Tuesday 17 October 2017

Grand designs? Take part in the big vote for Ireland's House of the Year


Tireighter Cairn in Derry
Tireighter Cairn in Derry
The Coach House's entrance hall and swept-cast concrete stairwell
The Child's Play Tower treehouse by Neil Kane
The 17th century barn exterior
The interior of Pembrokestown Coach House, a home within an historic and protected building in Waterford
The cheeky sunken kitchen by Boyd Cody at Teeroneer in Co Clare
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

If you sink your kitchen right down into the floor to make a kitchen 'pit', then is it swish and clever or a misguided misnomer and an accident ready to happen?

A lit-up mini back garden 'high-rise' tower with a humungous drawbridge - heaven for children to play in or another health and safety faux pas? Are houses that comprise minimalist lines without fuss with oodles of hidden storage svelte, clever and cool? Or are they cold, souless and dreary?

Now you get to decide.

Today, the Irish public finally gets a chance to pass judgement on the works of our most cutting-edge home designers as an online vote gets underway to find the best designed Irish home of 2017.

The Child's Play Tower treehouse by Neil Kane
The Child's Play Tower treehouse by Neil Kane

In advance of the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards, which will be held on June 23, the Institute has just launched a Public Choice vote for Ireland's favourite home of 2017. Joe and Jill Public can also act as jury, judge (and executioner) to vote for the country's favourite new building, place or public space overall - be it office, factory, library or private home.

But the category we are concerned with today is the House of the Year vote, which includes a shortlist of 16 residences from all over this island.

With a generation having grown up with Dermot Bannon and Kevin McCloud passing televised judgement on the abodes and aspirations of punters, it's finally time for the Irish public to judge the home designers.

So which house will you opt for?

Will you be counting the pennies and embracing the planet with the energy-saving genius of the Cork house by Wain Morehead Architects? This is certified to an incredibly rare A1 BER rating and to Passive House Standards. This means tiny energy bills - likely to be only a few hundred euros all year - when others will spend thousands powering and heating their homes. It has solar panels, water recycling and even the ability to charge an electric car.

Or will you be charmed by the aforementioned sunken kitchen of the house designed by the often subversive Boyd Cody practice at Teeroneer in Clare. The new two-storey home has been built in the footprint of an old farm dwelling with built terraces. You might decide it's the ultimate in kitchen cool to have the floor as your work surfaces - or if you have young children, despair that your little ones could so easily disappear from view, finishing upside down in the fridge as they run carelessly across the room.

The 17th century barn exterior
The 17th century barn exterior

Then there's Price Lane in Dublin, its genius defined by the designer's ability to get so much into so little - the house represents a tight fit into a very restricted site in a narrow laneway in Dublin City Centre. It has been dreamed up by starchitects ODOS (whose work has regularly featured in the international design magazine Wallpaper). The family sized house maximises light despite its restrictions and presents some interesting vistas across and down through its stairwells.

If you like a dramatic show, how about the converted 18th century Pembrokestown coach house in Waterford by dhbArchitects. The practice simply built a whole new house fitting entirely flush and snug inside the old protected structure. It has its own purpose-designed gym on the ground floor for a young disabled adult resident and glass internal walls let you see the original 200 year old stonework and different layers of old plaster.

If you like a bit of brooding mystery, what about Tireighter Cairn in Derry, designed to reference ancient standing stones and neolithic wedge tombs nearby with internal and external lightwells and picture views over the Sperrin Mountains.

For sheer fun, you'll find the aforementioned "playtower" by architect Neil Kane, who fielded the brief from an underaged client to design a treehouse that should be "tall, square and yellow (not pink!)".

To participate as a judge in the quest for Ireland's best designed home of 2017, simply log on to the homepage of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland website at www.riai and select the "public choice" section. The 2017 shortlist includes 60 projects across 13 counties, of which (not surprisingly) a majority of 32 are located in the capital. Online voting is open now and will continue until next Friday (June 16).

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