Sunday 21 April 2019

Timber and glass boxes with sliding doors: Irish architects throw open the doors to their homes

How do Irish architects live? Róisín Carabine finds out in our special design edition

Architects Cian Deegan and Alice Casey.
Architects Cian Deegan and Alice Casey.
Open House in Co Dublin
Cullionboy in Co Donegal
Photograph by Paul Doherty
Bloomfield, Dublin
The open-plan kitchen/dining room in Mark Arigho's house in the woods. Photo: Ros Kavanagh
The role nature plays in the design is evident both inside and outside
House in the woods, exterior
Open plan living and dining space at Waterloo Lane
The outside view with the folded steel screen
The small shutters at the rear of the build at the Waterloo Lane house
The kitchen
Architect Mark Arigho with his son Alex
Architects Cian Deegan and Alice Casey

As far as architects around the world are concerned, the Venice Architecture Biennale is widely regarded as the single most important design event on the planet. It's where the globe's leading designers, architects and influencers gather each year to showcase their work. This year all eyes will be on Ireland when the 16th exhibition kicks off in Venice in May.

That's because this year's event is a landmark for Ireland; it is being curated by Dublin-based architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, founders of renowned international and multi award-winning Grafton Architects. The duo are the first ever Irish architects to take the helm and the second only female curators. There will also be a strong Irish presence in the main exhibition as well as Ireland's own pavilion.

The invitation to curate represents an immense achievement for the Irish team and for Irish architecture as a whole. The event will give Irish architects an unparalleled opportunity to promote their projects and practice to a global audience.

While many of us are familiar with the work of Irish architects - from unique domestic builds to iconic public spaces - it's their personal projects that pique our interest most.

In celebration of Irish architecture in the run-up to the Biennale, Independent Property presents a special edition where we look inside our architects' own homes. We present seven houses Irish architects have designed (and in some cases built) for themselves, from a multi-level super mews to a reimagined 8,000sq ft former Georgian bank, to a semi-subterranean eco house. Between them they represent a smorgasbord of what's on offer in homegrown talent and design for any one of us with a budget for a dream home.

Architect John McLaughlin's home that he shares with his wife Anne and two children is a contemporary timber and glass box with sliding doors that maximise views of the garden, as well as providing direct access to it.

The property sits on a small infill site, originally the vegetable garden of a 1930s house, in a residential street in Glasthule, Co Dublin.

"Every town and city has underused spaces like this that can provide wonderful opportunities to be built on," says McLaughlin.

Because of concerns about overshadowing, the site initially had planning for a dormer but McLaughlin was able to convince the planners of a two-storey house with a flat roof and push up its size.

"The challenge was to design something modern but it had to be functional and practical too, and well insulated with lots of light and glass and underfloor heating. I also wanted to make the garden part of the living space with an easy transition between the two," says McLaughlin.

The interior layout provides flexible living accommodation with four bedrooms upstairs and an almost entirely open plan space at ground level which can be zoned off when required by pulling across two sliding glazed screens.

To the front and rear, McLaughlin has added full height timber framed windows which slide open to the garden, seamlessly connecting the spaces while flooding the rooms inside with natural light and views.

"While every aspect of the build has been carefully and thoughtfully sized and studied, we were conscious that it should be adaptable," says McLaughlin.

"Making things that are life-long and loose-fit are guiding principles of our design philosophy. When you're creating a space initially you can't predict all that's going to happen in it or how it will be used over time so the design can't be too rigid."

An accomplished architect with years of experience under his belt, McLaughlin's own home was actually his first domestic build. "I had previously designed bridges and museums in Britain and Paris and also worked as head architect for the Dublin Docklands Authority where I was involved in the master planning of Grand Canal Square," he says.

It was also his first self-build and his first time working with timber. McLaughlin describes the process as "stressful but interesting; a real eye-opener. I've now a better perspective and understanding of how everything works, or is supposed to. Design and building is definitely a collaborative process.

"What I've created is a made-to-measure home that's very much our space. Even when I go on holidays I'm always delighted to come back."

It has bagged him an RIAI commendation for House of the Year 2014 and an Architectural Association of Ireland Award 2015.

Waterloo Lane house, Dublin

by Alice Casey and Cian Deegan

Architects Cian Deegan and Alice Casey

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.

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