The public library of Rush, a town north of Dublin, is located in the deconsecrated church of St Maur, formerly an arts centre. In 2007 the Fingal County Council gave the go-ahead to convert the building - an 18th century structure in local grey stone remodelled along typically Victorian lines with Gothic windows, leaded glass panes and stocky belfry.
The conversion brief was given to the architect practice of Niall McCullough and Valerie Mulvin. The renovation programme was intentionally discreet. Preliminary research was conducted into the original materials, and the former structure and historic features, like the slate roof and Gothic windows, were preserved and restored.
Inside, the original building became the shell-like container for the sequential layout of the new function. The distinction between the pre-existing architecture and the new library volume is immediately apparent. The two elements are nonetheless linked, the library’s spatial distribution being a function of its vast, light-filled shell. White plastered walls further highlight the presence of the historic container and amplify the artificial and natural lighting, this latter increased by the addition of a skylight.
The library layout follows the church plan, starting at the main church door and proceeding up the nave towards the apse. Enhanced by the diffused light, the outer walls remain ever visible. Spaces and luminosity broaden out in the transept and apse to accommodate a range of functions from reading room to active arts centre. Set at a slight angle to the nave, the asymmetric yet smooth two-level library volume provides a series of oblique views as it unfolds. The Interior walls and floors are clad with american black walnut. The upper level stands on slender metal columns and is divided into two separate reference-library blocks.
The balconies face each other across the nave. On one side, the parapet is a low wall; on the other, the area is enclosed by high panels broken by a single large aperture. The glazed parapet continues the sense of space and visibility of the surrounding environment. On the ground floor, the broken line of the reception desk further underlines the progression towards the wider space at the end of the church.
On both sides, a narrow corridor runs between the outer masonry walls and the library structure. Services and accessory functions are located in the side chapels and sacristy while the confessional cubicle has been turned into a music listening booth.
Outside, a luminous glass cube protrudes from the top of the tower while the forecourt has been paved with strips of concrete inset with the name of the town and the library, interspersed with channels planted with grass.