House at Whitecross

MMAS, N. Ireland, 2020

 

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Photography by Joe Laverty Photography and Garreth McMahon     Download Original

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A new-build dwelling

Set within the rolling drumlins outside Whitecross in County Armagh, the original farmhouse, constructed by our client’s great grandfather, is situated on a prominent hillside and is an important reference point within the landscape and the area’s rural vernacular.

Planning was granted for a replacement dwelling following a tussle with the local council office on the merits of retaining the original farmhouse, which has significant emotional importance to the family. This decision allowed us to appropriately site the new house as part of the overall cluster, with a view to treat the new build as a new addition to the various existing parts of the farmstead.

Following rigorous testing of siting through models and drawings, we settled on placing the dwelling perpendicular to the existing farmhouse, re-defining the farm ‘street’ with a new built edge. The new and old gables form two sides of a newly defined entrance court.

The long linear plan of the new house nestles against the mature trees and stone ditch of the field boundary, which provides the house with shelter and protection from inclement weather and preserves as much of the field as possible for this working farm.

The roof is a sculptural gesture referencing surrounding landscape and geology - various triangular planes fold from a diagonal spine, demarking a subtle kink in both plan and form generated to orientate spaces towards the Ring of Gullion and Mourne Mountains. This gently folding roofscape minimises the visual impact of the dwelling. Upon arrival from at a higher vantage point, this low profile allows existing views over landscape to be maintained across and over the roof, it’s cranked nature embedding the dwelling to the site and its context while connecting with distant mountains beyond. The roof rises towards two high points, signifying both entrance and living space at either end of the plan.

Our clients brief asked for four bedrooms, light filled living spaces and connections to surrounding landscape. To achieve this, the gable entrance leads through to living spaces that are set above the landscape and within canopies of mature trees as the topography slopes away sharply, with the lower bedroom level stepping down in section to follow and open to the sloping field.

Subtle references are made back to the original farmhouse via the long narrow interconnected plan, with living spaces defined by a central angular ‘chimney’ that provides storage, heat and ventilation. Walls, ceilings and spaces splay to orientate toward key elements within the immediate and distant landscape. A covered, recessed terrace overlooks the fields below, and offers a secondary external circulation route between spaces. The lower level grants access directly to the field and garden spaces via a snug. Accessed from a hallway to the north side, each window here provides a particular view towards a tree, terminating in the master suite which again connects back to the wider views across the landscape.

The dwellings narrow form maximises cross ventilation, daylighting and solar gains in winter and heat dissipation in summer. A simple and minimal material palette was chosen, with untreated larch boarding, dark green aluminium windows and doors, galvanised steel rainwater goods and railings and corrugated fibre cement roof, directly referencing the agricultural out-buildings adjacent. Larch was carried through internally to provide continuity and accentuate the dynamism of the folding roof plane.

As the larch boarding weathers and the field and hedges grow back in and up to the new building, It is our intention that the house embeds itself into the setting over time, unobtrusive and modest, sympathetic to the history of the site and the original farmhouse yet relevant to twenty first century rural living.

Annual CO2 emissions data was not provided.

Data

  • Begun: Mar 2019
  • Completed: Aug 2020
  • Floor area: 214m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £292,000
  • Funding: private
  • Tender date: Feb 2019
  • Procurement: Minor Works
  • Address: Whitecross, Co. Armagh, N. Ireland, BT60, United Kingdom

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