Athlone Town Centre can be seen as a new urban quarter adjacent to the footprint of the historical quarter of the town. The site is an assemblage of infill and backland plots, ‘brownfield’ uses and semi-derelict structures comprising c.2.9 hectares in the centre of Athlone. Its location and physical attributes are fundamental to the architectural and urban design approach pursued.
The challenge, to insert a large mixed use development in to an historic setting, was assisted by the shape, topography and particular features of the site. The project is about ‘stitching and mending’ existing streetscapes, and making connections and spaces, as much as it is about giving appropriately authentic contemporary expression to its core function, the retail centre.
Exploiting the site gradient effectively conceals all parking, servicing and delivery facilities on two subterranean levels, eliminating vacuous expanses of surface parking and allowing the range of new buildings to extend towards and integrate with existing development on all edges. A new order is overlaid on the site, imposing a pattern of streets and lanes, squares and courtyards on land that was hitherto excluded from the fabric of the town.
The project accommodates an appropriately diverse use-mix incorporating 66 retail units; 148 residential units in disaggregated blocks of apartments and townhouses set around squares, courtyards and playgrounds; restaurants and cafes; a crèche and a primary healthcare facility; and a 170-bed 4-star hotel rising to an 11 storey signature tower at its core, heralding the commercial centre of town.
Hotel DevelopmentThe 11 storey hotel is the central iconic element of the eight acre mixed-use redevelopment in Athlone’s town centre and it will have a pivotal role in promoting and sustaining day and night activity throughout the week and year. Comprising a tower on a two-storey plinth, the hotel accommodates 170 bedrooms; two restaurants; a bar; a generous foyer; a function room; meeting/seminar rooms; a spa and leisure centre and ancillary service areas.
The majority of standard hotel rooms are arranged around a raised internal courtyard / terrace that can also be used as an outdoor space for larger functions. Guests can cross this courtyard through a glazed link to the bedrooms in the tower on floors five to nine which offer breathtaking views across the flood planes of the River Shannon through a floor-to-ceiling glazed facade. The top two floors of the tower comprise four penthouse suites and a bridal suite with a mezzanine bedroom level and private roof terrace.
The majority of the shared public spaces, including the hotel foyer, restaurant and function room, are located in the two-storey plinth. The basement of the building accommodates a spa and leisure centre comprising changing areas, treatment areas, a tepidarium and an extensive retail area offering pedicure and manicure services. A number of the treatment rooms are expressed as copper boxes and dramitically cantilevered into a double-height pool hall. Both the spa and leisure centre benefit from high class, durable materials such as granite, limestone, glass mosaic tiles and solid oak.
Like the new shopping mall and apartment buildings, the hotel has a modern contemporary look. The tonal range of external finishes, from the sophisticated curtain walling to the tower, through to the use of sandstone, is warm, light, responsive and visually rich.
By treating the skin of the accommodation blocks differently, and by introducing a curvilinear geometry to one ‘wing’ any potential negative impacts of mass are mitigated. The quality of the interiors and materials reflect and surpass the high standards of a new four-star development and create a relaxed athmosphere that embraces hotel guests and visitors with a sense of warmth and comfort.
A restrained, well-balanced palette of colours carries the eye through all public spaces, yet subtle twists give each area their distinct character. Warm natural stone and dark mahogany and wenge are the prevalant materials.These link an array of different spaces, ranging from the introverted spirituality of the spa to the understated luxury and richness of the large ballroom.