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Galway County Council

Design Guidelines for the Single Rural House Extracts, January 2007

These guidelines were developed over the previous two years with the  assistance of the RIAI Western Group of Architects and the Galway  Architects & Engineers Group.

Following this intensive consultation the guidelines were successfully adopted as a statutory document during the review of the County Development Plan last year.

Aughey O’Flaherty Architect’s contribution towards this publication is greatly appreciated in what is hoped will become an exemplary document in developing our future architectural heritage.

PLACE MAKING – Integrating into the landscape

The focus here is on working with the site features and not against them.  It has become a standard and misappropriated feature of the rural landscape to ‘land’ a sub-urban design onto a rural landscape which is very evident of its poor contextual relationship.

  • Maintain existing field boundaries – or where sightlines are required to re-instate to agreed position.
  • In order to minimise the visual impact – a minimum of 2 boundaries to be retained.
  • Avoid car parking to front – locate to side or rear – this may require entrance door to side.
  • Integrate into existing contours to soften the house into the site.
  • Avoid surrounding the house with a concrete path – create a planting zone between the wall and ground.  This will further soften the impact.
  • Grade any excessive spoil in a gradual manner over the contours to create extra shelter.
  • Introduce wild gardens to the front – avoiding large areas of mowed lawn which add to the ‘platform effect’.
  • Use materials for surfacing which are geologically linked with the area.  Source local quarries for stone and pea gravel.
  • Avoid large areas of black tarmacadum or precast paviours as driveways and brick features out of context with the rural character.
  • Manufactured post and rail fencing, precast kerbing along with decorative lamps illuminating the driveway.

 

DESIGN – Contemporary lifestyles

As we begin the 21st century, it is important that our buildings reflect the advances made technologically and environmentally which are now part of our modern lifestyles.  At the same time it is equally important to have an awareness of our rural built heritage and the cultural aspects which are engrained in rural lifestyles.

Those best qualified to address these issues are Architects and Designers who have provided these images.

 

Contemporary Design - The following images are examples of contemporary designs which respond to their site specific rural contexts.

Contemporary Lifestyles – Illustrating modern design which reflect the best principles of rural vernacular.

Our future is in our past

“In a world patently losing its roots, the recognition of an Irish architectural tradition goes some way towards the reconstruction of fragmented identity, only through a clear-sighted reclamation of context can a new architecture grow to re-inhabit its rightful place as mediator between past and future.”

‘A Lost Tradition – The Nature of Architecture in Ireland’

‘Less is More’

This dictum is well used within architectural circle, but is very appropriate when it comes to the design of modern rural dwellings.  Such an approach will stand the test of time and provide a benchmark for our future heritage.

The distinctive and iconic image of a simple robust exterior is something which has and should define our built heritage, as opposed to over-complicated forms and fussy detailing.  These examples show how it is possible to combine a simple robust exterior and provide variety which responds to both site and climatic contexts.

 

A RURAL HOUSE – What are the Characteristics?

‘The Irish Long-House’

The linear nature of the one room deep plan of cellular rooms delineated by thick crosswalls, defined a particular rural lifestyle.  Where the basic provisions necessitated an enlargement, this usually resulted in a lateral expansion, never in depth.  The existing gable wall simply acted as a cross wall limiting any structural considerations, with the existing roof simply extended along to a new gable wall, an economy of means whereby the volume was determined by the span of timber.  Over time the basic typology of the vernacular cottage found other modes of expression, mainly adopting influences from a more formal classical tradition of regularity and neatness.  Advances in material technology also had implication on the basic evolution of form.  The manufacture of slate and corrugated steel allowed for reduced roof pitches, while the advances made in timber and concrete technology allowed for greater spans and thereby deeper plans.

 

‘Agriculture Courtyards’

The arrangement of outbuildings around the farmhouse, including haybarns, sheds, byres and bawn walls created an informal series of courtyards necessary for the purpose of agriculture – which today have some resonance as how best to break down the bulk and scale into careful massing studies.

 

Evolution of Form

The development of the rural house in Ireland, to its present form has been shaped by the wider story of farming and country life.  This expansion of agriculture and population in the preceding centuries in Ireland set the conditions for the construction of the vernacular cottage still imbedded within rural fabric of the Irish Country-side.

 

An Economy of Means

The advances made in material technology and economic prosperity has through the ages shaped out rural vernacular house.  These images indicate such advances while maintaining the essence of those inherent characteristics which define a regions identity.

“Building types emerged from a slow fusion of cultures and the practice of tradition, evolving slowly in response to changing needs and conditions; their study opens doors to allow comparison between forms in different eras and different cultures.”

‘A Lost Tradition – The Nature of Architecture in Ireland’

 

ROOFSCAPE – Form, materials & detail

‘The RoofScape’

It is often an overlooked element within design, yet the roof forms its own iconic and distinctive ‘surface’.

The roofs of the rural countryside are often a simple profile with materials and colours adding to the distinctive profile of the landscape.

 

Colour & Texture’

The various colours and textures associated with local vernacular roofs such as thatch, corrugated metal and slate add to the architectural quality and regional identity.

Thatch – golden hue colour

Corrugated Tin – oxide red (barrel vaulted haybarns)

Slate – blue / grey hue

Roof pitches varied according to the material used –

Thatch – 45-50 degrees

Slate – 35-45 degrees

Corrugated Tin – 25-35 degrees

Where roof pitches are below these – they require a high degree of design skill and appropriate modern materials in order to avoid the problems of the past associated with flat or shallow roofs.

 

Insulation

A crucial factor when designing today, are the statutory requirements relating to heat loss and requirements for higher levels of insulation and ventilation which require great attention to detail but Architects / Designers and Builders.

 

STONE – Geology, craft and material

Craft and Tradition

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the rural landscape is the use of stone wall field boundaries.  Variations occur due to the geological base of a particular region which vary from the carboniferous limestone of the Burren landscape in the south of the county, to the variety of granite within Connemara.

Stone buildings were distinguished into two main categories – that of the cut stone structures of Banks, Courthouses and Churches, with a less refined stone to utilitarian buildings such as barns, mills and farm outbuildings.

This allowed for a clear distinction between buildings and their function through the use of appropriate materials.

Stonework is such an important indigenous craft and apart from boundary stonewalls can provide attractive alternatives and should be encouraged in the following circumstances.

 

Appropriate use of Stone – compositional element

  • The use of stone cladding to ancillary wings and boundary walls will provide visual contrast, reduce the apparent bulk and anchor the dwelling to the landscape.
  • Some landscapes which are visually vulnerable will benefit from the use of the local stone as the main external finish and help to blend and assimilate their natural      surroundings.
  • In more modern solutions the interplay between stone and glass can provide interesting      compositions of heaviness and lightness.
  • When choosing materials for external finishes, it is important that they portray an      honesty and are not applied ‘veneers’ to give the effect of the real      thing.  Materials should be allowed to weather with a natural patina which can add to the character of both the building and landscape.

 

‘Anchoring’ with stone – use only indigenous stone to area

Stone which is indigenous to a particular area should only be used in that area.  East Galway’s geological base is limestone whereas Connemara’s base is granite.  Part of the character which defines an area is its stone and it would therefore be considered incongruous to build with limestone in Connemara and granite in East Galway.

These photos illustrate the correct use of local stone – which define regional identity and reinforce the indigenous craft of stone masonry.