THESIS SYMPOSIUM- UCD- 22nd JANUARY – 2013
Invitation to speak at Thesis Symposium in UCD- to final year architecture students of UCD, DIT, Queens, Cork, Limerick and Waterford universities with
Yvonne Farrell – Grafton Architects
Tom De Paor – De Paor Architects
Parts 1 & 2: I’ll show you images from my thesis and a project that I’m currently working on
Part 3: I’ll give you an outline of the design process (methodology I use for both
Part 4: I’ll discuss the transition between college and practice, and how your work in college can inform your work in the field
My thesis was to design a new cattle mart for Castleisland Co. Kerry.
Castleisland is a small town right in the centre of County Kerry with one main street. This main street is noted for its width being over 100ft or 33 metres wide.
[SHOW PHOTO OF CASTLEISLAND ]
The street/town was designed/planned to be that wide to bring cattle trading into the town where previously took place on a nearby hill out of town, and out of control of the ruling elite. So in order to ‘civilise’ and of course tax this trade, the town was designed with this wide street. For hundreds of years fairs were held on its streets, livestock trading from cattle horse, hens and with it music, drinking, dancing, and other commercial activity grew up around it.
[SHOW PHOTO OF FAIR]
Then come the 1950’s -1960s and the fairs are replaced with Marts, in order to gain control of livestock transfers i.e. tagging but also because of traffic, and the general mess and damage left in the fairs wake. The change or broadening of the economic activities of the town also contributed.
[SHOW PHOTO EXAMPLE OF MART – BLESSINGTON CO. WICKLOW]
The Castleisland mart was situated on the outskirts of the town; this location allowed it to function better in the trading of cattle and in controlling livestock movement. However, it did not function, as the fairs, did in providing energy, community, spin off trade and as a source of social interaction for the town people and the farmers etc.
[SHOW PHOTO OF COW WITH TAGS]
In my opinion marts as they transpired were a lazy solution to deal with the problems that existed with the fairs
My thesis attempted to stitch the mart back into the town, both in a physical and social sense; allowing it to become an economic catalyst, encouraging local industry, (farmers markets etc.) to celebrate agriculture, local food and develop a much more complex and rich community life in the town; while not ignoring the requirements of modern agricultural i.e cattle trading , health and safety, proper controls on movement ( tagging) , traffic problems etc.
[SHOW PLAN OF TOWN WITH MART]
[SHOW PLAN OF TOWN WITH NEW MART -THESIS PRESENTATION]
So the first aim was to find a way to physically stitch the mart back into the town, one solution which I chose was to move the mart and place it at the heart of the town . One of the key functional problems or issues with moving the mart into the heart of town was traffic management, the integration of mart trucks, tractors, cattle, non mart traffic and pedestrians. By working out how to integrate these traffic patterns so that they could all functional properly; another side of traffic management was revealed in terms of its ability to bring intensity, energy, interaction and I even used it as a moving sculptural expression of the activity within, the excitement in the auction ring etc.
[SHOW PHOTO OF TOWN PLAN WITH TRAFFIC PATTERNS]
[SHOW PHOTO OF TOWN PLAN WITH NEW MART IN BLACK]
The mart was split in two, the auction ring and pens (cattle storage).The auction ring was to be situated where the old town hall, (now a clothes shop) is now which is on a traffic island at the west end of the main street, the cattle pens would be across the road. So day to day traffic would drive through the mart on their way into or out of the town. By separating the auction ring it helped to allow it to become a multipurpose space that could be used a performance space, theatre, music, meeting rooms, around the ring was sufficient space for permanent farmers markets, these markets could expand on relevant days out along the middle of the street and even into the cattle pen area if needed.
[SHOW PHOTO OF AUCTION RING]
[SHOW PHOTO OF SECTION OF PEN AREA -THESIS PRESENTATION]
One key feature of the mart are it’s rammed earth walls, the structure supporting an ETFE foil roof is made up of a series of monolithic rammed earth walls. The use of earth as a structural building material then determined the form; so instead of having one huge open space for the pens that steel or concrete would provide, a series of walls had to be used which then became the circulation spaces for the cattle, the cattle would circulate within the walls to get from pen to ring.
[SHOW PHOTO OF PLAN SHOWING EARTH WALLS]
[SHOW PHOTO OF EARTH WALLS]
In contrast to the earth the roof was a high tech ETFE foil. The limestone bedrock that is just under the surface of the town which used to be exposed in the main street, was to be exposed again and used as the floor of the mart ring and pens.
[SHOW PHOTO OF MODEL OF LIMESTONE]
[SHOW PHOTO OF ETFE]
The atmosphere I wanted to create was if you imagine on mart day big trucks with bellowing cattle driving down the centre of the main street on the limestone bedrock and into the monolithic earth structure, you’d be able to hear the sounds of the auctioneers garble and the bell ring out on the street as you walk by. The farmers would be spilling out of the huge earth walls of the mart onto the streets of the town, doing their shopping, eating in the café and bars, the farmers markets would come to life and expand all around the walls of the mart. The town would be alive people mingling arguing , talking, complaining, gossiping, being a community.
[SHOW PHOTO OF FARMERS ]
So that is a very brief outline of the mart
Now give you a brief outline of house I am currently building and then as I mentioned I’ll discuss the design process that I developed in college and am still developing now which I have used with the thesis and house.
The House: Product
(Not all photos for this part are shown here, see photos on Tiernaboul House page for complete set of photos shown)
I am building a my own house in semi rural setting just outside Killarney co Kerry, I’ll begin by showing you some photos of the house and brief explanation of some of its features
Please note that the house is unfinished, the external elements of the house are nearly complete but the inside is unfinished
[SHOW PHOTO OF ENTRANCE]
This is the entrance to the house
What’s missing is that there will be yellow rubber tiles that will surface the path going in and that yellow surface will continue right through the house and up into the garden above
On the left and right are two car ports, cars are parked here and you walk the rest of the way into the building,
[SHOW PHOTO OF MORE OF ENTRANCE]
There are 4 metre high stone filled Gabion walls filled with round green sandstone from a local quarry, these walls retain a garden above. Along the top of the Gabions, are various native thorny trees and bushes, hawthorn, blackthorn, holly, furze, they will eventually form a canopy over the entrance walkway.
As you can see the wall closes in on you as you walk in and eventually when you get to the end wall you turn right and pass through a narrow slot and the space opens out into a small sunken courtyard where you see the house for the first time.
[SHOW PHOTO OF ENTRANCE SLOT AND VIEW INTO SUNKEN COURTYARD -HOUSE]
The yellow clad walkway continues to the front door and on through the house leading you through the house until you finally reach the edible forest garden on the upper level. As you can see from the photos the house is clad in polycarbonate, the roof is thatch, there is an external wood storage shed on the right. Internal shed on left,
[SHOW PHOTO OF ENTRANCE SLOT AND VIEW INTO SUNKEN COURTYARD –HOUSE –AT NIGHT]
This a shot taken at night, the solid walls behind the polycarbonate glow blue at night, I’ll show pictures of the house at night from various angles as I progress.
I won’t take you inside the house as it is still unfinished , and I unfortunately don’t have the time explain it.
[SHOW PHOTO AT GARDEN LEVEL- WEST CORNER]
This is a view from the garden level, 4 metres above the walkway
You can see the walkway below in the foreground,
The garden which has been cleared and prepared and some planting has already taken place, it will be a forest garden, everything will be edible, be they nuts, fruits, leaves, flower, sap, roots. The boundaries of the garden and site are planted on all sides by native thorny shrubs and trees, this type of planting carries in along the top of the walkway until the sunken courtyard
[SHOW PHOTO AT GARDEN LEVEL- WEST CORNER –AT NIGHT]
This is again another shot of it at night
[SHOW PHOTO AT GARDEN LEVEL- NORTHEST ELEVATION ]
[SHOW PHOTO AT GARDEN LEVEL- NORTHEST ELEVATION-AT NIGHT ]
[SHOW PHOTO AT GARDEN LEVEL- NORTH CORNER ]
[SHOW PHOTO AT GARDEN LEVEL- NORTH CORNER –AT NIGHT]
Moving around to the south side of the building
[SHOW PHOTOS OF SOUTHSIDE ]
Around the south side you can see a flat roof glass extension out from the main body of the house, the glass roof brings light right into the heart of the house, that’s the dining room which will also be a green house with lemon and orange trees
That small hatch you see is for hens, they will be a glass hen house on each side of the dining room where you can watch the hens and through a hatch get your eggs every morning
To the right of the dining room is an open living area, with fire in the centre.
You can see these sunken voids are light wells into the bedrooms below
As you can see the polycarbonate reacts with the sun and it changes colour depending on the type of light and time of day
Explain bird bat boxes
[SHOW PHOTO OF BIRD/ BAT BOXES ]
Explain Bird/ Bat Boxes
[SHOW PHOTO OF CHIMNEY ]
1) The Design Process: (methodology)
Everyone has their own way of designing and there is certainly no right or wrong way, but it is important that you develop your own process specific to you so that you can then analyse it criticise and allow it to evolve.
For me it involves, for the moment 3 main elements:
1) Design Ideology
Maybe start with research and presentation first
I can’t stress how important research is. . It’s through research that you can find passion, I knew nothing of marts or could care less until I started going to them and meeting people and understanding how vital they were on many levels.
For the thesis I visited marts all over the country, towns , talking to mart managers, workers, dept environment, agriculture, Kerry county council, planners, roads, visiting local libraries talking to local, farmers, visiting markets, making up models, details etc details in this case making rammed earth walls, getting an visceral idea of the earth which helped to make the project real
[SHOW PHOTO OF EARTH MODELS]
It is not important with house as I was both client and architect but very important with the thesis and projects that you will work on in practice, presentation of course can be visual but it can also be your energy, passion, seriousness and knowledge and by showing that, people pick up on that they want to buy into it. As I said passion can come from research. Presentation needs not only to be literal expressions of the physical form but also the ideas behind it.
3) Design Ideology
Even though the mart and the house are totally different projects on many levels there is still an over arching ideology which informs the design, which is different for each architect.
Starting with the basics. For any given building/space that we are involved in designing, we may start out by analysing the brief and defining what it is; in terms of function what the role of a house, library, public park should be .Then we might use the building blocks of design, light, space, function, form, material, environment, context, structure etc. . work out how they can interact and influence each other so that they can produce any given building/space and fulfil a brief. It’s an interchangeable process the tools i.e. building blocks may influence the brief or space.
Then every architect has his or her own slant on that and may add to it.
My ideology of design has always included the desire to dig down and ask fundamental philosophical questions about the human condition, human behaviour in terms of how it relates to the design and building in question, be it a house or mart.
For the house I focused more on the psychological and emotional aspects of the human condition related to the self and the family and the home. Where as with the Mart I focused more on the political and cultural aspects of the human condition and how it relates to agriculture, the community in Castleisland and its hinterland and Irish society.
Also part of the process is to examine the cultural, emotional and political associations that the building blocks of design, light, material, function etc have and how thinking of them in this way can help shape and inform the overall scheme and ideology driving it.
For me the purpose of asking these questions and looking at in this way is that I hope I might find a deeper meaning or understanding of what I’m designing and why. The idea is that these answers will help drive the design, give me ideas and then help me to add meaning and depth to a project/design beyond that of the functional and practical, one that might get to the most basic core of the human condition and express it through architecture.
An invaluable tool to be used with this process is The interplay between Rationalism and post rationalism, that they are not static and inert, but interact and influence each other.
To give some clarity to this I’ll give you examples
Macro Level: House
[SHOW PHOTO OF ENTRANCE]
It may have started out with something as simple as the need to retain neighbouring ground , to allow access to a house at the road level 4 metres below the existing ground level .as a result of this bank being so high it immediately became intimating which in turn triggered ideas relating to psychology of an entrance to a home, the welcoming fortress , when examined it bring ups emotional issues to do with vulnerability, fear, curiosity security, safety and then the flip side, welcoming, warmth, which can then inform the type of wall you use. So rather than gentle sloping wall , the becomes steep(vertical), rather than being grass its stone or concrete etc.
Then you might decide you like stone but how do I rationalise it, thinking about the use of stone you begin to make connections like for example be that ring fort , Skellig Micheal, which in turn informs the shape of the entrance. Other connections develop to do with country Boreens or even more abstract the Wizard of Oz, Alice, Good fellas which are not dead end connections but can loop back and direct the design of the entrance and even the scheme as a whole.
Micro Level: House
[SHOW PHOTO OF THATCH]
I don’t have time today to go into as much detail as I’d like but a simple example would be one at the level of a material, take Thatch, most of us get a warm happy feeling when we come across a thatch possibly it’s to do with some nostalgic notion of the past, simpler and purer times,maybe its to do with its vulnerability , life and death, that its organic, part of nature decays, lives dies, decays etc. Exploring the emotional and psychological reasoning behind why we get a warm happy feeling when we see thatch can set up a narrative (life death , decay)which can help to inform the use of other materials on site and can even shape the overall narrative of the house.
Macro Level: Mart
At the time of the thesis I was reading Naomi Klein’s book no logo and was becoming more aware of globalisation and the increased hegemony of corporations and the resulting power they wielded and also the resulting homogenisation of life and the domination of the weak by the powerful and the subsequent erosion of democracy. These issues undoubtedly steered me towards trying to find a thesis that might address some of them, and eventually I feel upon the marts which as I begun to find out were very much connected to this political and social issues.
At the same time as examining these issues I was trying to really dig down to ask fundamental questions about what agricultural meant to us as a society and to Castleisland in particular, not just at the economic level but culturally and psychologically.
This analysis helped to shape my understanding of the mart and its function and potential function (role), one of which could be to act as a bulwark against corporatization and the homogenization of food and the agricultural industry and show how this may help to save agriculture and help re-establish a lost vibrant culture of small farming, local produce and social interaction and connection with the land and food we eat.
Micro (constituent) level- Mart
Again at the constituent level specifically material– having examined the fundamental nature of agriculture and its role in society, I felt that a material like earth could express that thinking . Using rammed earth was the perfect material symbolising the fundamental and basic role that agricultural plays in our lives and not just in the countryside but in towns and cities
I’d argue that my thesis and all my projects in college are very much connected with and influence what I’m doing now.
It was very difficult to make that transition from college to practising architecture, finishing college either going to work in a practice where no one wants to know about your philosophies on architecture especially if they are to do with the human condition etc, you are there to work: do details, do window schedules, meet planners, quantity surveyors, administer contracts etc and if you are a sole practitioner and a couple comes up to you and asks you to design a house for them, they too have no interest in listening to you talk about the human condition etc often they want some plan they saw in some magazine or saw on tv. I won’t lie this side of architecture nearly broke me and still might but clients, Building Regs , planners, budget etc are essential elements that have to be understood or overcome if you are to design good architecture and implement your ideas / philosophies of architecture. Clients need to trust you and you need to convince them with past work, your own passion and your knowledge
Once you begin to get a handle on these elements like window schedules, planners, budget, clients etc then that is where you can really start implementing the ideas you worked on in college and really shape and express your own theories of architecture
If you don’t try and develop your own ideology of design and a passion for architecture in college then the more than likely system when you leave college will shape them for you instead of you shaping or adding to the system with your own ideas and philosophies of architecture.
I’d advise you grab the thesis with both hands and explore what it is that is about architecture that is important to you and find a way of expressing it because your thesis and college work in general will be the light that will help you get through the difficult, less glamorous side of practising architecture and be a foundation for you to come up with really good architecture in time.