Two returns to the rear of 26 + 27, Rathmines, Dublin 6.
The properties at 26 & 27 Castlewood Avenue date back to the early nineteenth century and have changed little externally since then. Both properties had originally been built as semi detached residences and were built on wider than normal plots (17m as oppose to 11m) resulting in their double fronted facades and tri-partite plan arrangement. The space to the sides of both properties has been filled in in pastiche style in recent years.
Both properties were in a state of dereliction at the time we were commissioned by our client to oversee their redevelopment. The properties had previously been subdivided into flats (8 in each) and it was our clients intention to restore both properties to single occupancy.
The original returns to both properties had been removed by the buildings previous owners and replaced with a haphazzard arrangement of non descript accommodations. At the design analysis stage of the project it was felt there was scope to introduce a “new” architecture to the rears of both properties whilst respecting their historic characteristics.
The concept behind the two replacement returns was to analyse the function of return structures to the rear of period dwellings on both a programmatic and a visual level. An attempt was made to establish 2 new buildings, to be considered in their own right, while making a meaningful connection between the past and the present.
Both properties were fully restored internally and externally back to their original character. All original plasterwork and covings were salvaged where possible and in areas where replacement was required plaster specialists were employed to match existing profiles, ceiling roses, cornicings and mouldings. All timber architravings, skirtings, dados, picture rails, stair mouldings, balustradings, window and door sets were saved where possible and remedied to their original standard of finish. Where replacement was required, replicas were sourced thru salvage merchants/conservation specialists. The brick and stonework to the front façade of both properties was cleaned and restored to its original character. At roof level, all lead lined gutters and flashings were retained/restored where required. All original roofing materials were also maintained/restored where required. All timber windows were restored and glazing replaced. Fireplaces in both properties were replaced with their designs based on one no. existing fireplace which existed in No. 26.
Accommodation comprises 4 bedrooms (master bedroom ensuite) and family bathroom at first floor level, Living and Dining accommodation at the upper ground floor level (main entry level) and open plan Kitchen/Dining/Living accommodation and nannys quarters at lower ground floor level.
The new returns to both properties contain the following accommodation; Study at upper level (above first floor level), Family bathroom at mid level and hallway access at lower level. The study at upper level is a dramatic space with its monopitched roof structure acting as a light catcher facing south. Views from this space are towards the Dublin mountains and offer those working in the space inspiration. This space captures vast volumes of light which in turn feed into the lower circulation areas below.
The structure of these returns is a steel frame vertical structure with timber joist infil. The structures are completely self supporting on independent foundations at the rear of both properties and at high level are not structurally connected to the existing fabric. Each return is independently supported on a bridge structure at the upper garden level. The independent qualities of each structure was seen favourably on a planning conservation level as both structures could be removed without serious implication the the fabric of the original houses.
The width of both returns is derived from the width of the upper ground floor hallways to both properties offering a more coherent addition to the historic plan configuration. The angle of pitch to these forms is derived from the existing roof pitches to the main roofs.
The rear gardens to 26 & 27 are split over two levels to accommodate the houses split living accommodations at upper and lower ground floor levels. New external paved areas have been designed at lower ground floor levels as extensions of the internal accommodations. Access to these gardens from the upper ground floor level is via a new concrete bridge structure within each garden.
The original design concept was for a pair of buildings with a strong form in an attempt to give the previously understated rear of both properties a new definition. This is achieved in a number of different ways including the use of a simple palate of materials such as fibre cement panels (charcoal in colour) and large glazed sections. Full height Opal laminate glazed sections have been introduced in the bathrooms at a mid level for privacy reasons. Other influences in the design and orientation of the building were in part a direct result of the particular site, structural and somewhat onerous planning and conservation constraints.
Both properties are served with geothermal heating (underfloor) and solar heat exchange systems. All downpipes dealing with surface and foul water have been internalised within a central service core ensuring purer elevations and minimizing disruption to the buildings form.
These inhabited forms when first seen first create a sense of wonder and curiosity within the viewer not just because of their sculptural form but more for the setting within which they exist. As architects, we sometimes hit on building solutions which are rooted in the Architecture of Art rather that the Art of Architecture. It is for this reason we consider these as art forms and would also like them considered for the Art in Architecture award.