Thursday 18 January 2018

Landmark restoration of a Dublin Georgian

Award-winning London architect returns to his landmark restoration of a Dublin Georgian

One of the bedrooms in the Camden Row house
One of the bedrooms in the Camden Row house
The hallway
The living/dining room
The exterior of the property.
The shabby chic multi-coloured front door of No 22 Camden Row
The sunroom leading out to the garden

Mark Keenan and Eithne Tynan

THE work of Mark Guard and his London based design house – Guard Tillman and Pollock – is best known to the super rich who dwell in the British capital's poshest portions.

That's because Guard's apartments are among the world's edgiest – the sort of suave warehouse conversions, lofts and penthouses we only get to see the insides of in a coffee ad, a style glossy or maybe a Bond movie.

One of Guard's penthouse creations in Paris even got him shortlisted for a Stirling Award – the Booker prize of architecture and a prestige gong which only tends to be considered for great, worthy and big civic projects – almost never for the piffling private pads of the pathologically self-pandered.

Over the decades the firm has designed and redesigned minimalist apartments in Kensington, Soho and Fitzrovia where they've made a name for their unique brand of retro furnishing in the early 1930s modern style. Their work has featured in Wallpaper magazine.

But a quarter century ago, the Dublin born architect who hails from Blackrock was firmly focused on Camden – Camden Row in Dublin 8 that is – and a 1980s project which involved bringing the 1930s to the 1830s.

The then new owner of 22 Camden Row, a Georgian-style one over basement built in the 1830s, had called in Guard (who had only just joined forces with future practice partner Keith Tillman) to apply the 1930s modernist "white" design philosophy to the quaint inner city home.

From his offices in London he adds: "I studied for architecture in Toronto University where I spent almost all my time learning the principles of the 1930s modernists.

"To me the style might be considered retro, but at the same time it is a look that never really dates. It's a philosophy of space and optimism that still has appeal and function today. We believe that good design should do more than merely resolve the brief – that it should inspire and enhance the spirit.

"The really interesting thing about Dublin in particular is that it has plenty of "white masterpieces" scattered around thanks to people like Michael Scott and his contemporaries who were busy building them in the 1930s (think Gerach in Sandycove) and even into the 1940s when the war had stopped them elsewhere."

And in a strange twist of fate, Guard and Tillman managed to enlist the help of UCD's Simon Walker, son of the great Irish architect Robin Walker, one of Ireland's great Miesian modernists and a former student of both Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. "We called on Simon's help for the building end of things. He always liked a bit of building.

"There's always a challenge in working with a period and protected building to apply the modern style. There are certain things you just can't do," says Tillman who recalls very clearly working on the project. "But the great thing is that you get to contrast aspects of the old and the modern that can look really well together, side by side."

Guard recalls: "The bedrooms had been put downstairs and the client wanted them back on the entrance level. One of the biggest challenges for us was to direct the focus downwards as soon as you came in the main door rather than allow an arrival to walk straight into the bedrooms.

"The client knew what he wanted and he liked to entertain – to give dinners and parties – so we needed to create that space on the downstairs level. We knocked the back end off the property to get a conservatory in and bring in some light and Simon was involved in that."

After finishing their Dublin Camden project, Guard and Tillman's work became thoroughly London focused and it was in the British capital's refurbished Victorian warehouses and industrial conversions that they would go on to make their reputations.

Today the "Georgian Modernist" house at 22 Camden Row has been placed on the market and housebuyers can once again see what a 1980s Victorian Modernist refurb looks like.

And it seems to have held up quite well. Compared to that long dated architect designed refurbs done in the same decade which look like the built version of a Don Johnson suit, complete with mullet and shoulder pads, Camden looks positively, em ... modern. From the outside, apart from its characteristic shabby chic multi-coloured front door (arrived at when the owner sanded it down to reveal layers of different paint from 200 years back and then decided to leave it), number 22 Camden Row looks like a reasonably typical, Victorian city-centre cottage, in a typically fetching shade of duck egg.

Number 22 is on Dublin city council's list of protected structures, so that material alterations to the exterior of the house have always been forbidden.

Inside the 1,292-square-foot house is all white surfaces, timber floors and open-plan airy rooms running in those geometrically stringent lines of which modernist architects are so fond of.

On the first floor, off the hallway inside the fanlit front door, are the two bedrooms, one with cast-iron fireplace and one with marble, and the main bathroom.

Below, at garden level, is a dining room leading through sliding doors into a living room with a solid-fuel stove. which opens into a sunroom with wall-to-wall glazing and French doors to the garden.

There's a galley kitchen (6ft by 13ft 6in) adjacent to the dining room, and a utility room with a door to the front garden.

Also on this level is a study with a fitted desk and shelving, and a shower room.

Outside, the back garden measures around 470sq ft.

It's been closely planted with trees, shrubs and container plants, and has a central paved patio.

Number 22 is almost directly beside DIT Kevin Street, and St Stephen's Green is less than 500 metres away.

The agent for Number 22 Camden Row is Felicity Fox Auctioneers at Andrew Street (01 633 4431) and the asking price is €650,000.

Meanwhile in a strange twist, it seems that Mark Guard et al are becoming popular as restorationists of their own retro works.

"Yes, we're finding that a lot of our projects today are involving clients calling us back to apartments we redesigned decades ago to have them retored again."

So would Guard consider coming back to Dublin in the tweenies to restore a 1980s reworking of an 1830s house in a 1930s style on behalf of the new owners?

"We might ... .if you can get Simon to look after the building work."

Indo Property

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