Chapter 7b~Rural Housing Book – Putting it all together – Materials

So we’ve looked at the massing and how the building should relate to the site; let’s now conclude with discussing the materials that we could use on our house (the project in question has been given planning permission with the materials as discussed below):

The goal is to create a modern vernacular architecture but this doesn’t mean that we can’t use some traditional materials; it amazes me that even more senior builders have no idea about their building heritage and how materials were used in construction. One example I constantly come up against is the notion that pointing or rendering in lime will not harden or be strong enough without a little bit of cement added – nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not going to go into detail here about the benefits of using lime in construction (for that I would heartily recommend the excellent book ‘Lime Works’ by Patrick McAfee ISBN: 978-I-906429-08-9).

It would be fantastic to bring back these crafts, it would benefit people, building and the economy and there is no reason why crafts such as lime rendering can’t be used in a more modern context; even concrete block walls can be constructed and rendered with lime mortar. You probably wouldn’t want the level of ‘traditional’ rendering shown below (from the house constructed using traditional methods at the Museum of Country Life, Castlebar, County Mayo); but a lime render does give a beautiful softness to a building and would break up the mononotony of all the crisp mono-couche renders we see throughout the country).

Lime wall

Close-up of traditional lime wall

For the roof it is proposed to see if we can use thatch on one section; again a dying craft and as shown by the image below (again from the house at the Museum of Country Life, Castlebar:


Thatch roof at Museum of Country Life

For the mono-pitch section of roof; the intention was to contrast with a profiled metallic roof; akin to the corrugated iron roofs used on sheds throughout Ireland – the steel counterpoints the thatch and gives a hardness against the softness of the reeds.

The example below shows an example from Tata Steel (Urban Colourcoat) which would be ideal as it has traditional undertones but is also a modern, technically advanced material.

Urban Colourcoat

Tata Steel Urban Colourcoat

A similar use of similar material is the exquisite steel detailing by Glenn Murcutt at the Simpson-Lee House (in fact all of Glenn Murcutts work exhibits the same level of incredible detailing), where the example below shows a critical junction between roof, walls and rainwater goods where the roof is a blue orb, Zincalume, AZ200 Lysaght corrugated iron.


Detail at Simpson Lee House - Glenn Murcutt Image Copyright © Kyle Briscoe

Photo from Kyle Briscoe – Copyright © Kyle Briscoe

So that more or less wraps up what I wanted to say about a way forward with Irish, residential, rural architecture. The next step is to go through, start editing and see if I can self-publish the posts. I hope that you have enjoyed what I have written and as always, comments are welcome.

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