The character of the extension to the rear garden arises from a study of the typical Dublin ‘backlands’. The Victorian neighbourhoods of Dublin are filled with back lanes and densely packed linear gardens. These spaces are used for everything from manicured gardens to auto repair shops and are therefore filled with a huge variety of structures. This warren of buildings shows a full range of styles across the last two centuries; pitched roof architectural stone mews buildings, turn of the century concrete and corrugated sheds, well-proportioned 1940’s temple-like concrete garages, 1990’s off-the-shelf steel sheds - a mix of styles found across the city hidden behind the public facing front buildings. The formality of these backlands buildings tends to diminish the further they are from the front of the house, from orderly and sometimes self-conscious facades connected to the house to utilitarian and informal conglomerations to the rear.
Our design for this renovation and extension of an existing redbrick terraced house draws from this rich, if haphazard, building culture. Materially it resonates with and reconfigures the ordinary ‘stuff’ of the backlands - concrete, corrugated sheet, metal hoppers and downpipes are made into a formal façade close to the house with symmetries shifting from the interior to the exterior orders. While it appears as a somewhat foreign addition to the brick Victorian house, it is right at home in the hidden world of the city.
The project came with the usual difficulties of looking for some spatial generosity while structurally supporting an existing return structure. The clients have a collection of furniture and art with a consistent tonal mood and wanted a house to feel harmonious with their collection. Light and structure became the anchors of the design. By setting the side walls of the extension one metre off the boundary walls we were able to open side facing windows at clerestory level to bring in changing light from east and west over the course of the day. Concrete columns and beams support the first floor return, creating a datum between upper and lower worlds. The upper world of folding white planes and windows create framed spaces to catch the light, while below the moody palette of mahogany and green create a warm and earthy space. Photography by Shantanu Starick