Surrounded by market gardens, Rush is something of a well-kept secret. North of Malahide, it has a seaside village feel, even if most of it seems to ignore the stunning coastline and views of Lambay island. Perhaps this is because of the pull the now-demolished Kenure House once held over the place (only the portico remains), or perhaps former generations didn’t romanticise the sea in the way that we do. Anyway, the centre of Rush, with its village green (now a car park), 13th-century tower, theatre and church, is further inland. The old church takes prime position, and it is now one of the most beautiful libraries in Ireland. A newer church stands behind.
The conversion was carried out by McCullough Mulvin architects, and even though it was concluded last year, it only recently opened to the public – having fallen foul of public-service recruitment embargoes. Those hiccups can be forgotten, as the architects have created a truly amazing space for locals and visitors to drink in, use and enjoy. “I love the condition of Rush,” says Niall McCullough as we stand on an upper balcony in the building, watching light play across the nave. “I love the edges, all this work is about edges, edges between this and that and that. What a great place to build. If you live in Ireland, being next to the sea is going to be great anyway. So to put a library in a disused church by the sea – wow. How great can that be?”
Interesting, thoughtful, and also great company, McCullough’s enthusiasm is infectious. The building is freestanding, so changing patterns of light and weather move right around it. “We have this love affair with the weather, we talk about it all the time. We claim to suffer from it, but it’s extraordinary.” Before the architects could work on creating and inserting the walnut structure that draws attention to the beauty of the building, rather than obscuring it, they embarked on a major project to bring it back to life. “You have to restore it before you intervene, but the point is you also have to let the building’s history tell its story.”