Bon Secours Hospital, Chapel

Bon Secours Hospital

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  In contrast to the functionality of the hospitals rectilinear forms, the chapel finds its own expression metaphorically derived from ripples created from stones cast into a body of water. The ripples randomly intersect each other, linking together to form a fluid curve that encloses a space of still water.

The Chapel has two curved walls, one which is translucent and the other opaque. The east facing translucent wall (glass), addresses the dawn of everyday and the west facing opaque wall (concrete), addresses dusk of everyday.

Inspired by the ecclesiastical tradition of stained glass windows the curved glass wall provided the opportunity to explore colour and form. Stained glass was considered but the segmented method of this art form would work against the curvature of the wall. A more fluid solution was required and the option of commissioning a painting was explored.

The depth of colour and abstraction of form of Hughie O’Donoghue’s liturgically inspired works lend themselves to this project. On describing the concept of the project to Hughie, he was immediately enthused about his work being shown in a different way – in this case being illuminated from behind.

Hughie O’Donoghue responded by depicting the liturgical cycle on the 4.8 metre tall by 11 metre long curved glass wall. The glass wall is made up of 9 panels of curved glass each segment derived from two radii. By using two radii only two glass moulds were needed and it allowed us to curve the glass wall in two directions forming a sense of enclosure. Hughie works with oil paint and builds his painting by a process of layering materials. For the first time Hughie’s work was going to be illuminated from the rear and the task was set to see how we could achieve his layering technique and retain the vividness of his colours in glass.

The chapel is orientated on an east-west axis. To the east the curved glass wall containing Hughie’s depiction of the liturgical cycle is illuminated by daylight. As the day progresses the sun’s rays hit the wall at different angles illuminating the individual elements of the story until dusk. To the west a curved concrete wall imprinted with timber grain in a board on board manner encloses the building.

The contrasting sides of the chapel reflect the life cycle. The joy of new life, the rays of the rising sun penetrating into the chapel core and continually illuminating Hughie O’Donoghue’s painting until, as with life, the brightness of the suns rays can no longer shine and only shadows remain. The concrete wall has a timber grain cast into its solid mass and is impenetrable to light.  As recorded in the liturgical cycle and depicted in Hughie’s painting the Risen Christ symbolised by bright yellow/orange colours, life is breathed back into the world on the following day by the rising sun illuminating the cycle once more. Again we can experience the liturgical cycle depicted by Hughie’s painting which is illuminated by the sun as it follows its daily course over Galway Bay.

The flowing wall of glass and concrete reflect movement and eddies as if created by moving water. Water a symbol of the healing process. Eddies provide places of calm and stillness, a place to allow a person to be at peace.

As night falls, artificial light within the chapel illuminates the glass wall and the liturgical cycle can now be interpreted externally as if in defiance of the natural darkness of the night.

Opus Building Awards 2008 – Art in Architecture Winner

Domus, April 2007
Irish Arts Review, Autumn 2006

(Project Director Murray O’Laoire Architects / O’Connell Mahon Architects)


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