Connecting with the outside
How do architects live? Róisín Caribine finds out
House in the woods, Foxrock, Dublin by Mark Arigho
Dublin architects Arigho Larmour Wheeler describe themselves as a design-led and client-focused cross-border practice that designs and delivers 'well-crafted buildings with a strong connection to their context and particular consideration of issues of sustainability, heritage and material'.
When founding member Mark Arigho created 'House in the Woods' as a home for himself and his wife, TV presenter Laura Woods, and sons Ben and Alex, it was a chance for him to practise what he preaches to its fullest expression.
The Arts and Crafts-inspired 'tree house' built in his in-laws' overgrown garden in Foxrock, Dublin sits one metre off the ground on mini piles, nestled snugly in among mature towering Scots pines, sycamores and cypresses.
"The design is very much dictated by its sylvan setting and immediate neighbour but also the wider context of the Architectural Conservation Area," says Arigho.
"Usually development plans are all about the streetscape; in Foxrock it's about the landscape," adds Arigho, who had to consult with an arborist and design the house's foundations before going to planning with his ideas.
"It was definitely the biggest challenge of the project but it has also brought the biggest benefits."
The role nature plays in the design of the build is evident both inside and outside. It's a house that actively engages and interacts with its setting. Thoughtfully placed windows offer views of the landscape while others open out to within almost touching distance of the trees. A stoop provides a contemplative spot where the family can take in their surroundings.
"It's purposefully not overly complicated or unnecessarily huge either," says Arigho of the 1,991 sq ft home that manages to squeeze in four bedrooms on the upper floor, which has a smaller footprint than the ground level, and an open-plan kitchen/dining room, living room, play room and separate reception below.
The exterior takes its cue from the Arts and Crafts heritage of the neighbourhood without being a pastiche. It's constructed in concrete soap-bar blocks finished with a skim of plaster and white paint and topped with terracotta tiles. "I got the builder to purposefully knock the blocks out of sync to help soften the overall mass," he says. At first floor level, painted vertical timber cladding around the openings further breaks up the massing.
It's every architect's dream to design their own home and Arigho feels he's a better architect for having done it. "It's definitely given me more confidence in my ideas because I know first-hand that they actually work and have a better understanding of clients' needs," he says.
"Good architecture is all about enriching people's lives. I'm very lucky to live in a house that I designed myself."
Waterloo Lane house
by Alice Casey and Cian Deegan
Architects Cian Deegan and Alice Casey of TAKA Architects - partners in life as well as in architecture - remodelled and extended a 1990s mews terrace in Donnybrook, Dublin borrowing space from an adjoining garage and replacing its rolling shutter with a striking green, folded steel screen.
The pair originally designed the property on Waterloo Lane to provide a new home for Casey's parents. It has since become home to them and their two-year-old daughter Juno.
"The fact that we now live in it is validation that what we design is useful and enjoyable," says Deegan.
The pair remodelled the mews in 2013, opening up the ground floor to create an open-plan living and dining space and moving the kitchen into the old garage.
Unlike other houses on the terrace, theirs had a side lane that was able to be converted into a new parking space. Upstairs they did very little to the three-bed layout except knock two bathrooms into one.
"The house is only 1,076 sq ft but feels more generous and it has views in three directions, which is crazy for such a small site," says Casey.
The biggest challenge was designing the folded steel screen that replaces the garage's roller shutter.
"It's very unusual in these lanes to have a living space that opens directly onto the lane at ground floor. The screen's vertical fins restrict directs views into the house while giving a sense of openness, so you don't feel like you're in a goldfish bowl," says Deegan.
Although the house was specifically designed to Casey's parents' brief, Deegan says that the design is robust enough to have lots of different uses. The small shutters at the rear of the build are a case in point. Originally designed so Casey's father could feed the birds, it has become a play table for Juno.
The pair love living here. For Casey it's the location. "The house feels like you're in the city. It's busy and urban at the front but peaceful and light and open inside," she says. Deegan says he gets quiet pleasure from the bespoke window that looks onto the rear garden, purposefully designed to borrow views of the neighbours' trees.
Established in 2010, the dynamic practice is best known for one-off domestic builds and extensions, most notably a patterned brickwork mews in Dublin 4 which won them a whole slew of awards, including a nomination for the Mies van der Rohe European Union Award. Half of their work now includes equally eye-catching public projects such as Merrion Cricket Pavilion and Glasnevin 1916 Centenary Chapel, both in Dublin.
The pair have been invited to participate in a group show at this year's Biennale.