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Picture Exclusive: First images of new £1.5M Armagh Culturlann

Armagh I has obtained exclusive images which show how the city’s new £1.5 million Culturlann will look when built.

The development will see the demolition of the old fire station at the Shambles and this impressive new building emerge.

It will be constructed in two phases and our pictures show the work after completion of both the first and second stage.

The impressions put into real perspective how this new ambitious Aonach Mhacha Culture Centre will sit within the existing local landscape.

The design work is being undertaken by da architects ltd, an Armagh-based RIBA Chartered Architects practice, which is involved in work across Northern Ireland and especially within Co Armagh.

da architects is also behind the planned new Tommy Makem Arts and Community Centre in Keady and is currently involved with the restoration of Handel House, one of the famous Seven Houses, close to the planned Culturlann.

Armagh I recently revealed that planning permission for Handel House had been granted approval and the team at da architects are exciting about working on another project that will help lift the physical appearance of a building that has, for some time now, been vacant.

It is hoped that planning approval for the new Irish language centre will be given shortly.Irish Language centre 2

A second application was submitted in more recent times.

And as Armagh I exclusively revealed last month, Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, in response to a question from Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, said she remains committed to the project.

She said it was important outstanding issues were resolved so that construction work can begin.

In December 2013, Armagh I first reported that a planning application for the development – which would sustain 12 jobs and create a further six – was due to be lodged.

And it was hoped at that time that the first phase of the scheme would be completed early in 2015.

However, despite an application having been lodged last July, it is still under consideration by DoE Planning Service’s development control group, although it is expected that approval will be granted and granted soon.Irish Language centre 3

Directors of the collaborative, social enterprise known as ‘Aonach Mhacha’ – the assembly of Macha – had commissioned da architects and Smyth Surveying to draw up ambitious design plans for the proposed development.

These were unveiled before an invited audience of business leaders, political representatives, cultural activists and students from Coláiste Chaitríona, Armagh’s only Irish medium secondary school.

Development of the ambitious, new Irish language facility is still intended to be carried out in two phases.

Phase One will incorporate the “three-storey reconstruction that will potentially transform a derelict eyesore at a gateway site to the city into a landmark piece of architecture that will combine sympathetic, vernacular and traditional Armagh building materials with more contemporary, cutting edge design elements”.

Aonach Mhacha Director, Áinín Ní Eachaidh, when the plans were first revealed, outlined the scale of the project, saying: “Aonach Mhacha is a collaborative social enterprise which will build and manage a cultural centre in the historic heart of Armagh City.  The new cultúrlann will act as a beacon for those with an interest in the Irish language and Irish cultural heritage.

“What we are aiming to achieve is a lively, industrious focal point of activity for the Irish language community and their supporters. The centre will welcome those who are seeking to engage with Irish for the first time as well as with learners and more fluent speakers.

“Aonach Mhacha will provide opportunities for social interaction as well as structured learning and engagement with the language and the broader culture.

“Café, conference and classroom space will be supplemented with a media suite and office space for well-established and new Irish language and cultural enterprises.

“All profits generated by the trading activities of the Aonach Mhacha social enterprise will be reinvested in the Aonach Mhacha building and in cultural, social, arts, educational and recreational projects in the Armagh area.

“In addition, we hope to create space for performances and exhibitions as well as for social enterprise incubation units that will offer the opportunity for the next generation of cultural entrepreneurs to develop business and service ideas in a supportive, cooperative and solidaristic environment.

“Aonach Mhacha will develop and deliver a series of language and community projects which will be additional to the activities carried out by the anchor tenants. These will include language classes, social enterprise training, cultural tourism, art & cultural heritage exhibitions, musical and dance performances, workshops, seminars and community development initiatives.”

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