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North Pier Baths and Tearoom, Portrush, Northern Ireland

Part 1 Project 2013
David Magennis
Queen's University Belfast Belfast UK
Artifact as Locus

Adding to the Harbour?

Portrush is a small coastal town facing the North Atlantic, located on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Its urban condition is not dissimilar to many other British and Irish coastal settlements where the grain of the town is grounded by the harbour, formerly important but now relegated to be only a vestige and reminder of earlier times.

For me Aldo Rossi’s “artifact” illustrated the role of the harbour within the town. With this I began the search for a way to adapt the harbour, so it could regain its significance within Portrush. The design of a bathhouse suited this aspiration, providing an opportunity for visitors to contemplate the town’s connection, temporarily and spatially, to both land and sea.

My response was to first consider the bathhouse as a continuation of the harbour’s bedrock, with certain rooms of the building appearing as continuation of the rock. These incidental rooms are then unified into a single object by the addition of the clearly different, lighter pitched volume, sanctioning the new rooms of the rock outcrop in having a new use. The lighter element becomes the device that allows the manipulation of the rock to be viable as a scheme, supporting the notion of the continuing artifact: the harbour of Portrush has a new use in providing a bathhouse for the people of the town.

Along the rocks, individually housed seaweed baths afford the opportunity for visitors to have a private audience with the sea; the lowering platform reveals the horizon to the bather, inviting light, sea and sky into the volume; a room of communion with sea and sky.

This idea of permanence versus the building’s weathering is used to adjust its image in the mind of the public. The canvas skin and the timber clad seaweed baths fade until repaired, set against its more robust concrete and copper elements. Thus the only constant remains the addition to the physical rock of the artifact: the concrete towers. These then become the image with which the people of Portrush can identify with and relate to.

David Magennis


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