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House 4, Firhouse, Republic of Ireland by TAKA Architects

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[5 houses by 5 practices] This week the AJ features five houses: three in England, one on the Isle of Man, another in Ireland, each marked by a unique materiality, whether in stone, roughcast, timber or mirrored metal

House 4 is a new-build dwelling located in Firhouse on a semi-mature housing estate typical of Dublin’s outer suburbs.

Up to the late 1970s, the area was rural in nature. The current context was laid down virtually overnight. These pebble-dashed, pitched-roofed, semi-detached houses were built to identical designs regardless of location or orientation. Although somewhat maligned as an architectural approach to mass housing, over time the estate has matured, resulting in a robust context with its own character.

Prior to the arrival of the housing estates, Knocklyon Castle (located 200m from the house) was the only building in the vicinity. Now it has become inundated by suburbia, it appears somewhat out of time with the general context. This new house seeks a similar relationship with the suburban context, to be viewed as an ‘erratic’ - something both like and unlike its neighbours. The design seeks to balance the desire to engage with suburbia while also marking itself from the surrounding typologies by being specific to its place and time.

The house is located on the former side garden of a corner house. The plan is generated by the largest two-storey footprint allowable within planning restrictions (including a set-back from an underground sewer) and the site.

The front door addresses the adjacent cul-de-sac by being located on what would typically be the side elevation.

Internally, the plan is largely based around the requirement to have four rooms upstairs within the compact form. To achieve this, the stairs arrives in the centre of the plan at first floor. The first floor structure in turn splits to accommodate the stair. On the ground floor, the location of the stairs separates the spaces into kitchen, living and dining spaces in an otherwise open plan.

The external materials and form take their cue from neighbouring buildings - concrete-tiled pitched roofs and roughcast pebble-dash walls. However, the house differentiates itself at the level of the detail. There are no overhanging eaves and the window sills and frames are suppressed, to give a taut, abstract quality. The roughcast is of larger aggregate and left unpainted so that it can weather naturally over time. This approach seeks to connect the house with the older rural buildings dotted around the suburban landscape.

Internally, the ground floor communal spaces are lined with birch plywood fitted furniture, which varies in depth to hold anything from shallow shelves, to window seats, to a fitted kitchen. The first floor is broken into four rooms, each with individually tented roofs. Three bedrooms and a bathroom, the typical requirement of a suburban house, are accessed from a central, mirrored landing space. Through this approach of ‘lining’ individual spaces, the interior world of the home can be freed from a direct reflection of the external form and its contextual obligations.

Cian Deegan, partner, TAKA architects

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