Thurles Art Centre and Library stands on a critical site in the centre of Thurles, Co. Tipperary beside the town bridge which leads into the triangular-shaped Liberty Square. On the opposite bank is one of the medieval tower houses which give the town its strong character. The scheme incorporates a new library, an art centre and a 240 seat theatre in one building; each function is expressed as a volume under an undulating roof open towards the river onto a generous boardwalk. The building’s geometries arise out of its very particular location, crouched like a cat at the medieval gate of Thurles and stretched around a bend in the river Suir. A folded roof encloses very different volumes, rising and falling like a small mountain range from a strong base; two storeys of library and research space are coupled to the high volume of the auditorium by the lower entrance and arts space. Folded between these peaks
of activity is an upper terrace, focus of daytime community activity and an evening bar/café. In plan the building is similarly cranked, each zone mapped into trapezoidal volumes which master the bend of the river. In the library, a deep cut in the ceiling plane right through the research floor brings light and air to the centre of the plan. The exhibition space has a similar rooflight sitting across the upper terrace, giving unexpected views of the work on exhibition below. Shielded behind the monolithic concrete entrance wall, the introverted, reflective, exhibition space can be glimpsed through a porthole when arriving, or alternatively closed off for hanging. The theatre foyer is similarly a compressed volume – vertical this time – caught between auditorium and boardwalk. Large glass doors slide back to open the café and foyer to the boardwalk, and from the upper foyer the audience expands out on to the upper terrace overlooking the town.
Text and images from :Mccullough Mulvin