Ryan Kennihan

Vita House . Roscommon

Ryan Kennihan · Vita House . Roscommon  (1)

Ryan W. Kennihan Architects . photos: © Alice Clancy . + divisare

The building is an extension and renovation of a detached townhouse on Abbey Street in
Roscommon town. It provides counseling rooms and a large meeting hall for the family counseling centre and charitable organization called Vita House and its broader community.

The site is highly sensitive as it overlooks the town’s primary church, the Sacred Heart Church, while the existing building and its neighbours on Abbey street are part of an architectural conservation area. The design therefore seeks to be a ‘good neighbour’, presenting a simple and quiet exterior, inspired in part by the simple pitched roofs and rectangular windows on the road as well as by 18th century buildings like the City Assembly House in Dublin which contain a variety of unexpected spaces behind modest facades. The reserved exterior allows the church to continue to dominate the surroundings and relies on subtle tectonic details and asymmetries for richness. Eaves beams, lintels and banding all in concrete recall the limestone detailing of similar scaled buildings on Abbey Street. Lintels serve a structural purpose as well as a spatial one, changing their height to create openings appropriate to the room behind while openings shift across the façade in a Georgian game of balancing internal symmetry with external asymmetry.

Internally, the design arises from the client’s desire to create a peaceful welcoming place which can be a central part of community life. The simple volume belies the variety rooms within including a large meeting space whose domed ceiling and serene atmosphere allude to the religious associations of the client organization and the neighboring parish church. At a smaller scale, each counseling room provides a quiet character, each distinct from the others. All of the rooms are unified by a coloured plaster lining and an articulated ceiling providing richness to the interiors on the tightest of budgets.