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Oriel Centre at Dundalk Gaol

Deaton Lysaght Architects created a fully accessible centre for music tuition for Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in a nineteenth-century protected jail building, with a steep flight of steps leading up to the main doorway and to narrow, stepped cell doors.

Our solution impressed the Architectural Heritage Advisory Unit of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who included our work in Dundalk Gaol in their advice guide, Access: improving the accessibility of historic buildings and places, in 2009, the year after it opened to the public. We formed a new, conservation-appropriate entrance to the side of the Dundalk Gaol accessed by a bridge, widened a single doorway to allow access into the atrium and into the cells on the other side. The cells were interlinked by opening up the party walls between them thus allowing public access to the new facilities without altering the wall of the atrium.  An accessible toilet was provided at entry level. The first floor contains a number of rooms used as offices, archive, research, dressing rooms and sanitary facilities. The main public facility on this level was the archive/research area.  To create wheelchair access to this level would have involved very significant alterations to the building fabric which would have been detrimental to its special character. To avoid this, it was decided to provide a dedicated research room on the ground floor adjacent to the administration office which could be used by anybody who was unable to access the upper level. This room is electronically linked to the archive and thus a researcher with mobility impairment can access all the necessary facilities from ground floor level.