Rain, wind and sunshine are part of design aesthetic for couple’s retirement home in Ireland

ROEWUarchitecture, based in London, have recently completed a single-family home for a retired couple in Mullingar, Ireland. The climate conditions, ho wind rains and sunlight affect the building, influenced the design philosophy.

Instead of treating the building as just a shelter against the elements, the weather conditions of each season are embraced. A folded organic coat comprising cedar shingles wraps every surface of the building, from the roof to the walls. 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. During the frost, the individual shingles become outlined in white while in sunshine the folds of the surface are accentuated. The buildup of the surface form multiple individual pieces gives these transformations a pixilated appearance – a kind of digital organic effect.

The house is arranged on one level to accommodate the retired couple’s needs but because of the steeply sloping site 160-square-meter 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 that is modulated by an artificial ‘cloud; above. The living 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 saturated with a bright colour to create a different atmosphere, of separation and privacy from the rest of the house.

The house is also 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 low-energy solution that is well suited to the mild Ireland climate. The timber structural frame and cedar cladding use a low-embodied energy material.

Within the house natural light is maximized and 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 that 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.

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