Chapter 6 ~ Rural Housing Guidebook ~ Materials

Materials

Let’s turn our attention to what our building is made of and what the external materials are going to look like…

The safest planners option is for them to accept materials that match the existing or match other houses that are in the same locale. But as I’ve been showing throughout, there seems to be a planning rule book that is full of inconsistencies and contradictions. Examples:

The planners favoured roofing material for all houses is a blue-grey or black slate; where this first started I have no idea – only people with a bit of money could afford to use slate as a roof covering. Although there were indigenous slate quarries (Valencia still exists today), traditional slate roofs would have used imported slates from Wales (blue Bangors). The roofs of traditional cottages would have originally been thatch which was then replaced with galvanised iron. The example below shows a lighthouse keepers cottage we are currently working on which had the money and resources to cover the roof in slate; poorer families wouldn’t have been so lucky.


We’ve already talked about a buildings legibility and the interpretations people can make when looking at a building; these interpretations continue when we look at a buildings materials. A poorly detailed metal roof could easily veer towards looking shed-like. Equally, using inappropriate roofing materials such as red, Spanish interlocking clay tiles are (quite rightly) considered completely unacceptable as the interpretation may be that the viewer is looking at a Spanish house rather than one from the west of Ireland! Again, look at the image of the Hacienda house below, completely suitable for some areas but in the west of Ireland.? I don’t think so.


(Image from Wikipedia)

As discussed previously, the meanings that people interpret should support the design, when this happens you can consider the design to be visually appropriate.

The last thing I would want to be is a ‘design facist’, dictating what you can or can’t have on the outside of your building but it’s very easy to settle into using materials that are ‘fashionable’ or ‘of the moment’. One common material that has been used extensively in contemporary Irish houses is cedar cladding. Not a material that would have been used on an traditional rural house but used correctly and in moderation can bring a warmth to a building that would otherwise be missing (as in the example below we did for Tim Morris’ house in Callow, where the first floor cladding and the rendered open ground floor evokes the traditional, barrel roofed, Irish shed.)


Mayo County Council can in certain circumstances allow a cedar (or other hardwood cladding):

“Hardwood sheeting is not considered a vernacular detail and may not weather well. However, it may be suitable in a wooded location.”: Rural Housing Design Guide.

The house shown above fell into this category as the area is fery wooded and the cedar would have been considered an appropriate material in this instance.

So, over then next few posts I’ll be looking at materials that I feel are completely appropriate, give some more examples (both from Ireland and other countries) and also poit out a few more planning contradictions…

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