Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
All-Weather House in Mullingar, Ireland by ROEWU Architecture
November 5th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: ROEWU Architecture
ROEWUarchitecture based in London, UK have recently completed a single family home for a retired couple in Ireland. Following the design philosophy developed by the office it was essential to consider all the natural factors impacting the building including wind, rain and sunlight. Instead of treating the building as a defensive shelter, the weather conditions of each season are embraced. A folded organic coat made up entirely of cedar shingles wraps every surface of the building (roof and walls) without interruption. This consistent, arrayed material changes with the climate –glowing and fading with the durations of the weather and the seasons. On wet days it is a bright red colour fading to a soft grey when dry. In frost the individual shingles become outlined in white while in sunshine the folds of the surface become accentuated. The buildup of the surface form multiple individual pieces gives these transformations a pixelated appearance –a kind of digital organic effect.
The house is laid out on one level to accommodate the needs of the retired couple but because of the steeply sloping site the house varies in height as one moves around. The section of the house adapts to strict planning constraints by cutting into the site and dividing the volume into two long narrow blocks each with a low short-span roof. One enters under a low overhanging canopy, into a space filled with light which is modulated by an artificial “cloud” above. The public rooms have high vaulted ceilings gaining maximum space from the limited section. These spaces which are filled with natural light during the day can be used independently or combined into a continuous flowing space through use of a movable wall. Bathrooms are treated as unique experiences -each saturated with a bright colour, they immerse the users in a special atmosphere creating a feeling of separation and privacy from the rest of the house.
In addition to being in tune with the weather in its moods and materials the house responds to the local climate to give a very low energy and carbon-efficient building. The orientation of its form and openings in relation to prevailing weather conditions maximizes the benefits of passive heating and cooling –a South and West facing sunroom captures heat during the day—while heavy insulation throughout minimizes heat-loss. The house is heated by an air-based heat-pump -an efficient lowenergy solution which is particularly suited to the mild climate of Ireland. The timber structural frame and cedar cladding use a low-embodied-energy material. Within the house natural light is maximized.
Light is a precious natural resource in Ireland. Light is filtered through a field-like cloud which floats over the hallway. On a bright sunny afternoon, light beams shine through the cloud while light is mostly diffused on a calm and clear morning. The cloud is made from a series of blades which bounce light, of varying gradients into the space. The effect of the cloud is that the atmosphere of the hallway space is always changing with the changing light outside, bringing the unpredictable weather of Ireland into the heart of the house.
ROEWU is a young office with a global pedigree. Currently based in London the office was founded in New York City in 2003 as a collaboration between Stephen Roe (Ireland) and Chiafang Wu (Taiwan). Since then the office has won many awards including the Young Architects Award from the Architectural League of New York in 2005, First Prize in the Competition for Ephemeral Structures for the Athens Olympics in 2004, the Kalil Fellowship for Smart Design in 2003 and the Kevin Kieran Award from the Arts Council of Ireland in 2007 among others. The office represented the UK at the 2006 Beijing Biennale, and is currently undertaking a major funded research project on the Weather and Architecture.
Stephen Roe was born on the rain-splattered island of Ireland where he early-on experienced the vicissitudes of mother nature. Meanwhile on the other side of the world Chiafang Wu grew up on the similarly wind-lashed island of Taiwan where everyday life is constantly at the whim of natural forces. Both brought this early experience with them to the Ivy League halls of Columbia University where they studied and acted as occasional critics before teaming up to form ROEWU. The partners have taught and carried out research at schools in the US and the UK focusing mainly on architectural materials, digital technologies and qualitative relations between buildings and their environments. Both partners were 2004-05 Emerging Practitioner Fellows at the Ohio State University and have also taught a graduate level Diploma Unit at the Architectural Association in London.
Contact ROEWU Architecture