Stillorgan, Co Dublin
Creating A Social Strip.
Working with clients to develop a brief and ultimately a successful design is not always about finding the right answers - it can be about asking the right questions.
I was approached to provide a porch to the front of a fairly typical suburban 3-bed semi. The porch was primarily required to protect the open-plan arrangement of the property from the prevailing wind and rain. But rather than simply construct a draught-lobby, I explored with the client, the opportunities that were afforded by fully developing the threshold of the house, albeit within the budget constraints.
'Begin with the possibilities, not the limitations.'
While there are no fences or walls dividing or demarcating the front gardens, suburbia has a funny way of making boundaries felt. Property can become unintentionally territorial and discourage interaction or casual chats with neighbours - and this interaction is surely the greatest benefit of living in close quarters with others?
I sought to address this by using the porch as a catalyst for the entire front of the house - to create a social space. A porch is not a public, and not a fully private space - it lies somewhere in between and can create an interesting interface between the public and private, the inside and out.
The front of the house enjoys an almost directly southerly aspect and therefore is where you are drawn to sit in the sun. Sitting at the front of your property is relatively unusual, but affords chance meetings with neighbours as they come and go.
A 'social strip' was conceived across the facade width, which alters the perception of the house and how passers-by are perceived from within this strip. While the porch itself is sized to conform to the planning-exemption limitations, a sun terrace extends across the remainder of the facade.
Construction and materials are straight-forward but carefully considered. A brick terrace 'floor' is treated as a malleable surface which returns up to form the solid base to the porch. This low wall is thicker than structurally necessary, creating deep window cills on which the client will grow tomato plants in the sun and perhaps sit. The porch is largely glazed to allow it to act as a tiny sit-out sunspace in the winter and to avoid it blocking the morning sunlight to the adjacent living room window.
The 'additional' works proposed, beyond the most basic porch, consist mostly of landscaping which the client would have undertaken in some form eventually. By considering the various elements together, a unified and more successful solution was offered - a solution which will cost no more in the end.
What could have been a missed opportunity and no more than a porch, became much more by asking, and answering, the right questions.