Archive for the ‘Allan Curran News’ Category

Broken Electric Shower – Make do and Mend

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Bad luck and bad timing (a few days before Christmas) with our electric shower, gave me an opportunity lately to put my ‘make do and mend’ impulses to work. Anybody who knows me will know I am wont to spending Friday evening fixing the brakes or straightening a wheel on my bike. We are often too quick to replace rather than repair domestic appliances and something in my nature resists that, if there might be a chance to open up and fix instead.

Cold water continued to flow through the shower at a great rate after I switched it off, so it was obvious that a valve of some kind had given up. Luckily I had a cut- off valve on the supply pipe to the shower, so a quick trip to the attic stopped the flow. Still, after taking the cover of the shower and staring at it blankly for a while, I knew it was a job for an expert as any attempted repair by me would likely lead to flooding or electrocution (or both) so I decided it would be best to call The Shower Man.

Tim , had a good look and said that there weren’t any of the usual signs of wear and tear on it, and that there was no need to replace it yet. Good, that was about €200 saved. Tim explained that it was teenagers who kept him in work- electric showers are designed to run for 15 minutes and cool for 45 minutes, but it’s the other way around when it comes to our young ones leading to a shortened lifespan for the shower unit.

Tim showed me that the filter on the solenoid had started to break up, and it was likely that a small piece of that had jammed the valve open. After replacing the part and opening the valve on the supply pipe, the shower was ready for (hopefully) another few years of action, teenagers notwithstanding. The charge for the callout and replacement part was very reasonable considering the amount I could have spent on a new shower, and the whole operation only took around half an hour.

A few helpful hints then based on my own experience:

  •  If you are in the process of building a house or a bathroom extension, have the plumber fit a cut- off valve on the water supply pipe to the shower. To avoid pressure problems, electric showers are usually fed off the mains supply to the house, rather than from your water storage tank. Without a cut- off valve on the supply pipe, you may have to cut off the water mains supply to the house in the event of a problem with the shower unit. That would be a huge nuisance at the best of times but definitely not something you want to face a few days before Christmas.
  •  Don’t assume that an older shower unit is finished if it starts to give trouble- a specialist in shower repairs could save you a fair amount of money by replacing a part rather than the whole unit (legitimate funds for bike parts).
  • Go easy on the shower- nobody needs to be that clean!
Broken Shower ?

Broken Shower ?


Everyday architecture no. 3

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Gate way - everydayarch 3We pass them every day: every field has an entrance, and most have gate posts. Most rural houses have gate pillars of one sort or another, and we take them for granted. But what if they are more than just a necessity? What if they say something to us about ourselves and the people who came before us?

The Austrian modernist architect Adolf Loos said that ‘ornament is crime’, while the American skyscraper pioneer Louis Sullivan believed that ‘form ever follows function’. Perhaps they are right but people have always had the impulse to decorate their possessions to make statements about themselves. Gate pillars from Japanese temples to the Piazza San Marco in Venice have more symbolic importance than practical value. Loos and his fellow modernists in the 1920s and 1930s abhorred any kind of ornamentation, and while they produced many beautiful buildings some of those were not liked by the people they were built for, because they lacked any kind of personal touch. I wonder what the great modernists would have made of these gate pillars in rural Donegal? The pillars are much larger than they need to be to hold up a slim metal gate, and the little finial on top of the capping is, in modernist terms, completely unnecessary from a functional point of view. At the same time I am sure the modernists, many of whom had a great interest in primitive forms, would have had an interesting discussion on ideas of marking place and ownership, of identity and belonging, and the rituals and rhythms of daily life. Perhaps it would be best to move on before they began to discuss pagan fertility symbols, and instead just imagine the pride a small farmer felt in his land, and his desire to articulate that pride and show something of his own character through big, heavyweight pillars marking his field on the side of the road.


Ran Mor Close, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

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RanMor Close

The latest phase of the Rann Mor housing development, the A3 energy- rated Rann Mor Close has now been completed and all the homes are occupied. These GDC (Ire) Ltd. homes, designed and certified by us, were sold off the plans and were comparable in price to older, much less energy- efficient houses on the Letterkenny market. The house designs are not compromised by energy saving devices, and for those who missed out, there’s already huge interest from buyers in the new Rann Mor Meadow phase which has just gone on site. These new homes will also meet A3 energy rating standards. For more details see

Testimonial – Daniel Doherty, Managing Director of George Doherty Construction (Irl) Ltd says “ The overall Rann Mor Development has been remarkably successful in the last few years. This is in no small way due to the high quality of the design and the professional service provided by Allan Curran Architects Ltd and I look forward to completing the next phase of the development at Rann Mor Meadow to the same high standard. ”

Le Corbusier

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When the Swiss architect Le Corbusier sat down to design the Notre Dame du Haut chapel at Ronchamp in eastern France in 1950, it is unlikely that he was thinking about farm buildings in Donegal. He may or may not have known that he was about to create a masterpiece, but he was sure that he wanted to move away from traditional church designs. Instead, he drew inspiration from nature and primitive building types.ronchamp1

The shed at Stranorlar

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The shed at Stranorlar could be called a primitive building type, as it was built using local knowledge, building materials and labour, and was (is) very functional. Windows and doors are only where they need to be. At the same time, the shed has to do with ideas of growth and harvest, summer and winter, shelter and the order and routine of life that is dependent on nature. It is this spirit that Le Corbusier wanted to capture at Ronchamp. Perhaps the random nature of the windows, set in the frame of the heavy, solid walls, allowing light to penetrate the darkness inside, expresses this best.

It is interesting that the renowned Derry architect, Liam McCormick, was very influenced by the chapel at Ronchamp, and we can see the effect of this in his well- known chapels at Burt and Creeslough. Indeed, the windows to the side of the main door at Creeslough are very similar in shape to those at Ronchamp, and every bit as beautiful, albeit on a much smaller scale. At least we can be sure that Liam McCormick was aware of our local farm buildings when he sat down to design the chapel at Creeslough. Because of this, we can trace a circle from our simple farm building in Stranorlar through arguably the greatest building of the twentieth century, and back again to one of Donegal’s finest pieces of architecture, in Creeslough.

St Michaels elevationireland-st-michaels-outside-windows-800600

Shed at Illstrin, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

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This little shed catches the eye for so many reasons- it proudly states its importance by standing its ground, making an otherwise straight road defer to it. It is angled towards the passer- by, uncompromisingly meeting your gaze. While the rest of the road is in shadow, this shed has a place in the sun.Shed - Illistrin

The red corrugations of the tin cast shadows that give the roof depth and texture. These shadows change as the hours go by, which gives the roof an organic, natural look that contrasts beautifully with the smooth- plastered walls below. Indeed the curving ridge, grain of the corrugations and frayed lower edge of the roof could almost allow it to be seen as a brightly- coloured leaf amongst all the background greenery.

Below, the dark void is mysterious- what is inside? At a primitive level, it draws you in and provides shelter and storage. There is a very fine visual balance between the solid of the walls and the void of the openings, while the roof appears to barely touch the walls below. Meanwhile, the shed directs you to the house alongside.

When the passage of time (changing seasons, changing weather, and changing light) is added, we find ourselves with a rich visual treat. All this in a small shed on the side of a local country road!Shed - Illistrin