VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre is a new state of the art multi-disciplinary facility featuring an area of 3,130m². The centre comprises a 294-seater performing arts theatre, four principal gallery spaces (Main Gallery, Studio Gallery, Link Gallery and Digital Gallery) as well as theatre bar facilities, a full service restaurant and concession areas.

Recognising the importance of quality design when creating a world-class gallery space, Carlow Local Authorities involved the RIAI to organise a design competition for the build, which attracted 119 entries. The award winning London based company Terry Pawson Architects were selected from this process. The design of the space challenges the traditional idea of a sequence of gallery spaces where the visitor walks through interconnecting rooms, to one where there is a ‘Link Gallery’ that acts as a central hub, off which all the luminescent white gallery spaces extend. The Link Gallery allows a harmony to be created despite the disparity in size of the exhibition spaces, and also functions as the entrance to the building. Also, in response to the dual of use of the building – both as an exhibition space and as a theatre – Pawson used translucent glass for the exterior cladding, the glass giving an introspective feel to the building in the daytime when it would generally function as a gallery, whilst for theatre openings the low-level lighting behind the glass will illuminate the structure to create a glowing evening presence.

Located in Carlow Town in the grounds of Carlow College, on a site generously donated by the Trustees of the College, the €18 million project will act as a flagship building and will attract visitors to the County both internationally and from across Ireland.

VISUAL will provide a space to display temporary exhibitions of contemporary and other art of local, national and international standing and will also offer new spaces for Éigse Carlow Arts Festival and Visualise Carlow. The scale of the Main Gallery is without precedent in Ireland, allowing the display of large contemporary art installations, being 29m long by 16m wide with a clear ceiling height of over 11m, providing an excellent space for the exhibition of large scale contemporary art. The Studio Gallery is a flexible space designed to act as a workshop/education outreach facility or studio for fostering artists-in-residence programmes. The Link Gallery takes a robust industrial aesthetic approach, a doctrine that is apparent in surfaces throughout the building whilst the Digital Gallery provides a generous space for the exhibition of various multimedia displays.

The George Bernard Shaw Theatre contrasts the interior design of Visual, with splashes of red accenting the interior, from the seats, through to the bar with a hint in the building lobby. The theatre will receive national, international and regional touring productions as well as locally produced work. It will also be used as the home venue for a number of Carlow based amateur and professional groups. The performance space is designed to ensure optimum and dynamic presentation across all of the performing arts; music, theatre, dance, as well as film and literary readings and associated workshop space.

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre would like to welcome your visit, where you can drop in, have coffee, lunch or dinner, browse our galleries or have a great night’s entertainment. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Contacts in Visual, Centre for Contemporary Art
and The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

Carissa Farrell

Theatre Manager:
Róisín McGarr

Technical Manager:
Joseph Flavin

Technical Assistant:
Andrew Neaves

Marketing, Sales and Box Office Manager:
Emma Louise Ryan

Front of House Assistant:
Caroline O’Brien

Front of House & Bar Manager:
Paul Allen