The Potential of the Terrace house.

Onsite Breffni Terrace

Breffni Terrace, built in 1880 by O’Rourke builders (a local clan name), boast typical Victorian architecture. Parapets are replaced with expressed pitched roofs. Stucco work and fresh painted facades have been replaced with red brick. The development consists on fifteen houses, with one elaborately design ‘first’ house and the rest following in pair thereafter. The terrace is finished abruptly as if it could have potentially been extended for the further provision of houses.

Breffni Terrace.jpg

Bullock is created by both carving terraces into the landscape and building terrace houses. The Dalkey quarries provide a strong tradition of molding the utilising the ground of this area. House are constructed by first creating a leveled terrace by manipulating the ground that can then be built on. This results in a community where terrace is common currency.

Post-Modern Terrace

When approaching the design strategy of my site, I decided to apply the typology of the terrace house and terrace living to my site. To successfully navigate the steep slope across the site I began to think about the site as a single entity with no residual or unperscribed space.

I looked into the work of Neave Brown and the post-modernist residential architecture of London in the 1960’s and 70’s. Fleet road by Neave Brown draws on the need for continuity within a housing scheme, both spatial and temporal. The flow from public to private need to be carefully exploited while retaining the users expected experience of a dwelling. The eighteenth century terraced house was the perceived idea of a London house. The direct access from external public space to internal private was something that was accepted in city living, but this also suggests an idea of horizontal organisation oppose to vertical. This idea struck me in terms of applying my a terrace scheme to my steep site. That through horizontally manipulating three terrace strips that all units could retain a flow from public to semi-public to private to semi private all on one story.

The planning of Fleet Road proved pivotal in unlocking to potential of a terraced housing scheme across a steep site. The resulting compact style of dwelling became paramount in the ideals of elderly housing and the need for a neighbourly surveillance and communal spaces.

A2 Card Study of Fleet Street

Accordia by McCreanor Lavington seeks to push the boundaries of the terrace unit. The power of retaining to parti-walls and manipulating a plan to allow both stacked internal and external spaces. I looked at this precedent in relation to pushing and pulling my plan across a series of terraced strips. The Accordia units are planned between what would traditionally be the main house and the Mews house. By viewing the site as one entity opposed to two you create a linear plan that incorporates external space on several level. A courtyard Sevillian style living begins to creep into the centre of the plan. This precedent helped me unlock the potential in linear plans running the width of my site. This allowed me to create single story units that with both a courtyard and external private space across one level of the site.



Studying terraced houses from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries allowed me successfully explore the potential of the parti-wall and viewing a site as a single entity. This resulted in a scheme that embodied my ideas of a community of care, where surveillance is desired, boundaries can be blurred and horizontal living needs to be tested. The architectural fabric across the site then becomes the element of care by mere habitation.


  2.  Mark Swenarton (2012) Developing a new format for urban housing: Neave Brown and the design of Camden’s Fleet Road estate, The Journal of Architecture, 17:6,973-1007,
  3. Pearson, Peter. 1998. Between the mountains and the sea: Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown county. Dublin: O’Brien Press.





Nursing Home Care Facilities

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.


                                                       Distorted Plan

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.

types of inhabitants

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.

Site Visit – Forty-foot to Bullock Harbour

Sketch - map

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.

Sketch - garden walls


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.

Sketch - Terrace breffni road

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.

A Housing Crisis in Question



Across this semester London has been playing majorly on my mind. Having just return from the city to complete my masters and my dissertation focusing of residential development in London, it would seem inevitable. 

On returning to London recently I was struck by the immense power of the Barbican centre. It intrigued me and I struggled to understand why. However, it is beginning to become apparent that the barbican is almost the epitome of my thinking. I recently watched a video article posted by Archdaily entitled The Barbican : A lesson from London’s past for the housing crisis of today. 

It discusses the purpose of the Barbican as social housing, but not social housing as we perceive it. It was not designed for the working classes of London but for the middle-class. It faced challenges in that central living was unfashionable at the time. It held a need to be safe and luxurious and provide the cultural amenities appealed to the middle class of London. 

The Barbican centre is a successful urban project, that knits its way into the fabric of London seamlessly. Yet it has achieved fortress status. It’s entrances are hidden and unorthodox, it’s walls are solid and tall. Yet it is this obscurement of availability that allows the barbican to sit on the shoulder of the city and allow it the transform, move and bustle around this concrete castle. 


London is not the only place facing a severe housing crisis. Dublin is also, some might say it is even worse here. But how can we learn from this brutalist masterpiece, and apply it to our own crisis. Firstly the need for housing does not belong to a particular social ranking. Analysis and data on housing needs, and identifying the social groups and their variant needs are necessary. It also begs the lesson of vision. The barbican brought middle class back to the centre of London, which is now considered to be going through a social cleanse, where the lower classes are forces further from the centre of the city. This was not the case when the barbican was being built. So what change in dwelling will happen in Dublin over the next 10,20-50 years? What alternative methods of housing can we introduce that could potentially become the norm or even the desired. As the Barbican adapted brutalist architecture to its British setting and climate, how can we take successful foreign models and adapt then to serve our city and population? 

References :

  2. Patrick Lynch. “The Barbican: A Lesson from London’s Past for the Housing Crisis of Today” 07 Nov 2015.ArchDaily

A Need to Map

I submitted my Archipeligo (mind map) the same day that we were given a presentation on our options of thesis groups for next semester.

My archipeligo consisted of a collage of images that I perceived as describing my thought process of the year so far. A map of London featured heavily, with an overlay of a historical map of the Regents Canal. Maps, to me, are the starting point, for everything, from my interest to my thought process to my detailed designed ideas. They say images speak a thousand words, I think maps speak even more. Maps are a tool, a method of portraying data and information, from geographical, historical, economic, social demographics, to emotions and behaviors. The represent a vast amount of information while being a single image within themselves.


For my archipeligo, I have still some untied ends that are showing themselves as images overlayed onto a map. I envisage that through-out next semester my Archipeligo can become a purer ‘map’. A refined single image that portrays my ideas and thought process.


With relation to my thesis. We have a choice of five studios. Some have very similar themes that are attracted. From what I briefly mentioned before, it it obvious that I have an interest in maps. This is somehting that I have always possessed, which I think many people do, but something which has driven the work of my dissertation. My dissertation is looking at how the construction of the Regent’s canal has moulded the socio-economic dynamic of Bow in East London through residential and industrial developments. For this study I have done extensive research of  the mapping on London since the late 17th Century up until today. It is clear from this study that the art  of mapping as heavily evovled in the last two hundred years. I have looked at historical maps from the 1600’s where houses are drawn in elevation, while the streets and drawn in plan. In contrast you can look at Henry Beck’s iconic tube map of the London Underground, which takes on a infographic form that is simple, clear and easily navigated. Even more interesting is how maps can start to make the transition from purely transmitting information but start becoming images in themselves. Like the work of Irish artist Kathy Prendergast and her odsessive hand drawings of cities, as shown in the above images.



Maps can be more than just one single images. They can become layers of information, layers of images. Each layer conveying it’s own information or telling it’s story. Yet never straying far from the overall portrayal that is attemping to be composed and disseminated.

With the digital age upon us and everything being reduced to code and data, what place do maps have today. Maps I believe are more inportant than ever. With constant access to unfathomable amounts of informtion, literally at our finger tips. How can we access this? Maps are the key to disseminating information. They simiplify large amounts of data and make it conceivable in the blink of an eye. Easily portray by Simon Elbvin’s map of silent London. From this iamge, that only maps the intensity of noise, you can see the street scape of the city, the location of parks, the areas that intensely used and the ones that are not. It can also let you speculate over the usage of each of this areas.


silent london

In conclusion, all I can say is not that I want to map but that I need to map. The gathering and mapping of information is what is going to determine my thesis topic and probably everything I undertake from there after, irrespective of what group I choose.

Image References:

  1. Kathy Prendergast City Drawings Series – London-n13, 1997, pencil on paper.
  2. Kathy Prendergast. Chimborazo, 2013, watercolour on printed paper
  3. International Research Centre by Mark Erickson on Behance.
  4. Silent London by Simon Elvins



Ideas Sheet

This Archipelago is a mind map of my interests throughout my final year. In the above image you can see an idea page. I have pasted on some of the main topics that I have been working on and that interest me. The base image is a map of London’s waterways that copies the London Underground TFL map. At the top of  the page are some images of historical maps of Bow in London. Along with some images I have recently taken in the area. These ideas are taken from my dissertation, which is looking at how the construction of the canals in London has led to rapid residential and industrial development.

In the centre of this page I have plans of my studio design projects alongside images of the Barbican Centre that I have recently visited. I have placed a sun path diagram below this. The path of the sun and the impact on architecture both in experience and design is the main driver behind this.

In the bottom left had corner I have a section through the facade of my design project. In this drawing  I am exploring the manipulation of light and material through the detailing of a project. Beside this I have placed a texture image of concrete. This is related to my experience of the barbican but also to the materiality of my design projects. I am also interested in the way materials are weathered and impacted by both natural process and the human touch. What also intrigued me about this image is how the pattern emulates the form of city maps. Which reminded me of my dissertation work and how I have been layering city maps to analyse London’s development. I really liked this comparison as I was initially looking at urban development as a structured, man-made, artificial imposition on the landscape. In fact an urban fabric is much more organic and natural in its development process.


In the second image. I am starting to explore how these ideas can be described in an archipelago image. I have taken an image of London’s waterways which is comprised on two main elements, a river and a series of canals. The river representing a network of natural and organic processes. The canals representing man-made and manipulated structures. These are seen as the two main streams of my ideas. I have placed words and concepts into these sections to try to allocate a clear map of my ideas and how they might connect or be segregated.

I project that I will marry my ideas board with this initial map, perhaps through illustration or a combinations of media.

Discovering The Barbican Centre


Over the weekend, I traveled to London to gather information for my dissertation. A trip that proved highly informative but also overwhelming in terms on the sheer quantity of material that was available to me. I will discuss this is more detail later. What I want to tell you about now is my experience of the Barbican Centre while I was in this architecturally rich city.

On the saturday night of my visit, I was invited to my brother’s housewarming party. Which happened to be a studio apartment in the Barbican Centre. As most architectural students are, I was aware of the Barbican as an icon of brutalist architecture. Previous to this trip I worked in a very close proximity to the Barbican centre. Seeing to the tower blocks of harsh dark concrete daily, I decided that it was not a form of architecture that I was interested in. Looking back on my experience of that architecture throughout the time that I worked in its proximity, I realised that it in fact is not a brutal as it is portrayed.

The centre holds a very strong presence with its towering apartment blocks. However, it is the ground floor infrastructure of the Barbican that knits this imposing piece of architecture seamlessly into the urban fabric of central London. I realised that I walked passed through or under the Barbican centre almost everyday that I worked in this location. As you travel around this part of London you gain glimpses of the Barbican peeking down street and over rooftops. You gain snippets of this scheme, it’s tower blocks, to its restuarants, to the footbridge that connects the centre to the Barbican tube station, yet never experiencing the centre as an entire entity. I realised on taking a closer look at this piece of architecture that it had played as a major feature in my time in London and that it in fact had moulded many of my daily routines without me realising.

It is not until you walk along the raised street scape and gain the experience of a resident of the Barbican that you truly appreciate the calmness that this beast creates it a bustling city. While I was in this apartment, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Barbican Life, a magazine created for the residence of the centre. In this edition there was an article by Alan Ainsworth the Author of The Barbican : Architecture and Light. This article discussed the process that Ainsworth took when using photography to analyse the Barbican Centre. His descriptions gave me a new appreciation for this brutalist design. He discussed how the strong forms of the concrete and how it paired with the surrounding building created an elaborate array of light passing through the barbican, providing glimpses of elaborately layered plans of light. This daily process of how sunlight penetrated and passed by this intertwined array of buildings reminded me of how I experienced the architecture of the Barbican. A daily process that was not always recognised but on occasion was truly spectacular.

I visited the Barbican on a numerous of occasions over the weekend. Each time I returned I found myself finding new and interesting areas to explore. But more fascinating was that in looking at the same views repeatedly, I was finding new details, ideas and effects in each viewing of the same stagnant piece of architecture. By the end of the trip I was left truly in awe of this piece of sculpture that is so successfully inhabited.

On reflecting on my varying experiences of the Barbican Centre. I realised it doesn’t matter what we think of a ‘style’ of architecture or its asthetic appearance. It is in the experience of this architecture that effects and shapes of lives. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, a successful design will positively influence our lives, just as the Barbican did mine. However, there is an immense richness in taking the time to stop and analyse the space around you. You can be left with a gratuity and respect for the world around, whether it is an immediate or expansive one.