St Mary's Church Opens Tuesday the 28th of February

St Mary’s Church in High Street Kilkenny is finally to be open to the public as a museum on the 28th of February 2017. The project is unique in Ireland in its relationship between new and old fabric- part of McCullough Mulvin’s ongoing exploration the relationship between the past and contemporary architecture. The scheme involved the complete conservation of an important medieval church with the addition of significant interventions. Conservation work was based on careful survey and analysis, allowing the retention of existing fabric in almost every instance; the dramatic early 17th century roof structure was pieced together; a gap in the ceiling was retained to expose it in the finished work. The floor was renewed as Kilkenny limestone plane turning and rising to form ramps and balustrades. In its original form, St Mary’s had acquired depth and complexity in monuments and nave aisles, elements which were later shorn off, the aisles removed, the chancel demolished- a shape expanding and contracting, already through a violent cycle of change. The project intention was to restore the church as a museum, retaining some of the 20th century interventions, and re-constructing the North aisle and chancel to the original plan, but a different materiality – timber and lead- using the base of the original walls in an non-interventive way. The new elements restore something of the spatial complexity of the original building, and release a dynamic series of fixed and moving views through windows, screens and old arches. The project is about observation, looking at and looking through, being still and moving- a gaze and meditation on the past. The  new chancel room overlooks the town, re-establishing its dominant form in the urban landscape; the space beneath it becomes a tomb-filled undercroft observed through a glazed floor; the room is visible through the original East window from the nave; rooflights in the aisles are directed down through the floor to levels of archaeology below. The project was completed by McCullough Mulvin with Carrig Conservation, O'Connor Sutton Cronin structural engineers, Brendan Merry and Partners QS, MMA Environmental M and E for Kilkenny County Council with Duggan Brothers and Kilkenny Archaeology in November 2016; the subsequent fit-out was designed separately by Bright 3D.