A House in a Garden

A House in a Garden

David Leech Architects
Dublin, Ireland
Project Year
Residential Landscape
David Leech

A House in a Garden

David Leech Architects as Architects

Architects Statement

This project is a contemporary translation of the ordinary suburban house. In their spirit the house is built economically using everyday materials and techniques easily sourced and knowledgeable for a local builder and tradesmen. These materials and techniques are amplified and exaggerated to become something at once ambiguous but familiar.

The house is situated in a garden at the end of a short terrace of a 1940’s suburban estate on the edge of Dublin city. The site is bounded to the south by an existing hedge of hazel and privet, to the northwest by the blank wall of the original terrace and to the northeast by a high wall backing onto a public laneway.

The ground floor layout is derived from the planning requirements for outdoor amenity space. To maximise the presence of the garden it takes advantage of the excellent privacy provided by the thick hedgerow. At the ground level the majority of the supporting walls are located within an internal cross-shaped core, allowing a curtain of timber and glass folding doors to wrap the exterior of the house for direct connection and access to the garden.

Internally a cross-shaped core divides the plan into 4 public rooms: a hall/library, kitchen, dining and living room. These rooms are located according to proportion and orientation and step in section to accommodate ceiling heights of varying dimension and intimacy. A recessed ceiling track allows the rooms to be completely wrapped in curtain when required. The core contains the service and plumbed elements of the plant, wash closet, kitchen appliances, fireplace as well as storage and the staircase. A continuous loop of circulation is along the perimeter.

On fine days, the folding doors can slide back from their corners allowing the house to spread outside - reducing the house’s footprint to the structural core and increasing the area of external amenity.

The gardens are planted to provide a variety of flora, much edible, responding to light, shade, aspect and condition. A south facing terrace is located with a bench built into a new inhabited garden wall. The house has a BER rating of A2 but it wears it lightly not as a badge.

The first floor is laid out with three bedrooms and a bathroom off a small central landing. The landing is lit from a tall roof light contained within an extruded chimneystack and lined in timber panelling up to door height. The landing is one door wide and two doors in length. From this space, panelled doors open into generously proportioned bedrooms side lit from large windows sitting on the skirting of the opposing walls. The ceilings are draped along the pitch of the roof, falling from 4.5m above the sweep of the doorway to 2m around the perimeter.

These rooms are lined in through-coloured Valchromat MDF with a marquetry Valchromat MDF floor. Radiators, sockets, MHVR grilles, sensors and switches are framed within these MDF elaborations.

Externally, the house is treated in a manner similar but exaggerated to the immediate terrace housing. The masonry walls are finished in a pigmented off-white cementious render, deeply roughcast on the garden side and hand trowelled smooth on the laneway elevation and public faces.

A heather coloured fibre cement roof is elaborated with expressed untreated copper crampions, copper guttering and tall standing seam hips. Copper downpipes are used to draw figures across blank parts of the façade reminiscent of a line drawing. Over time these elements will oxidise to a pale powder green.

Where the house meets the laneway a simple gable is projected with the image of a doorway and window set in relief.This is the first project for the office of David Leech architects. 

Clients Statement

The site for our house originally formed part of the side corner garden to no.80 Hollybrook Grove in a housing estate just outside Dublin city centre. The owner/ developer was looking to sell this land with a granted planning permission for a 1 storey 45sqm 1 bed bungalow after failing twice to secure planning permission for a larger 2 storey dwelling from Dublin City Council. The previous applications had all attempted to copy and transplant the estate houses directly onto the site without any adjustment or acknowledgment of the more unusual site location and shape.

We believed that with the right design working with an architect that we could argue successfully for a larger house more suitable to the other family houses on the estate.

After inspecting the previous failed applications we realised that the major obstacle for granting permission was private outdoor amenity which is calculated at a square meterage per bed space hence the council decision to grant permission for only a 1 bed house.

We like gardening and David suggested that instead of the garden being the constraint that this should instead be the source of the project, and the scheme developed from this idea of the house and a garden, not separate entities but one.

The existing hedge and tall boundary walls meant that at ground level we could essentially build a glass house, with immediate direct connection to the outside but private from the estate and above this the upstairs reverts back closer to the more traditional pitched form of the original estate albeit more contemporary in the detailing and materials.

The planners were please this with response. We feel that the outcome is a much better and tuned response to the site than the original granted bungalow scheme which although technically meeting the planning regulations would have felt out of place and scale in the estate. The neighbours are all pleased too.

Working Detail - Roughcast Render

The prevailing materiality of the façades at Hollybrook Grove is a standard mix of pebbledash or roughcast render overpainted with exterior paint in light tones with windows and doors framed in a smoother render of contrasting colour. This exterior treatment was typical of housing estates in Ireland from the 1940s to the 1980s, often to council houses or lower quality housing. The roughcast is a useful application to conceal any discrepancies during quick builds or where less skilled block-layers are engaged and its’ popularity was understandable. Recently, possibly because of these associations, it has become unfashionable. However as a material it has many positive attributes adding texture and relief, it weathers well and is inexpensive.

We were keen to use this material again for our project to bed the house into the locality however we wanted to try and translate it into something new by amplifying and exaggerating its’ inherent qualities.

 We looked at using a proprietary self-pigmented cementitious render rather than standard cement. This meant we could choose a lighter off white colour and leave natural rather than overpainting later which can lead to an unsatisfactory gloss finish and infilling of crevices. The render was hand trowelled smooth on all public faces, so the elevation to the laneway and the outside faces of the walls to the garden are treated in this manner. The garden elevations are then deeply roughcast, a form of rustication of sorts it acknowledges the more naturalistic or romantic side of the privategarden, even including a small grotto for the bin store. The exaggeration in the roughcast was formed through testing onsite, with mock ups and trials. The mix of render to chippings was increased by 4 and the size of chippings used varied from 5-30mm. Interesting the amplification in the pebbledash did not come from an increase in the size of chip but in the variety of size of chip. We used a white granite chip to blend with the off white render and because of the ratio of render to chipping a more rounded messy appearance rather than a sharp pointed finish was produced. Pleasingly this reminded us of the applied tactically of a Hans Josephsonsculpture. Around the windows the blockwork protrudes and here again the render is applied but without chippings and hand trowelled to form smooth architraves and framings to reflect the light into the rooms.

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Project Credits
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