2022 was a tumultuous year for McGurk Architects, in which we experienced the highest of highs and, unfortunately, the lowest of lows.
After some months on the drawing board, February saw the commencement of works site to the New Gate Arts and Cultural Centre, in the Fountain area of Derry City. This significant project which includes the refurbishment of a historic building and a significant new extension, to include a theatre and dance studio, was one which Colm McGurk was particularly excited about. He attended site daily and his collection of hand sketched details are a treasured reminder of how his fingerprints are all over the design. The works continue to progress well and the building is due to open to the public in February/March 2023. It is expected that this project will transform the area, injecting new life and opportunity.
In March, we welcomed Danish artist Thomas Dambo and his team to Ireland. Colm had carried out a significant amount of detailed research into the history, geology and heritage of the Sperrins, to devise a concept for a ‘Sperrins Sculptural Trail’ project tender for three N.I. Council areas, and after presenting his scheme to Derry & Strabane District Council, Mid Ulster Council District Council, and Fermanagh and Omagh Council, McGurk Architects in collaboration with Thomas Dambo were awarded the contract.
The Giants of the Sperrins are at three separate sites; Ceoldán, the Stargazer at is at Davagh Forest; Darach, the Guardian of the Sperrins at Mullaghcarn, and Nowanois, Now Now is at Cranagh. There will be an official opening and public launch of the Giants in 2023.
On 29th April 2022, at the RSUA/ RIBA awards ceremony at Queens University, Belfast, McGurk
Architects won the “Holy Grail” of Architecture, the Liam McCormick Prize for Building of the Year. Colm McGurk accepted the award for the Arás Uí Chonghaile, the James Connolly Visitor centre on the Falls Road, Belfast.The project was also awarded the Integration of Art award, and Project Architect of the year award.
The retrofit project was constructed within 6 months and was designed to answer a complex brief; to reconnect a disconnected building; to be protective yet welcoming; progressive yet respectful of the city’s built heritage, and all within a restricted £760k budget.
This was a project Colm was heavily invested in and passionate about, which culminated in a memorable and emotional speech when accepting the award. The scale of this achievement cannot be underestimated and it is something of which Colm was immensely proud.
More awards followed for the practice; in June 2022 Colm and Fergal travelled to Mansion House,
Dublin, for the Building and Architect of the Year awards. We were finalists for Green Architectural
Practice of the Year, Building of the Year – Medical & Health (Belfast Back Care & Physiotherapy Centre), Building Refurbishment of the Year (Belfast Back Care & Physiotherapy Centre) and were delighted that Fergal Rainey was the worthy winner of the ‘Rising Star in Architecture’ Award.
Spring 2022 could not pass without a reference to Derry GAA’s championship run and Ulster title success. As a long time sponsor of Derry GAA and former manager of the senior hurling team, Colm was ecstatic when Derry won their first Ulster title since 1988. It brought a smile to all faces when staff arrived to King Street on Monday morning to find a huge banner erected on the front of the building, wishing the Derry team good luck.
By the end of Spring 2022, the significant £2 million redevelopment of the Roddy McCorley Heritage Centre on the Glen Road in West Belfast was well underway. The steel frame was erected, and the building was beginning to take shape. Following the success of neighbouring projects in the Gaeltacht Quarter, Colm was thrilled that the project was progressing after a tricky tender period when construction prices were beginning to soar. Colm, alongside Fergal Rainey, used their design skills to adapt the design and provide innovative solutions to get the project on budget while ensuring quality was never lost. The project is due to be completed early in 2023
Sadly, in July 2022 our Director and company founder, Colm McGurk, passed away after a short illness.
Colm was a great business man with huge skill and ambition. His unique energy, drive and passion for his profession was unmatched. His charismatic personality, intelligence, foresight and ability to quickly assimilate situations, and devise solutions to complex design issues, earned Colm a well deserved reputation within Architecture and construction circles, and brought many commissions through the door of the practice which otherwise would have been considered too large or complex for a small firm in Mid Ulster. The huge number of tributes written about Colm, in press articles and online, are testament to how loved and respected Colm McGurk was. He leaves a chasm of a void, and is sorely missed. We would take this opportunity to send our condolences again to Colm’s wife Sinead, daughters Orla, Aoife and Medb and son John.
We would like to thank everyone for their messages of condolence and support over this time.
As we look forward to 2023, we set out with a determination to continue the business of McGurk Architects, Colm’s legacy. We have been working on a range of new, exciting projects including a number of new sport and community developments for St Teresa’s GAC, Saul GAC and Sky Blues FC, to name a few. A number residential and commercial projects are also processing through detailed design stage and are due to start on site soon, with further projects in the pipeline for the regeneration of West Belfast.
Our team at McGurk Architects remain committed and determined to continue to design and deliver projects of the highest quality and standards, and take this opportunity to wish our clients and colleagues a happy and peaceful 2023.