In Practice; The Design Journey

Published on 18th August 2023 by Wendy Perring

"Blank paper has always inspired me." - Daniel Handler -

A blank piece of paper is both exciting and daunting. It is the wonderful beginning of a design journey. Our process begins with intriguing questions – what are ambitions of our clients, what is the character of the site. 

Beginning the Design journey

Over the past ten years, we have developed a specialism in designing in sensitive and challenging landscape settings through our work in different National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s). It is important to understand the landscape not only in terms of its plant and animal ecology but its history and character. Witnessed at different times of day and if possible, through the year to see how the light changes where the wind blows, and sun moves around the site. Views are important both on to the site and from the site but also from long distances and high vantage points, so we walk and sit and look. Every place is special and unique. Understanding place informs our architectural approach. 

All our projects begin with a delving into the history, why this place is important, how has it come into being, what are the marks and scars on its character and geology over the ages, what are the local materials? Whilst time consuming, we use this knowledge to formulate a narrative about place. We aim to design buildings that enhance place.  

Reflecting on Typology with the Irish House

We recently completed the design work for, The Irish House, our first house in Ireland. Situated within an extraordinarily beautiful plot in Strangford Lough, within an AONB. The new farmhouse is built of lime washed local stone and embedded within the old farm buildings. Topography of the site is one of gentle rolling drumlins with dramatic long views. Views so long the changing weather can be seen well before it arrives. 

The typology of modern farmhouse is an enduring one with the farm kitchen as the heart of the home. This is the place where all the complex characters of rural life, generations, people, and livestock often come together. The comings and goings on the farm all involve the kitchen. Irish farmhouses are organised around a courtyard. Tending to have a working side, where farm meets house and a smarter side which opens out onto the garden which is more gentrified.

The Importance and Integrity of Kitchen

The contemporary farmhouse retains the importance and integrity of the kitchen, giving it the best framed views of Strangford Lough to the south. To a snug area where picture windows frame the evening sun setting behind the Mourne Mountains. The house is in fact an organisation of several buildings old and new. Connected together to shelter from the main winds and form a protected courtyard.  Co- generational living is also a key part of modern rural life and there is a self-contained wing for independent living.

Located within one of the older stone barns, a new contemporary farmhouse grows from the old and adds to it. Walls are painted white reclaimed brick with oxide red zinc roofs (an historical feature of traditional barns and roofs that was made with Iron Oxide added to the lime wash). Interiors are soft off-white clay plaster, on hempcrete walls, with areas of exposed stone. Furniture is crafted from local Irish oak.

Aiming to not only to be the next chapter in the history of the site, but one that takes a well-known typology and adds positively. Making a wonderful contemporary home in the Irish countryside. Our hope is that it will become a legacy for future generations.

A new Chapter with the environment at its centre

Set to exceed RIBA 2030 targets, in both its operational and embodied carbon. A ground source heat pump, MVHR, and PV array with battery storage power the home.

Development sketch of Irish House
Natural interior for farm retreat
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