Urban Regeneration with Cultural Activation

TypeArt Gallery, Artists Studios, Residential
LocationBallina, Co. Mayo, Ireland
ProgramFoyer, 2 Art Galleries (322m2 total), Teaching Studio, Café, 6 Artist Studios, 6 Living Units
Size1,119 m2
Site960 m2
ClientRoyal Hibernian Academy

A home for RHA West

Marking the RHA's 200 year anniversary and responding to the growing artistic energy in North Mayo, the institution has sought to establish an outpost in this area of the west coast to engage a wider audience and grow its impact. Ballina as gateway to North Mayo offers the perfect location for RHA West. Sited in the heart of Ballina on a cul-de-sac, the town's former Garda Station, which currently lies vacant, provides an opportunity to activate the urban realm while reusing a building that is at risk of falling into dereliction. ACT were engaged to develop a concept design to understand how the needs of the RHA can be met while activating the urban realm.

The new cultural quarter

Sited in between three key cultural institutions in Ballina, the site of the old Ballina Garda station provides an opportunity to anchor this area of Ballina as a cultural quarter that is permeable and pedestrian friendly.

Merging new and old

To meeting the project needs, the proposal retains the main station building which can be converted into artist's studio and living spaces and add a new block to the rear which will house the gallery and teaching spaces. This creates a play of old and new, public and private that centres around a sculpture garden.

A transition another world

The journey to experience the work shown at the RHA West begins before its front door. From the time when you turn off the busy main street, you begin to decompress. Spaces become more friendly and intimate allowing the visitor to relax and become engaged.

Spatial Concept

Extending to the street

Walsh street, currently a cul-de-sac is transformed into a place for people to gather with seating and native planting reflecting the landscape of the west in the heart of the town. The live of the RHA West can spill in to the street as it becomes an extension of the Gallery.

Enterance along a lane

At the end of the pedestrian street is a lane that leads to the main entrance. This is the destination that draws visitors passed the old station doors which will now act as entrances to the living and studio spaces. This laneway entrance also offers the opportunity to connect into the neighboring Mary Robinson Centre.

Gathering in the foyer

The foyer is the point where all routes intersect. This provides clear way-finding and a place for visitors to meet.

Immersed in art

The Galleries are designed as minimal spaces where the art on display is the focus. It's a place to contemplate and engage in the world that the artist has created.

A sculpture garden escape

A void between the old and new building, the sculpture garden provides and external reprieve between the galleries. This brings light into the galleries and the living and studio quarters of the existing building.

Ending the experience

The café acts as the end of the gallery experience where visitors can relax with a drink. It's external terrace looks out over Ballina's River Moy and provides and view to the town's Cathedral.

Ground Floor

First Floor


Concept Design
  • Inna Stryzhak
  • Simone Broglia
  • Kevin Loftus