Conservatory Room

David Leech Architects, Dublin, 2018


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The character of this modest garden extension is created from the expression of a simple structural construction.

Standard timber joists, at 600mm spacings, cross in both directions to allow for a free span between 2 rendered blockwork cavity walls. The timber beams sit on shallow pilasters formed where the blockwork is turned through 90 degrees to provide laterally restraint and to give a subtle relief to the bearing walls.

The beams above are slightly exposed to create a shallow coffer, although contemporary in appearance the filigree relief is reminiscent of Victorian orangeries and traditional conservatories. One large and three smaller proprietary rooflights form a loose constellation between the coffers and dictate the module. The rooflights are positioned so that a patterning of light moves across the wall over the course of a day as a second order to the architecture. Another pattern of circular ceiling mounted light-fittings form another order which becomes more visible at night.

Colour and polychromy are used as a way to mute the surface articulation of the ceiling and express the separate order of the ceiling coffers, roof lights and fittings to add richness, depth and atmosphere.

The original window opening to the back room is enlarged to create a generous connection between a new kitchen and a new family room. A counter and cupboards are constructed with green through-coloured Valchromat MDF accented by a polished marble countertop.

Drainage access is concealed in a small carpet of polished marble tiles embedded in a struck insitu concrete floor, left unpolished. The rug of stone suggests inhabitation and aggregate – a contemporary translation of a Palladian terrazzo.

The plant and utility spaces are located in an outhouse in the garden. A wall connects this room back to the main house. The rhythm of the pilasters is continued along this edge but the wall between drops to acknowledge the lower boundary condition. The pilasters extend beyond the wall to form five exposed columns. This extended wall frames a new garden court with the columns protruding to hold the cross joisted ceiling structure, which is now fully exposed forming a new open pergola hung with wisteria to provide shelter and shade.

Working to a limited budget we proposed to work where possible with ‘off the shelf’ components. Where elements needed to be put together onsite like blockwork and timber joists we proposed to put more effort into the design and elaboration of these assemblies to generate a character and atmosphere for the house.

All doors, rooflights and the double glazed units are proprietary. The standard rooflight sizes therefore set out the module and spacing for the timber beams, which dictates the position of the piers and finally the proportion of the new room.

Everyday construction techniques and materials were chosen driven by a desire for efficiency – to design cost-effectively and economically. These inexpensive materials are easily sourced, and importantly, knowledgeable for the tradesmen and local builders.


  • Begun: Mar 2017
  • Completed: Jan 2018
  • Floor area: 63m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £49,750
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: 2017
  • Procurement: Traditional
  • Address: Dublin, Ireland

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