Photo: Derek Robinson
The All-Weather House is clad in a continuous blanket of cedar shingles covering walls and roof in what appears like a pixelated organic coat. Deliberately rough it gives the house the appearance of an old and slumbering hut. An appearance countered by the light-filled contemporary spaces of the interior. The cladding responds to the varying durations of the weather by changing its appearance with time.
On entering the house one finds the space filled with light. At the very heart of the house the changing light from the sky above is modulated through a “cloud wing” creating a space continuously varying spatial perception. In different ways inside and out this house brings one closer to the weather.
Ireland is often seen as a damp and sodden land and indeed the climate is relatively wet. The landscape is characterized by dark bare trees and wet ground. In fact the unique character of the landscape is a result of the response of organic materials to the humidity of the atmosphere. As they become sodden, dry out, become soaked again their colours and shades transform in a (somewhat delayed) response to the sky.
Rather than bemoan or try to deny this dramatic, ever-changing environment this house is designed to change with the changing landscape around it. Its colours wax and wane to the rhythms of the rain. The untreated cedar-shingle cladding, like the organic materials of the landscape, absorbs the moisture which changes the colour of the wood from deep russet red to pale grey and back again. Like a weather indicator the house changes appearance sometimes disappearing into the landscape, sometimes standing out as both house and landscape respond to the passing weather. These transformations can take place in a matter of minutes or over days or even longer depending on the rhythms of the Irish sky.
Cloud of Light
On entering the house, in contrast to the dark organic exterior, one finds the space filled with light. The ever-changing effects of the weather outside are modulated through an artificial “cloud” running down the centre of the house, turning the perennial problem of Irish domestic architecture, the dead dark corridor, into a space of lively interest and constantly varying spatial perception.
Thermally the house taps into the surrounding atmosphere to temper its inner temperature, using available sunlight and heat from the air to warm the house and available wind to cool it. Specifically it combines heavy Insulation with solar gain using a south-facing winter-garden and west facing windows combined with a concrete floor slab under thin engineered-wood flooring to accumulate heat in winter. This is topped up by a “air-to-water” heat pump which exchanges heat from the outside air with fluid flowing through the thermally active floors. In summer cross-ventilation is enough to keep the house cool in a climate that never gets too warm.