The new €18 million building provides Ireland with a significant new arts space to showcase contemporary visual arts and theatre of national and international importance. It will function as an arts factory for the production of new work through artists in residence programmes as well as providing a new home to the Éigse Carlow Arts Festival and Visualise Carlow, which has established a significant reputation in Ireland in the last 30 years.Unique to Ireland, VISUAL features an expansive gallery space with a ceiling height of 12m to accommodate large-scale sculpture and installation, the scale of which has not been easily accommodated in Ireland to date.Since its launch in September 2009, Terry Pawson Architects’ VISUAL & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre has been honoured in four awards ceremonies, winning: • Civic Trust Award 2010• Irish Concrete Society Building & Overall Award 2010• RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) EU Award 2010• RIAI (Royal Institute of Architects Ireland) Irish Architecture Award 2010 for Best Cultural Building. Located in the centre of Carlow Town in the picturesque setting of the grounds of St Patrick’s College, the new building faces onto a generous grassed quadrangle shared by the College and the town’s eighteenth century cathedral. The building formally closes the quadrangle, firmly embedding the centre in its immediate urban context and the town of Carlow at large. Terry Pawson Architects won an open architectural competition for the centre, organised by the Royal Institute of Architects Ireland (RIAI) in 2004. The 3,726 sqm 3-storey building occupies a much larger footprint than the original competition proposal, a strategy which was made possible by the council’s approval to remove neighbouring ruined stone wall. The larger site affords sufficient space for the two characters of the centre – the gallery and theatre - to be expressed and unified within one coherent form. The building presents itself as an assembly of different sized volumes clad in opaque glass raised on a concrete plinth, with the largest gallery at its centre and smaller galleries and theatre spiralling around it. Designed to be viewed from all angles, VISUAL confidently asserts its architectural form to visitors who arrive on foot through the grounds of the College and to those who arrive by car from the car park to the rear. The muteness of the opaque glass harmonises with the neutral grey of the town’s local limestone. The glass provides a blank canvas to absorb natural light in the day and project more dynamic low-level lighting at night. During the day natural light filters into the main galleries creating a calm introspective environment conducive to the production and appreciation of visual art. At night the façade is illuminated, projecting a more exuberant glowing presence for the theatre and performance space. The entrance, located on the South elevation, opens into a foyer of cast concrete and dark timber which leads up a short flight of stairs to the galleries or left to the George Bernard Shaw Theatre. There is a clear procession through the galleries; a Link Gallery leads to the Studio Gallery and wraps around the Main Gallery. From the Main Gallery you ascend the stairs to access the black box gallery on the first floor, leaving via a second flight of stairs to complete your route in the foyer.