Here are ten houses chosen from over twenty-five years of designing. They range from tiny pied a terres to the extensive; from urban centres to remote landscapes; suburban gardens or within a world heritage site. The oldest in Co Galway was finished in 1997; the newest in Gullane in 2023. Whilst every client and every context are of course completely different, the idea of building “of its place and of its time” is consistent across all the houses and across the years. “Of its place” means that houses are “rooted” to the place they are in, sometimes taking design ideas from neighbouring buildings but reinterpreting them in a contemporary way. “Of its time” is interpreted that what we do today is just as valid as previous eras of building and that today’s society, and architects should be allowed that expression automatically given to our predecessors. That sounds obvious but is often difficult to achieve in historic contexts where planners usually prefer the lazy route of making fake history. Luckily, we have had some wonderfully supportive and patient clients who have stood with us in the inevitable battles to obtain planning permissions.
With tiny sites, such as found in mews lanes, we have manipulated the levels, and introduced mirrors to give the illusion of space. Trying to get the most out of a site and a brief is something we enjoy; unlike many of our professional colleagues we are certainly not “minimalists!”
Above all, these houses are about the people who commissioned them and live in them. And we have observed that life today for all families generally revolves around the kitchen with the living space, although usually in the same volume, semi-detached often by playing with levels or by internal sliding screens. In addition, like all our professional colleagues, we have become increasingly interested in the energy performance of houses. That means both using sustainable sources of heating but also that the very shape of the house responds to the changing seasons to maximise solar gain, create shade in the summer and, through insulated shutters, minimise heat escape in the winter. All the above themes come together in my own house in Hart Street finished in 2015 and winner of the RIBA/Channel 4 “House of the year Competition.” Before it became famous on TV, it was exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy 2015 exhibition “Home.” An essay “the Road to Hart St” which covers all the topics above, and more, was written for that exhibition and it seemed appropriate to reproduce it in this book.
Author: Richard Murphy
Publisher: Breakfast Mission Publishing
Publication Date: December 2023