Friday 22 May 2009

Ballsbridge house wins RIBA award

A house in Dublin 4 by Niall McLaughlin Architects has won one of Europe’s prestigious architectural awards, writes EMMA CULLINAN .

A HOUSE WITH a granite base and glass upper floor by Niall McLaughlin Architects is based on the work of Californian architect Craig Ellwood and Mies van der Rohe but is very much of its place – Dublin 4.

The 490sq m (5,274sq ft) house, which won an RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) award last night, sits in a garden behind a Victorian house on Ailesbury Road. The owners bought the site with planning permission for a traditional-style house. But they had different ideas: “They were keen to have a modern building,” says McLaughlin, who designed a much-featured house in Cork and is working on two more houses there.

The design of the Dublin house takes from local materials and combines it with two extremes of Mies’ work: his inward-looking courtyard houses and the outward looking, glassy Farnsworth House.

These are reflected in the Dublin house’s glass upper floor and its granite base, incorporating two courtyards.

Yet each material has been used in varying ways to create texture and degrees of privacy and openness. The architect took from the granite garden walls in the area as well as the granite Dublin mountains seen in the distance. “I was keen to use the granite in different ways,” says McLaughlin, in places it has been bonded with resin to achieve very fine joints.

The two-storey house sits on a basement/plinth to lift it from flooding: in here are storage and utility areas, a games room and accommodation for guests (presumably during dry seasons).

Surprisingly the main livingroom is in the stone-enclosed ground floor rather than on the bright upper level, but the clients were sold on being private and secluded, albeit having access to courtyards at each end of the room. Two bedrooms and the kitchen are on this level which borrows natural light from the top floor at various points, including through a baffled opening above the livingroom that throws linear shadows, and above the hallway which, along with the stairs, takes centre space in the plan.

Upstairs, given over to parents living and sleeping quarters, the frameless glazing is in multiple layers (flitting between single and double glazed), some with linen embedded between; all allowing for fuzzy or clear views and even a complete blackout. The house’s materials speak to Dublin: “The green glass and crystalline grey granite walls were imagined under Stratus clouds on days that never quite dry out,” says McLaughlin.

Other RIBA award winners include Wexford Opera House by Keith Williams Architects and OPW; a Coleraine house by McGarry-Moon Architects and a Belfast health centre by Penoyre Prasad with Todd Architects.

Irish Times

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