It is interesting to note that the building has received awards under various design headings confirming the comprehensive excellence of its design. It is undoubtedly a magnificent tribute to the many people involved in the delivery of the building. The principal design awards received to date are:
1. Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland RIAI Award 2009 - Best Cultural Building.
“The Wexford Opera Festival is one of Ireland's leading cultural institutions. It now has an exceptional new home. Contained within a bold contemporary form that rises above the town, its entrance and streetscape are by contrast modest and discreet. The circulation spaces and bars are comfortable, sociable and designed to be flexible in accommodating a variety of associated uses. Particularly memorable are the break-out areas with panoramic views out over the town and the sea. The highlight of the building is the wonderful auditorium, which is traditional in spirit and contemporary in expression, delivering a quite beautiful and memorable performance space”
2. Royal Institute of British Architects RIBA European Award 2009.
“Essentially this building (National Opera House) is a triumph for its dedicated client group (Wexford Festival Trust), for the town of Wexford, and for Ireland and the world of music. The critics of the international opera have yet to give their verdict, but one suspects that the technical acoustical and design team have delivered a small but perfectly formed opera masterpiece”.
3. American Institute of Architects
AIA Excellence in Design Award 2010 – Winner in the category of Townscape
The National Opera House was described by the jury as “an exceptional insertion into Wexford's historic skyline. The jury admired “ the skill with which this very large building has been embedded in the town such that from many angles it was barely noticable, yet from the waterfront its large scale has been successfully orchestrated through careful arrangement of its forms, resulting in a rich townscape composition alongside Wexford's two Puginian church spires. Internally the scale and elegance of the main auditorium, which only revealed itself after entering a modest entrance door in a modest street, impressed, heightening the sense of drama on entering the building. Overall, the Opera House was noted as making an exceptional contribution to its urbanity whose designers had understood to a very sophisticated level how best to respond to the spirit and grain of its locale and its context”.
4. Civic trust (UK) Award Winner 2009
The Civic Trust Awards scheme was established in 1959 to recognise outstanding architecture, planning and design within the built environment. The jury's report was as follows: “Located on a very tight sloping, irregular shaped site, the visually stunning new purpose-designed opera house contains two theatres, back stage facilities, bar and cafe, hospitality areas, dressing rooms and chorus rehearsal rooms. Internally, the main auditorium is the centrepiece around which all other spaces are organised. The entrance foyer is located in the reinstated terrace buildings and leads into the main foyer which is a magnificent triple height space with a large glazed window which cranks over to form part of the roof. The uppermost level has wonderful panoramic views across the town, Wexford Harbour and the bay. Accessibility has been well considered and movement is simple and straightforward. Various rooms for workshops and practice areas are provided for various local groups and provide an amazing resource for the town”.
5. Society of Theatre Consultants (UK)
Winner of the Quadrennial Award for Practical Design Excellence 2010.
The building design competition focused on the harmony which can be achieved when a building both attracts and inspires an audience whilst providing an environment in which the actor, designer and director can create an economic and effective performance.
The Award is presented to new or refurbished performing arts spaces which, in overall design and practical operating experience, have shown themselves to be the highest achieving in the complex and sensitive amalgam of the performer-audience relationship; making the work of performers, technicians, designers and directors as fulfilling as possible; and the audiences experience pleasant and complete.
“This is a modern opera house in the top European echelon. And I use the word operahouse in its Centeral European context as a theatre in the tripartite tradition of presenting sung, spoken and danced performances ...... a cornucopia of coalition. Generously wide upholstered leather seating, most of the side seats angled towards the stage or as loose chairs in boxes ..... and the small proportion of the side seats facing across the auditorium are so wide that it easy to pivot the body rather than twist the neck towards the stage. Warm timber everywhere .... the grain patterns providing a myriad of textures that were once promised with concrete shuttering but never really achieved ..... with a possible exception of Karlsruhe. The word for the stage and its technology is optimum – everything one needs but no excesses. No opera house has a more domestic entrance ...... set unobtrusively into the terraced housing of a narrow street, it leads into the first sequence of welcoming foyers that take full advantage of the sloping site to offer panoramic views out over the rooftops to the harbour and countryside beyond .... and , by the way, the quality of food matches the quality of the view. The detailing shows evidence of everything being really thought through and addressed with flair.
The National Opera House is an exemplary piece of Design Excellence to launch the Society of Theatre Consultants new Award”.
6. Bank of Ireland Opus Architecture and Construction Award
Opus Award Winner in the over €20 million category 2008
The handsome main auditorium was aptly and metaphorically described by the judges by the comment that “the Opera Hall is a finely formed musical instrument in beautifully crafted timber” and was admired “for the way it slots into the town and because it serves its purpose well”.
7. The Irish Times Theatre Awards Special Jury Award 2009
8. Zurich Local Authority Members Association Award
LAMA Award 2009 – Best Contribution to the Local Community
Sunday Times – Hugh Canning, 26th October 2008
“Wexford’s new opera house is a success beyond the wildest dreams of the patrons who have flocked to this sedate corner of the south-east to encounter works rarely, if ever, mounted by mainstream metropolitan companies during the past 57 years.”
“Good as the revamped Glyndebourne theatre is, it pales in comparison to Ireland’s new opera house....looks classier, sleeker, smarter and more intimate.....But for the stellar debt of Williams’ opera house, ‘The Mines of Sulphur’ would have been the hit of the year.”
Financial Times – Andrew Clark, 20th October 2008
“But this former fishing town in south-east Ireland finally has an opera house worthy of its internationally renowned festival...it is a state-of-the-art opera house with all the comfort, style and sophistication that its predecessor could never aspire to.”
The Independent – Michael Church, 21st October 2008
“Ireland has had to wait a long time for its first proper opera house, but patience has been rewarded: the beautiful building now shoehorned into Wexford’s tight little streets is an architectural triumph..the acoustic and sight lines are well neigh perfect.”
Architects Journal – Kieran Long, 16th October 2008
“The auditorium is a fantastic achievement. There are some cosmetic similarities to Hopkins’ Glyndebourne but I find Wexford much more satisfying. At Glyndebourne the auditorium constantly reminds you that it is a kit of parts, but Wexford is a taut and modelled skin of timber, which distorts and shifts, but is always whole. The steeper lines of the balconies, ending beautifully as they turn toward the stage, are fabulous from every angle especially the stage.”
Architecture Ireland – Liam Tuite, October 2008
“What has been achieved is remarkable”