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

 

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

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Henry Street Exterior

Henry Street Exterior

Exterior - Lake view

Exterior – Lake view

View from West Bridge

View from West Bridge

We were engaged to refurbish a 1970’s timber frame building set on a blockwork base on a piled foundation, in the centre of Enniskillen.  The site came with its own private jetty and a water frontage to die for.  The upper level has the dreaded “beauty board” throughout and the biggest room in the house was just 3.5m x 4.3m (11’6” x 14’).  The entire lower level of 143 sq.m (1540 sq. ft.) is vacant with the exception of a single oil tank.  Apparently the lower level had been built with the hope of running a café to serve the passing traffic on the lake but commercial parking became a stumbling block.

 

Kitchen

Kitchen

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

 

The timber frame and roof structure has to be strengthened, a pumping station installed to allow full development of the lower level and some major damp proofing of the existing balcony will be required to prevent ingress of water at the lower level.  For the aesthetics of this “scout hut” the entire external fabric will have to be upgraded.  Our Client has requested a contemporary look to match his internal furnishings and fittings.  A metal deck roof is planned along with a painted treatment to the timber boarding on the upper level and a stone finish to the lower level.  The rusting steel railings are to be replaced with glass and stainless steel and the entire building is to be upgraded in terms of insulation, air tightness and heating/ventilation.

 

Central corridor

Central corridor

 

Bedroom

Bedroom

 

Our Client has asked that the overall design would reflect the buildings location on the water’s edge.


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.


Solar Panels, the why and wherefore.

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The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, predicts that oil prices will remain stable over the next five years and may even come down by a small amount. There is nobody I know of brave enough or foolish enough to predict the same for electricity prices.

The British government recently signed a deal to pay the producers of electricity at the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station twice the current price for their electricity when it starts producing in 2023.Twice the price at source does not necessarily mean twice the unit cost on your bill, currently about 17pence per kW/h in the north and 21cents in the south,  but with the amount of investment that will also be needed to update the existing supply network over the next 7 or 8 years, it might not be too far of the mark.

All of the above may well influence a choice of heating system in the short term but looking at energy matters in the longer term it’s not hard to conclude that oil and coal will, eventually, run out while it is an increase in renewables, (wind, wave and solar), combined with some nuclear that will keep the lights on. Solar panels may not immediately spring to mind as a possible source of energy in this country, given our climate, but there is enough sunshine, believe it or not, to make it worth considering in the medium term.

There are two different types of solar panels which, despite their grouping under the same nomenclature, perform in very different ways. Until recently the more common type to be found on a south facing roof was a water based system. These water based systems are, themselves, broken into two types, flat plate collectors and evacuated tubes. Water runs through the panels, is heated by the sun’s rays and is taken to your hot water cylinder where the heat is transferred to your hot water system for domestic use. Naturally the amount of heat you gain depends on the amount of sunshine hitting the panels and although there is some solar gain on a dull day, it is not significant. The systems require very little maintenance, I have had one on my roof for 23 years with only one service.

There was grant assistance for the cost of installing a water based system in southern Ireland up until 2011 through the Greener Homes scheme, unfortunately this scheme is now closed. Across the border in Northern Ireland there is no assistance at present, the industry is waiting for an announcement, due on 1st April 2015, under the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will determine the tariff owners of a system will receive as an annual payment. The cost of a system suitable for a three bed house, being 20 evacuated tubes, is approximately £2000.

The second and more topical system is a panel made up of photovoltaic cells. These cells generate electrical power by converting sunlight into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials. Although they have been around for about 50 years increases in manufacturing scale and sophistication have only recently brought them to a point where the return on the investment makes consideration worthwhile. A series on panels can be fitted either on the ground or on a roof facing generally south, but anywhere between east and west will do. The electricity generated can be used, once it has been changed from direct current to alternating current using an “inverter”, in a home or business or it can be “exported” back to the national grid.

In Great Britain and Northern Ireland there is a “feed-in tariff” for any electricity you generate from a renewable or low carbon source. This government assistance comes in the form of a ROC ( Renewable Obligation Certificate) payment of  16.32 pence per kW/h for every unit generated, regardless of what use you put the electricity to. These payments are restricted to 4kW systems for domestic installations and 12kW for commercial premises, (or 50kW if you have a 3 phase supply). If you generate more than you use in your home or business you can sell, or export, the excess back to the grid, although you will only receive around 5.1 pence per unit in return. A good quality system designed to generate 4kW will cost around £6,500 stg. If you take into consideration the annual ROC payment, usually around £550 depending on how close to direct south your roof faces and what shading there may be from trees or buildings, and add the saving you make to your electricity bills of between £300 and £500, depending on your use, you can achieve a payback of  around 6 years. It’s worth noting that your Roc payment will run for 20 years and, if the price of electricity were to double, the saving on your bill could increase to between £600 and £1000.

Sadly there are no ROC payments in Southern Ireland. Until recently you could sell excess electricity back to the grid and at a more generous rate of 9 cents per unit, but only from domestic systems.  In a recent announcement Electric Ireland stated that they will no longer buy electricity from residential properties generating electricity from renwable source such as wind and solar. In addition VAT on systems in the north is charged at 5% while those in the south are charged at 13.5%. As Ireland faces fines of “ hundreds of millions of euro per year if we don’t ensure that 40% of our electricity demand comes from renewable sources by 2020”, it’s hard to see why the Irish government is failing to encourage more domestic investment in this technology. Despite this, many Council buildings in the south are currently being fitted with PV systems designed to provide just enough electricity to meet their own needs. Considering a payback in the south of between 10 and 15 years, perhaps it’s only Councils that can find and justify the capital outlay. “The UK currently has about 3,400 megawatts of solar power installed, Germany plans to have 66,000 megawatts by 2020, Ireland has less than 1.”

“Lies, damned lies and statistics”, in that order, to quote Oscar Wilde.  It’s easy to put figures to possible future performances to prove a point and from the outside investing in a 4kW photovoltaic system in Northern Ireland under the current government deal does seem like a bit of a “no brainer” and that’s at the current price of electricity. Whether or not to invest £6,500 with a return of around £20,000 over 20 years with the bonus of a reduction in your vulnerability to the vagaries of energy prices might not need a lot of pondering and on that basis we now have “pv” panels on our roof. We will monitor the system’s performance, compare it with the predictions and report back but in the meantime, a note of caution on the timing.

A consultation paper was launched by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment into possible changes to Northern Ireland Renewable Obligations (NIRO) and we understand that the paper recommends reducing the value of the ROCs payments by about 60%. DETI has received around 300 negative responses to such a proposal and we are led to believe that from April 1st 2015 a less dramatic cut of 40% may be announced. This would extend the payback time from approximately 6 years to 8 or 9 years. Anyone who registers their system before the announcement will get the current rate for the full 20 year period.Burns - Enniskillen PVI


about Allan Curran Architects

We live and work in an area with its own unique character and history, and our practice strives to create buildings that reflect a regional identity by respecting both our traditional past and our forward- looking present. We are committed to providing a quality service in terms of our design and our administration, and guarantee that our work is tailored to suit the needs of each individual client.