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Within Ruins: An Artists Sanctuary

Part 1 Project 2013
Emily-Jane Harper
Ulster University | UK
In the centre of Dublin the 11th century ruins of St Nicholas Within Church sit overgrown and forgotten, passed by many but noticed by none. The ivy creeps over every brick of the religious ruin and around the ironwork in the window openings. The metal is cast into the word ‘pax’, the Latin for peace, one of many signs that the site is ideal as sanctuary from urban chaos and busy life.

The project was to design an exhibition space, a workspace and living space in Dublin for Professor Philip Napier, his family and his guests. He currently lives in Northern Ireland, but commutes to Dublin on a regular basis to fulfil his responsibilities as head of the faculty of fine art and sculpture at the National College of Art and Design. The new design will extend his life in the North by creating a base in the South. Professor Napier is an internationally recognised installation artist, who challenges preconceptions and brings issues such as trauma, identity and power into the public consciousness. With the majority of his time dedicated to being an artist and a lecturer, he expressed that he has an obligation to always be performing. With only one meeting with Philip it was important to try to see past his performance and attempt to ascertain what was important in such a personal space; this new home will offer sanctuary from his obligation.

Hidden behind the old stone walls and the untreated larch façade of the house, Philip Napier can enjoy the beauty in the flawed while creating the new. The use of timber is sensitive to the ruin, both aesthetically and in construction. Programmatic spaces gradually tier up from beneath the ground, creating a journey for the professor that culminates in the discovery of his own space, where he can relax and observe rather than be observed.
Over time the façade will weather, the plant life will flourish and the building will become part of the site, offering a hiding place for the artist and his art.

Emily-Jane Harper


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