Bullock Castle has a tradition of receiving guests or caring for the elderly. From the Cistercian Monks to the nuns this site has always been caring for the residents and guests of Bullock. Identifying the aspects of a community that mould it and individualise an area is vital in the study of a nursing home or elderly housing facility. When a individuals awareness is compromised or impaired a sense of place is paramount in defining a settlement. To belong and identify with a community comes from experience and familiarity. Peter Zumpthor’s elderly housing scheme in Chur identifies the importance of using local materials from the surrounding mountains. Materials and construction methods that the residents have lived with their entire lives and can easily identify. The simple strip plan surrenders importance to the surrounding landscape grounding any dwellers in their surrounds and creating a strong sense of place.
Niall McLaughlin’s Alzheimer’s centre in Blackrock utilises overlapping spaces, creating sequences of rooms and gardens to encourage meandering through-out the site. The scheme is located within a 18th century walled garden creating a protected site for patients to explore. All spaces are created individually with repetition reduced to a minimum to give people a reference point for their location to avoid disorientation. Human scale window features, benches and recreational areas allow free movement through-out the centre where residents can interact with each other or family members in a relaxed environment. The conceptual plan shows a colourful distorted plan and elevation of the scheme. This emulates the distortion in perception experienced by the patients.
The elderly housing and care centre by 2by4 architects identifies the different gradation in habitation to cater for varying levels in dependency and independence. Individual houses provide houses for independent elderly people while keeping them located within a overriding community. They also provide completely dependent care securely located at the rear of the site in a enclosed building. People are perhaps semi-dependant can also reside in the care centre where all their medical needs are catered for while communal interaction and social spaces promote an active living.
The nursing home at Bullock castle provides little interaction with the surrounding community and provides no external connection with Bullock Harbour. I propose to provide a variation in care levels and independent dwellings and centre to allow for the site to be opened sectionally while remaining safe for inhabitants that might need higher levels of protection or safety.
Despite it being a cold January afternoon, Dun Laoghaire is still buzzing with weekend leisure activities. As I arrive at the forty foot to inspect the James Joyce Martello tower that begins the boundary of my focus area, the area has a pleasant activity of walkers and swimmers enjoying the recreations that are on offer. In the depths of January groups of swimmers can be seen bounding through the water gracefully meandering the granite sculptures that are posed motionless in the swirling high tide.
Walking east from the Forty foot you are confronted with a short path from which you are lead away from the immediate coastline. You must walk through the residential streets to either return to Dun Laoghaire or to continue on your journey to Bullock Harbour and Dalkey. Houses have been developed with plots of land backing directly onto the granite bedrock. Garden walls double as barriers to the sea and separate the private dwellings from the coarse rocks below. Many gardens have gates opening onto the granite bedrock that could be accessed at low tide. This is the case found as you round the headland from the Forty-foot to bullock harbour. There is a point, on Sandycove lane that the public can gain access to the sea. Signs at the beginning of the land ‘Cul de Sac’ and ‘Residential Road’, act as mild deterrents to those who don’t know what lies at the culmination of this lane. Steep granite steps are found behind a wall and fence. This would be a good bathing location in the summer but on this January afternoon, nobody was testing the waters. As you look south along the coast you can see Bullock Harbour and Bullock castle. Continuously unavailable as private gardens have the privilege of direct access to the coast.
Continuing back through the residential roads that act as the main thorough-fares between these points of coastal recreation. The houses that are lining the streets have been clearly developed in groups, with pockets of 4-5 identical houses that are distinguished by their customized sea-side colours. Along Breffni road to Dalkey there is a housing development of red brick houses. They seem to be the architecture language of the Victorian era. Each dwelling has its own private front garden and lavish steps to their front door. There are fourteen houses in the terrace grouped in pairs and one houses at the end with additional bay windows located at the front that are not found on any of the other houses. A total of fifteen houses with one slightly more elaborate standing out clearly as the head of the development.
At Bullock castle the nursing home was alive with activity, with Sundays proving popular with visiting families. The castle sites quietly of the site of this nursing seemingly neither serving nor imposing the care centre surrounding. This interesting site has a 2.4m slope across it, as it already towers 4m above the harbour road level. This defensive positioning of the Castle towering over the harbour would a proved strong protection in the twelfth century. Today it creates a defensive wall that is inhabited by the nursing home, that cannot be accessed from the lower level of Harbour road.
Along the harbour boats and landed out of the water for the winter season. They line the edge of the peer. One red fishing boat is this moored and in use on this Sunday in January. The pier is lined with seagulls and sea birds in expectations of the picking to be gained from the fishing boat landing the days catch.
The architecture that is found between the Forty Foot and Bullock Harbour is that of speculation. The original infrastructure of Bullock Castle and the Military architecture of the Martello towers and the batteries provide a language of speculation against invasion and the protection of a weakness. This language continues along the garden walls of those sites that boarder the coastline directly. These defensive structures provide a sense of deterrence and isolation. The housing terraces that are found in this location are those built from speculative builders, hoping for large returns on interest. The more up market you designed for the higher percentage of returns could be gained on initial investment. This lead to developments such as the terrace of Breffni road with high walled and gated gardens. The Martello tower located near Dalkey is surrounded by gated communities and is not accessible to the community.
Although there is an abundance of recreational opportunities and a strong historical presence, a right of ownership to those who live here is evident. Beyond the Forty-foot the openness to the public become sporadic as the connection to the coast becomes disconnected.