Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

National Architects in Schools Initiative

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We’re delighted to say that since Christmas, we’ve been working with students at Loreto Community School in Milford as part of the National Architects in Schools Initiative.

The Initiative is run by the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF), and the idea is to give students hands- on design experience under the guidance of local architects.

The IAF is working in partnership with the national network of Teachers’ Education Centres to train and resource both architects and teachers. Five Education Centres, in Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway and Wexford, are acting as regional hubs for the initiative which takes place in 25 schools.

The programme allows us to steer the students as they analyse their built surroundings and identify areas that they would like to improve, and then to help them come up with imaginative suggestions and solutions.

It’s great to be involved, because I live locally, my wife is from Milford (and teaches in the school) and because our son is a first year student there. I’ve spoken to students in the school a few times in the past about a career in architecture, so I’m familiar enough with the place.

We’re working in the school with Transition Year students and their teacher Mr. Patrick Curley, and we began by asking the students to look at the village of Milford, and in particular how their school is located in relation to the village centre. Now we’re looking at ways of strengthening the links between the school and the centre, in the process developing ideas about how to regenerate disused buildings and spaces in and around Milford. I’m sure we can pull together a lot of good design ideas, and we’ll use the best of the school’s technology and art departments to demonstrate them.

Our role will be to provide the support that will allow the students to draw conclusions from their analysis, and to go on and design the kind of buildings and places they’d like to see in Milford. We hope that they let their imaginations run loose, and push the boundaries as much as they want. We won’t be telling them that their buildings won’t stand up or that they’d cost too much, because what we really want is to develop their vision and encourage their creativity. If they come up with ideas to generate a buzzing, vibrant, colourful Milford, then we’ll all have achieved something. Milford skatepark_edited-2

Ask yourself these 20 questions before you get started on your project!

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How much disruption can you tolerate to extend or renovate your home??

  1. Describe your current home. What do you like about it? What’s missing? What don’t you like? Do you want to change the space you have?
  2. Do you want to build a new home?
  3. Why do you want to build a house or add to or renovate your current home?
  4. What is your lifestyle? Are you at home a great deal? Do you work at home? Do you entertain often?
  5. How much time do you spend in the living areas, bedroom, kitchen, utility space etc.?
  6. How much time and energy are you willing to invest to maintain your home?
  7. If you are thinking of extending, what functions or activities will be housed in the new space?
  8. What kind of spaces do you need, e.g. bedrooms, bigger kitchen, family room, bathrooms, etc?
  9. How many of those spaces do you think you need?
  10. What do you think the extension/ renovation/ new home should look like?
  11. What do you envisage in your new home that your present home lacks?
  12. How much can you realistically afford to spend?
  13. How soon would you like to be settled into your new home or extension? Are there rigid time restraints?
  14. If you are thinking of building a home, do you have a site selected?
  15. Do you have strong ideas about design? What are your design preferences?
  16. Who will be the primary contact with the architect, contractor, and others involved in designing and building your project? (It is good to have one point of contact to prevent confusion and mixed messages)
  17. What qualities are you looking for in an architect?
  18. Is there anyone in the family with a disability or do you envisage staying in the house for a long time, mobility problems of aging may need to be addressed?
  19. Is sustainable development and increased energy efficiency of importance to you?
  20. How much disruption in your life can you tolerate to extend or renovate your home?

With thanks to The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).

Thoughts on love, home, and the Tugendhat House

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Thoughts on love, home, and the Tugendhat House

I’ve often thought that the words ‘love’ and ‘home’ are the most powerful in the English language, and in my mind at least, they are almost interchangeable. The story of the Tugendhat House in Brno is a common one in pre- World War II central Europe- a wealthy Jewish industrialist hires a renowned architect to design a beautiful family home, but the rise of Hitler forces the family to leave in 1938. Afterwards the house was used by the Nazis and from 1945 by the Russians, and it then had a variety of uses under the local communist leadership until 1989. It was the setting for the talks that led to the formation of the separate Czech and Slovak States in 1993, so it is a building that is drenched in modern history. Tugendhat house 1

It’s also a building that photographs beautifully, thanks to architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s innovative use of space, light, technology and materials. It’s one of the high water marks of modern movement architecture, and I’ve been fascinated by it for a long time.

On Saturday, I went to see the film ‘Haus Tugendhat’ which was showing at the Lighthouse Cinema as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. I knew the story of the house, but what of the family? The film focuses on the children of Herr and Frau Tugendhat, and their memories of and current feelings towards the house.  The family first moved from Czechoslovakia to Switzerland, then Venezuela, then back to Switzerland again but there’s a sense that they are lost. Herr Tugendhat dies without ever seeing the house again, while Frau Tugendhat visits only once, thirty years after the first leaving. They seemed to accept the way things had turned out for them, but the children and grandchildren have a more complicated view of what happened. Some are indifferent, some are angry, and some are philosophical about the loss of the house. What is clear is that, 75 years on, the house continues to play a huge role in their lives.

As any Irish emigrant knows, home takes on a new meaning when seen from afar, especially when the leaving comes from necessity rather than from choice. For me, home represents the emotional pull of family and place, and my house is the centre of gravity, the centre of that pull.

I’ve thought for years that I’d like to visit the Tugendhat House, just fly to Vienna, take the train north to Brno, and afterwards on to Prague. Now, I’m not so sure. The house is an objet d’art, but on viewing this film it seems that for all its beauty and evocation of a turbulent time in European history, its soul has gone. The Tugendhat family do not believe they will ever get the house back in their ownership, and at the moment the house is open to a steady stream of visitors/voyeurs like me. The heartbeat of the house stopped in 1938, and I don’t want to go all the way there to feel that sense of emptiness. It brings home to me more than ever that we architects design buildings for people, for the families that occupy them and give them life, and not just to satisfy our own ego and our creative impulses.


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