It's back to the future for these time-travelling Cork architects 

Jack Coughlan Architects scoops prestigious RIAI award for transformative urban renewal work at historic Nano Nagle Place 
It's back to the future for these time-travelling Cork architects 

Sister Bride, Presentation Sister, board member, Nano Nagle Place, Jim Corr, former chairman, Nano Nagle Place, Gareth O’Callaghan, director, JCA Architects, and Shane Clarke, chief executive, Nano Nagle Place. Pictures: Gerard McCarthy

LEADING Cork architects have scooped a sought-after national design prize for their urban planning at city-centre oasis Nano Nagle Place.

Jack Coughlan Architects (JCA) was unveiled as the winner of the prestigious Royal Institute of Architects (RIAI) Award for the Urban Design and Master Planning of the historic building at Douglas Street.

The announcement was made at a virtual award ceremony at which another Cork building was also honoured, with the Cork Butter Museum receiving a commendation for workplace fitout.

Aerial view of Nano Nagle Place. 

Aerial view of Nano Nagle Place. 

The annual RIAI awards are among the most prestigious architectural awards in the country. 

 The awards are organised across 13 categories with the jury looking for projects that have produced a creative, intelligent, innovative and quality design.

The jury described Nano Nagle Place as "an exemplar urban renewal project demonstrating how large redundant building complexes can be sensitively transformed, with a varied mix of uses to create a very attractive destination that positively contributes to the surrounding area. The success of the completed project is on many levels, the sustainable reuse of historic buildings retaining their overall character and significance, the transmission of the site's values and the continuity of the memory of the original religious community, the re-organisation of private space to make it more accessible and to provide a contemporary meeting place and the considered and multi-layered professional approach and teamwork required for successful urban renewal and place-making of sensitive heritage”. 

Nano Nagle Place is an integral part of Cork heritage and is home to over 250 years of architecture and landscaping that has been carefully conserved. The buildings, steeped in history, range from an Ursuline convent and school buildings, built by Nano Nagle in 1771, to an 18th-century graveyard and tomb, a Victorian gothic chapel and a 2016 garden café.

Coming to work there is “a joy” according to Nano Nagle Place chief executive officer Shane Clarke. “We’re over the moon that the JCA Architects have won this award,” he told the  Irish Examiner.

Nano Nagle Place, Douglas Street, Cork. Picture: f22

Nano Nagle Place, Douglas Street, Cork. Picture: f22

“Nano Nagle Place aims to be a shining light for sustainable heritage and community-focused urban regeneration and development. JCA and the wider design team took forward the vision of the Presentation Sisters and have wrought a stunning but historically sensitive transformation of over three acres of convent architecture and landscaping dating back to the late 1700s.” 

As well as weaving a modernist home for the University College Cork/Cork Institute of Technology School of Architecture into the design, “their masterplan is helping drive regeneration in Cork’s historic South Parish neighbourhood,” he added. It’s a joy to come to work at Nano Nagle Place. Cork is culturally richer for such a restoration and evidence that heritage investment is investment in our shared history and in our living communities!” he said.

JCA Architects, founded by Jack Coughlan in 1985, worked on the conservation and new architectural design renewal project with Nano Nagle Place for over four years, with initial engagement with the Sisters occurring as early as 2002.

Nano Nagle Place. Picture: Clare Keogh

Nano Nagle Place. Picture: Clare Keogh

This RIAI Grade 1, multidisciplinary architecture and conservation practice has developed a wide range of experience in various areas of conservation and provides an exceptionally high level of expertise within the practice.

Michael O’Sullivan, former development director, Nano Nagle Place, Sister Bride, Presentation Sister, board member, Nano Nagle Place, Jim Corr, former chairman, Nano Nagle Place, and Gareth O’Callaghan, director, JCA Architects. Pictures: Gerard McCarthy

Michael O’Sullivan, former development director, Nano Nagle Place, Sister Bride, Presentation Sister, board member, Nano Nagle Place, Jim Corr, former chairman, Nano Nagle Place, and Gareth O’Callaghan, director, JCA Architects. Pictures: Gerard McCarthy

With a European client base and many years of conservation experience in combination with the ethos of contemporary design that the practice is committed to, JCA’s approach is a combination of conservation with a contemporary intervention. 

JCA has worked on numerous conservation projects in Cork such as the redevelopment of Camden Fort Meagher, The Lifetime Lab at the former Cork City Waterworks, the conversion of Cork Savings Bank, Lapps Quay and the restoration of Saint Patrick’s Bridge.

The project has been “an enriching experience” over the past number of years, said Gareth O’Callaghan, director at JCA Architects. “The conservation and design of Nano Nagle Place has been one of the most memorable and career-fulfilling projects that we have had the pleasure to work on,” he added.

“The design process was a real team effort that would not have been possible without the Presentation Sisters, chairman and the board of directors at Nano Nagle Place, who were an integral part of the journey and had such clear vision from the beginning, that really steered us all forward.” 

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