This 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 singular folded roof encloses very different volumes, rising and falling like a small mountain range from a strong base - the boardwalk extended over the river. Crisp zinc planes define the library/media zone from the arts and theatre spaces, the entire building cranking to face the river with sheer planes of glass. 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 long thin space with its volume pressed to the river, a deep cut in the ceiling plane right through the research floor brings light and air to the centre of the plan at reading spaces and the issue desk. The exhibition space has a similar slice through the roof plane orthogonal to the first to conduct daylight through a huge rooflight sitting across the upper terrace, giving unexpected views of the work on exhibition below. An introverted, reflective space, its walls splay out towards the riverfront, taking up the geometry of the site. Shielded behind the monolithic concrete entrance wall, the 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. Piercing the heavy concrete wall of the theatre, the control room is suspended over the café/bar. 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. Internally the theatre stage is equipped with full flying and rigging as well as an orchestra pit, totally flexible raked seating and a balcony, which presents to the stage a wall of expectant faces. Acoustics are designed to favour both spoken word and music performance by an adjustment of the proscenium arch.
Throughout the building colour is used to code and focus– red for information, orange for vertical circulation, white and black for concentration and relaxation. Seen from across the river these coloured zones resolve themselves into large scale gestures of connection in the case of tubes of orange stairs rising diagonally behind glass, intense dots of red marking out information areas, calm white zones of research and introspection, spots of black indicating more expansive night uses. Externally the boardwalk floats towards the river over a sunken car park, closed off with a slatted cedar screen. A new civic space beyond the building opening to the river can be used for garage sales, craft fairs and farmers markets.
COMPLETED: September 2006