Martyrs Kirk

Adaptation of a valued church into postgraduate study space

St. Andrews University took ownership of the category B listed St. Martyrs Church in 2012, with the vision of converting it into an attractive reading and research rooms for the use of academics and post graduate students of the Faculty of Arts. The quality of this new academic fit was enabled through a dynamic dialogue with the university where we were able to determine the functions of the reading room, the activities to take place within these settings and the furniture required to support these activities. Crucial to the outcomes of this consultation was the idea of creating intimacy within the greater volume.

Martyrs Kirk is on North Street, within the heart of St. Andrews Conservation Area. The proximity of the Church to St. Salvator’s Chapel, the oldest part of the University, makes the site particularly sensitive, so much so that North Street is contained within an Archaeological Area of Regional Significance. The church was constructed in 1926-8 by James Gillespie and James Scott Architects, on the site of the 1844 Martyrs Free Kirk. Martyrs Church closed its doors in 2008 when the congregation merged with another Church of Scotland in St. Andrews as part of a rationalisation of church provision by the local Presbytery.

The University required an attractive reading room for Special Collections and Faculty of Arts Post graduates. This was to differ from the main University library and be more of a traditional style reading room for individual quiet study. The Special Collections Area had to meet security requirements for short term storage and collection / delivery of Special Collections from the main storage off site.


We developed the University’s original brief by carrying out a series of structured interactive workshops with Library staff, Faculty of Arts staff and Post-graduate students where we gained further insight into research methods, working styles, activities, functionality of the spaces and relationship to each other as well as some understanding of the character and vision of the Faculty. These findings were collated into a separate report and were used to inform the overall character of the intervention, the space planning and design of the bespoke furniture.

The crafted book cases and writing tables re-define the interior space as a reading room, addressing the scale of the nave and creating a feeling of academia whilst responding to the ecclesiastical nature of the architecture. By locating the bookcases in-between the arches a new echoing ‘colonnade’ is created framing reading alcoves. This idea of echo is continued in the illuminated bookcase end panels by Bespoke Atelier a reference to the original stained glass of the church.

Project Info

University of St. Andrews
80 North Street, St. Andrews
Internal Floor Area
September 2013
Project Manager
Gleeds UK
Structural Engineer
Dryburgh Associates
M&E Engineer
KJ Tait
Cost Consultant
NBM Cost Consultants
CDM Co-ordinator
CDM Scotland
Bently Shopfitting Ltd
Andrew Lee
Artist Collaboration
Bespoke Atelier
Anglepoise Brochure 2015