designing the lift it was decided to express the lift shaft as an identifiable element which is held clear of the existing building by glazed panels, and distinctly contemporary in design.. This avoids any direct physical affixation to the historic building and also ensures that the eaves line of the convent is not disturbed. It is proposed that the lift shaft would be clad in lead and that the landings would have timber framed glazed walls with pronounced timber articulating mullions. At lower ground floor level the new structure will be clad in Irish limestone, thus appearing as a podium to the lighter weight structures above.