RICHARD HURLEY & ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS
Glenstal Abbey Guesthouse
The new guesthouse at Glenstal Abbey is the first phase of a significant building programme for the Benedictine community. The guesthouse responds to the unique character of the wooded and sloping site. The plan reflects these contingencies, using a circular staircase drum as a fulcrum joining the different levels of accommodation and giving access to the first floor guestrooms. This circular drum echoes the numerous stone towers and battlements which have a strong presence in the 19th century Barrington's Castle, first inhabited by the Glenstal monks when they came to Ireland from Maredsous in Belgium in 1927.
The dog-leg plan has a welcoming lower courtyard, warmed by the sun and the abundant use of timber. The glazed south facing corridor links the lounge and social areas with a two-storey wing of en-suite guestrooms, all having south facing orientation.
The accent of the building is one of domesticity, responding to the age old Benedictine concerns for hospitality and welcome. The building materials are carefully chosen to relate to function, climate and site -wood and slate predominate in an enchanting woodland setting.
The concern to create a feeling of domesticity means exploring the scale of the building in terms of human scale and feeling. Being at home in a guesthouse means just that - feeling at home. Memory and association with the familiar is important as well as acknowledging the virtue of domesticity over monumentality, interiority over exteriority and hospitality over formality. Exploring the nature of wood brings with it an understanding of the silence of the forest and its relationship with the building, shielded but not cut off from the day-to-day activities of monastic life.
The guesthouse at Glenstal offers a place of withdrawal, of reflection and a place to listen to the silence.