Archive for the ‘Allan Curran News’ Category

Refurbishment, renovation and extension to existing 1980s dwelling located in Co. Fermanagh

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As Enniskillen architects we were approached by a Client looking to start a refurbishment project.  He had purchased an existing 1980’s dwelling to which he wanted to add more reception areas, to make best use of the south facing aspect and to modernise the existing building, all in a very short time frame.

The project was to be carried out in two phases, the first was to make changes to the existing house to make it habitable and allow the clients to vacate their old house. The second phase involved an extension to the rear but a key question quickly arose, how to join old to new. It was agreed that it was important, visually, to differentiate between the two so the design for the second phase called for a departure from the traditional style of the existing building and one which also allowed the clients to put their own mark on their future home.

1980s refurbishment

Front of existing 1980s dwelling before refurbishment

  

1980s Refurbishment

Rear of existing 1980s dwelling before refurbishment

It was very important to resolve this issue quickly in order to get the design into the planning system and keep the project on schedule. At the same time the issue was so fundamental that rushing it wasn’t an option. The essence of the layout involved bringing the garden to the southwest into play as an outside extension of the new ‘garden room’. This was to be the area where friends and family would gather but it would also be an area from which you could view both old and new together so it needed careful consideration.

We discussed it with our client, changed it around a fair bit and eventually came up with a very different solution.

1980s refurbishment - early design of extension to rear

1980s refurbishment early design

From wolves to stars

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Now that things are really busy again, maybe it’s a good time to take stock and think about what we hope for in the coming years- we had wolf- proofed our front door but now that threat is gone and the door’s wide open. We’re out and about, and looking up. So, what are we looking at?

Architects are famous for two things: being left- handed and being terrible business people. Well, I’m stuck with being left- handed but having survived the recession I do know that we’ll continue to work according to our principles first and for financial reasons second. The way we’ll develop is by managing ourselves well, so that our work is affordable and available to anyone who wants it. We treat all our clients just the same, and we want to go on providing the highest quality service to everybody. It’d be too easy to prioritise big jobs over the small ones, and we look out for that.

We’re lucky because we’re working in a beautiful part of the world, in an area with a unique spirit and identity. As such, it’s important for us to use our local building forms and materials as our inspiration, but with an added twist of creativity. We want to develop this idea as much as we can in our designs, and the idea of craftsmanship in building work is something that resonates with us. In short, we want our buildings to be robust (able to withstand use and weather, and be low- energy) useful (providing all the spaces and features needed by our clients) and beautiful (having a poetic quality that lifts them above the ordinary).

On a more pragmatic level, we unashamedly want to reach as many people as we can to promote our work. At the same time, we never want to get so big that we lose sight of a healthy work- life balance, or lose the ability to listen to and support one another in our day- to day work.

Really, it all comes down to us wanting to change our little bit of the world for the better, by doing what we’re good at. That’s what we see when we look up. It’s our guiding star.

From wolves to stars

From wolves to stars

 

Cruyff, Krol and growing up

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An iridescent streak of orange across a green field. An artist creating angles and spaces that nobody else could imagine. If the imperious Beckenbauer reinforced the German stereotype, and if Maradona always showed his street urchin roots, Johan Cruyff created our idea of Holland as being a freewheeling, liberal place where everything is up for discussion and argument. Discuss and argue was what Cruyff did, when he wasn’t on a football field pointing and directing his ‘cavalry charge of surgeons’ as Hugh McIlvanney called the Dutch ‘Total Football’ team of 1974, still the best team not to win a World Cup. That Cruyff and Holland still celebrated when they lost the final to West Germany, and that Cruyff said he was happy to be remembered for the beautiful football they played, only added to the impossible romanticism and mystique of the player and the team, at a time when winning hard and ugly was the norm (does anyone remember the roundheaded Leeds United of the era?).

What has any of this got to do with me, an architect living and working far away from 1970s Holland? As it happens, 70s Dutch football is one of my foundation stones. I became fascinated by, and then obsessed with, those counter-cultural players who lit up our screens just as we were going from black and white to colour. They expressed something more than just football; they spoke to me of culture and imagination. Of all the Dutch players Ruud Krol, and not Cruyff, was my hero; a super-elegant, brutally hard defender who was a multilingual art lover off the field. If I could be a superhero for a day, this is still who I’d be. Of course this was about an adolescent looking for an identity, preferably something a long way from home, but it’s always stuck with me. Eventually I found my metier in the world of architecture, which allows me to create my own angles and spaces in the absence of any noticeable footballing ability.

As a runty teenager, I used to dream (yes, actually dream) that when I came face to face with Ruud Krol, he would tower over me. While I was studying construction at the RTC in Letterkenny I went to bed early every night because somebody told me that ‘you only grow when you’re sleeping’ and, ridiculous as it sounds, I crept upwards very slowly. Still not tall enough though upon leaving the RTC to stop the dreams.

From the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, Johan Cruyff managed Barcelona FC, and Barcelona became the spiritual inheritor of the Total Football way. They now play the best football in the world, and they are everybody’s second favourite team. They have a Catalan, anti- authoritarian streak and take pleasure in beating the more uptight Real Madrid, which was allegedly General Franco’s team of choice. The main difference between the Barcelona and Holland teams is that Barcelona now win the big games whereas Holland lost them, showing that Cruyff wasn’t really a happy loser. The most successful recent manager, Pep Guardiola, is a protégé of Cruyff and freely admits that, at his most successful, he was simply providing maintenance to the cathedral that Cruyff built.

Back in 2001, I finished studying architecture in university, got married, and we had our first son. I also began working at what was then Allan Associates Architects, my first and only job as an architect. It was a time of beginnings. Along the way, I convinced my six-months pregnant wife that sitting in Dublin Airport for two days to wait for the Holland team to arrive for the World Cup Qualifier was a good idea. I knew that Ruud Krol would be on the flight, as he was assistant manager to the Dutch team at the time. When I did come face to face with him, we were exactly the same height.

I’m sure there are people like me everywhere, for whom the bright orange glow spread well beyond football. Like ancient starlight, it lit the way long after the flame had burned out. Johan Cruyff and his family continued to live in Barcelona, and it was there that he died on Holy Thursday. His afterglow will be long.

Cruyff and Krol

Cruyff and Krol

Refurbishment of existing dwelling, Henry Street, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

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Timber boarding

Timber boarding

Following consideration of innumerable sample colours the timber boarding has been painted with a light grey breathable Colortrend Woodcare Solid Colour Woodstain. The timber shutters have been painted to match the Munster Joinery Aluclad timber and aluminium, triple glazed windows. The old railing at the rear has been removed and the gap between the concrete slab walkway around the building and the DOE fence has been filled with Saige Longlife recycled decking to significantly increase the usable space. The walkway has been waterproofed and a granular surface has been applied.

At the rear the old railing has been removed and by fixing the new railing to the outside face of the concrete slab an extra 8” has been added to the useful width of the deck. The glass panels have yet to be fitted.

Upper level balcony

Upper level balcony

The 50mm screed has been laid on 150mm of rigid insulation and the first coat of emulsion paint has been applied to all walls and ceilings

Upper level internal

Upper level internal

 

Refurbishment of existing dwelling, Henry Street, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

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Lower level

Lower level

Lower level

Lower level

The plaster to the lower level was tested and any boast plaster removed and a scratch coat was applied to the remaining sound render in preparation for a “stone” tile to give a visually heavier base to the upper level which is to have a pale grey paint finish to the existing boarding.

The three bedrooms, ensuite, bathroom, hot press and “chill area” were formed from lightweight block work and plastered. A new timber and stainless steel and glass stairs will come down in the centre of the “chill area”.

Internal lower level

Internal lower level

 

 

 

 

 

Upper level living area

Upper level living area

 

The upper level stud work, plastered and skimmed and is almost ready for the insulation and screed. The two way gas fire has been installed and negotiations are underway with the gas companies to find a suitable supplier for the gas which will fuel the heating, cooking and stove.

Internal upper level with gas fireplace

Internal upper level with gas fireplace

Refurbishment of existing dwelling, Henry Street, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

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Henry Street Upper Level

Upper level

On the upper level all the stud walls are stripped away and the entire frame has been strengthened with an internal skin of timber boarding. The chimney breast is being constructed and the two way gas fire installed.

New stud work walls have been erected on the concrete slabs.

view of roof from bridge

view of roof from bridge

The existing manmade slates have been stripped, the chimney has been removed and plywood has been fitted to the entire roof.

The  new aluminium fascias soffits and barges and the steel coated roof have been fitted and after a long delay in the supply chain the aluminium sheeting was fitted.

street view

street view

In order to reduce the noise levels a sound absorbing plasterboard was used on the inside of the elevation facing the road and in addition two of the larger windows where closed up. However, in order that the elevation to the road would not become too bland it was decided to make a feature of the closing of the windows as well as taking the opportunity to add additional sound insulation.  Timber slatted shutters, running at 90 degrees to the main boarding, were constructed and will be painted dark grey to match the windows.

Shutters

Timber slatted shutters

Refurbishment of existing dwelling Henry Street, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

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The building was stripped back to its original 1974 timber frame which exposed the need for some bracing of the external walls.

The entire external wall is to be lined with plywood and reinsulated plasterboard is also to go on top of this.

Upper level stripped back

Upper level stripped back

Wall bracing and stud partitions

Wall bracing and stud partitions

The entire lower level was opened for development and is to accommodate 3 bedrooms and a bathroom.  Two of the bedrooms are to include ensuite shower rooms and dressing rooms.  The central area at the base of the stairs is to act as a “chill” area.  The chill area and the bedrooms are all to lead out onto the water’s edge.

Lower level stud work and stairwell

Lower level stud work and stairwell

 

Lower level

Lower level

The upper level is to feature an open plan kitchen, dining, living and study area with the master bedroom at the northern end and a utility at the southern gable.

The existing railings are badly rusted and are to be replaced with stainless steel and glass.  The walkway which forms a roof over the lower level is to be waterproofed and given a non slip coating.   It is hoped to fix the new railings on the outside of the concrete slab to maximise the area.

Existing External railing

Existing External railing

 

Please don’t forget to like our page and to share this post to follow the progress of dwelling.

Architects in Schools update

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We’re getting near to the end of our Architects in Schools programme now, and it’s good to see the Irish Architecture Foundation giving us and Loreto Community School in Milford a feature on their blog http://www.mydesignjournal.ie/loreto-students-take-designs-to-the-town/ An exhibition of the student work (from all the Donegal schools taking part) will be launched in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny on 17th April, so after the Easter break the students will be full steam ahead getting their presentations ready.

The problem we set for the students was to develop the village of Milford in such a way that the fabric of the village would be strengthened and the community as a whole would benefit. This was to be achieved by designing facilities and spaces that would encourage people of all ages to meet and mix, while substantially improving the built environment in the village.

The focus was placed on the northern part of the village, where many buildings are in poor condition and where open space is available, and where there is an opportunity to strengthen links between the village and Loreto Community School.

Students were asked to choose from the following selection of building/environmental works:

  • a place for storytelling
  • a pop- up cinema
  • a play and leisure area, including rock face and allotment park
  • works to improve the public face of a building
  • an outdoor music/concert venue
  • a car workshop showcase
  • a dance studio
  • 2 new classrooms (one outdoor) to Loreto Community School
  • an outdoor pop- up performance space at Loreto Community School
  • any better idea.

Materials were to be everyday, recycled or recyclable, and local.

The results will be really interesting and well worth a look, and I’m delighted that the
students were able to follow a design process very similar to what they would go through as a student of architecture, or indeed as a working architect. Research, site selection, site analysis and the social implications of buildings are all areas that we discussed, before any design work took place. I think the students now have a very good idea of how the process works, and of what it’s like to work as part of a team in a creative enterprise.

The exhibition will run from the 17th to the 20th of April at the Regional Cultural Centre and it ties in with other design events taking place there at the same time, so why not pop in and see what you think?

DSC_0018DSC_0002

 

 

 

Life as a student

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Student life…

For a while now, I’ve been working with Transition Year pupils at Loreto Community School, Milford as part of the National Architects in Schools Initiative, a programme admirably promoted by the Irish Architecture Foundation to give second level students a taste of what it’s like to work as an architect.

The programme is drawing to an end soon, with an exhibition of student work planned for the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny on 17th April. The students are going to present their work to assorted guests, teachers and fellow pupils, so it’s a lot like life as a third- level architecture student where there are deadlines, presentations and the dreaded crit seemingly every other week.

A critique, or crit in short, is the focal point of work in the architecture studio, and it’s where students pin their project work up for discussion with tutors and fellow students. ‘Discussion’ is a loose term, as it’s more a mixture of parental advice and firing squad, in my memory mostly firing squad with the parental advice coming afterwards, if at all.

But back to the point. Several of the Loreto students have shown an interest in going on to study architecture at third level, and I’ve been asked quite a few times which Leaving Cert subjects would help most. In my day the best subjects to pick were Art and Physics and I’m sure that hasn’t changed much. In my wisdom I hadn’t studied either of them for the Leaving Cert, hence the firing squads but it’s not impossible to get through without those subjects.

For anybody thinking about studying architecture, it’s a long haul (5 years plus a year out in the middle, with another couple of years of work experience and exams afterwards before qualification as an architect) so it does require a pretty fierce commitment. Every architectural student knows about ‘all nighters’ where a looming project deadline means no sleep for a couple of nights and days. I look back with nostalgia on the hallucinations, dinners being cooked at 6 in the evening and again at 4 in the morning, slicing fingers (my own, mostly) with Stanley knives while making models and the sheer, unrelenting pressure for months on end. Still, I wouldn’t change it for anything because it was really satisfying and, to borrow Bono’s phrase, it changed the shape of my head. Perhaps it’s better if I let Transition Year students discover all that for themselves, though.

This short film by Arbuckle Industries is scarily close to my own experience in college, and I think it’s great viewing for any second- level student wondering what life as an architecture student is really like.

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